Inner City Press' Community Reinvestment Reporter

  

     Welcome to Inner City Press’ CRA Report.  Our other Reporters cover the financial services industry, human rights, the Federal Reserve, and other beats.  ICP has published a book about the CRA-relevant topic of predatory lending - click here for sample chapters, a map, and ordering informationCBS MarketWatch of April 23, 2004, says the the novel has "some very funny moments," and that the non-fiction mixes "global statistics and first-person accounts."  The Washington Post of March 15, 2004, calls Predatory Bender: America in the Aughts "the first novel about predatory lending;" the London Times of April 15, 2004, "A Novel Approach," said it "has a cast of colorful characters."  See also, "City Lit: Roman a Klepto [Review of 'Predatory Bender']," City Limits, Oct. 2004.  The Pittsburgh City Paper says the 100-page afterword makes the "indispensable point that predatory lending is now being aggressively exported to the rest of the globe." Click here for that review; click here to Search This Site  Click here for Inner City Press' weekday news reports, from the United Nations and elsewhere.

Click here for Inner City Press' weekday news reports, from the United Nations and elsewhere. Click here for a recent BBC piece on Inner City Press' reporting from the United Nations. New: Follow us on TWITTER   BloggingHeads.tv  Click for March 1, 2011 BloggingHeads.tv re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption by Inner City Press. 2014: MRL on Beacon Reader  For or with more information, contact us.

July 17, 2017

While Federal Reserve Papers Over Sterling's CRA Scam, Quarles Nominated as to Board

By Matthew R. Lee, New Platform

NEW YORK, July 10 – Amid the scandal of the Federal Reserve's covering up Sterling Bank's
unreliable Community Reinvestment Act data by withholding most of 400 pages released to Inner City Press under the Freedom of Information last week, on the evening of July 10 Randal Quarles formerly of the Carlyle Group was nominated to head the Fed's Supervision unit. What would it portend for evasions by Sterling and larger banks? The other shoe still hasn't dropped on / for Marvin Goodfriend... Meanwhile amid the scandal of the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency covering up Sterling's data by quickly issuing a Satisfactory CRA rating, on June 5 a new head of the OCC was nominated: Joseph Otting, previously of OneWest Bank. Now beyond Otting's gaming of the CAR system, another problem has arisen: Otting misrepresented his resume on education. He listed a degree on his resume from the "School of Credit and Financial Management at Dartmouth College." It's a fraud. "Joseph Otting is not a Dartmouth graduate," Dartmouth spokeswoman Diana Lawrence said. "Dartmouth does not have a school of credit and financial management." In turns out the school is a four-week program spread over two years. The White House now syas this characterization of Mr. Otting’s credentials is correct. So who will be Comptroller of the Currency? While at OneWest, as reported by Inner City Press in 2015, Otting was best know for trying to get his own employees, fundees and investors to submit comments to the OCC to support OneWest's purchase by CIT.  Click here.

July 10, 2017

Regulators Said Sterling's CRA Data Unreliable, Under FOIA Fed Blacks-Out Most of 400 Pages

By Matthew R. Lee, New Platform

NEW YORK, July 8 – Sterling Bank, which is applying for approvals to acquire Astoria Bank, is known by its regulators to have filed unreliable Community Reinvestment Act data from at least 2014 through 2016, a document obtained by Inner City Press shows. The story, and outrage, was picked up by the American Banker newspaper here, by Paul Davis and Allison Prang, crediting Inner City Press - and Sterling Bank had no comment. Inner City Press immediately on May 13 submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Federal Reserve. The Fed repeatedly extended its time to respond then finally on July 7 provided more than 400 pages - almost entirely redacted. All references to the unreliable CRA data (and needs to improve rating) have been redacted. Sample here; the rest on Patreon, here. Inner City Press immediately submitted a FOIA appeal: "Amazingly, despite taking seven weeks to respond to ICP's immediate FOIA request, all information about this consumer compliance / CRA issue has been redacted from the records produced. CRA and CRA data are presumptively of public interest and public impact. The redacted response implies that the public could be entirely excluded from the FRS' review of this important CRA issues. It is unacceptable and inconsistent with the purpose, spirit and letter of FOIA. ICP is hereby appealing each and every redaction in the records belated provided to ICP on July 7. This should be ruled on before the comment period closed; the comment period should be extended." Watch this site.

July 3, 2017

Regulators Said Sterling's CRA Data Unreliable, Now Admits Needs to Improve 2017, Denial?

By Matthew R. Lee, New Platform

NEW YORK, July 1 – Sterling Bank, which is applying for approvals to acquire Astoria Bank, is known by its regulators to have filed unreliable Community Reinvestment Act data from at least 2014 through 2016, a documentobtained by Inner City Press shows. The story, and outrage, has been picked up by the American Banker newspaper here, by Paul Davis and Allison Prang, crediting Inner City Press - and Sterling Bank had no comment. Instead, Sterling's outside counsel Wachtel Lipton chose to snail-mail its response to the wrong address, and not e-mail it to Fair Finance Watch. Via here, with envelope re-submitted to Fed and OCC. Now another snail-mailed response from Sterling's Wachtel, which we've put online here on Patreon: "Please see Exhibit 1 and Confidential Exhibit C" -- Inner City Press has now requested it under FOIA, but the agencies have already repeatedly extended their time. This is a scam. But crucially, even Wachtel says "Sterling did receive a Needs to Improve rating for the State of New York in Sterling Bank's most recent CRA Performance Evaluation dated January 18, 2017." We'll have more on this - the application must be denied. The OCC has now put up a roadblock to releasing the records Inner City Press has requested under the Freedom of Information Act, writing: "The purpose of this letter is to seek additional information pertaining to your recent request for information from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Your request dated May 13, 2017 was received in my office on May 15, 2017. You requested any and all records related to Sterling Bank's application(s) to acquire Astoria and Sterling Bank's CRA data. Upon further review, we determined that we need clarification on the date range for search of Sterling Bank’s CRA data. If I have not received this information by COB June 19th I will assume that you no longer seek this information and consider your request closed." Inner City Press has responded: "   In response to Inner City Press' now month-old FOIA request concerning the CRA data the OCC knew and knows to be unreliable, you have asked that by June 19 ICP specify the date range for the request. While not understanding the OCC's delay in requesting this, we hereby timely specify that the date range is from three years ago to the date of your response. Please confirm receipt of this (including explaining your letter since you wrote “we need clarification on the date range for search”) and please provide the records as we intend to comment on them, for obvious reasons. Thank you." Meanwhile, Sterling's lawyers at Wachtell Lipton chose to snail mail their response to Fair Finance Watch, putting it in the mail three days after it was dated (now online via Patreon here.) How did it take the OCC a full MONTH to come up with its request? Why was the response snail mailed? This while the Federal Reserve has granted Inner City Press' request for expedited treatment of its FOIA request for all records, promising the responsive documents by June 1. But then the Fed, in a June 1 letter, unilaterally extended its time to June 22. First Fed letter on Scribd, here.

June 26, 2017

Some mergers we're looking at, and aftermath(s):

Carolina Financial Corporation announced a proposal to acquire First South Bancorp and First South Bank;

June 12: Texas: Southside Bancshares announced a proposal to acquire Diboll State Bancshares, Inc., the holding company for Diboll, Texas-based First Bank & Trust East Texas;

June 7: New Jersey: BCB Bancorp announced a proposal to acquire IAB and its wholly owned subsidiary, Indus-American Bank;

June 6, Montana into Colorado: Glacier Bancorp announced a proposal to acquire Columbine Capital Corp. and  Collegiate Peaks Bank, a community bank based in Buena Vista, Colorado;

June 5, Pennsylvania: : Penn Community Bank announced a proposal to acquire Chelten Hills Savings Bank, of Abington.

May 31, Utah: People's Utah Bancorp announced a proposal to acquire Town & Country Bank, based in St. George Utah...

"Chase reduced its branch presence by 190 locations, a 3.4 percent decline, from 2012 to 2016. Wells Fargo closed 98 branches, a 1.6 percent decline in the same period. Its peers are even more aggressive. Bank of America closed 243 branches (16 percent) in that period and Citi closed 302 (28.5 percent)." 

June 19, 2017

As SoFi Applies For Bank, FFW Opposes Evasion, Interest Rate North of 20%, FinTech

By Matthew R. Lee, New Platform

NEW YORK, June 15 – As the fintech industry in the US tries to move into banking, either through a new charter or, like SoFi, an end-run using the Utah industrial bank loophole, Fair Finance Watch and others are raising issues. Fair Finance has commented to the FDIC, and Inner City Press made requests citing FOIA: "Re: Timely Opposition to the Application by FinTech Company SoFi to Open a Bank, Including Offering a Secured Credit Card at Upward of 20% interest and trying to limited CRA to Utah
To the Addressees at the FDIC:
  On behalf of Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch, this is a timely comment on the application by fintech company SoFi to open an FDIC-insured industrial bank in Utah, to limited its CRA assessment area to (part of) Utah while project business nationwide, and to claim that a secure credit card with interest rate north of 20% is a CRA program. We request public hearings and denial of the application.
   As you know, the drive by fintech companies to get into banking is a matter of controversy, with the OCC have proposed a new type of charter. This end run would set a bad precedent, of gerrymandered CRA and even predatory lending as CRA.
  The application - with portions apparently withheld that should be released under FOIA and now whatever ex-parte rules the FDIC has - states twice that “the bank will offer a secured credit card utilizing its credit card and deposit infrastructure to the LMI community and the    members with a 'shallow credit' file [with] the following features... a much higher interest rate north of 20% percent.”  This is outrageous.
  For the record, also in support of the public hearing request, from the WSJ: “the entire sector is in trouble. Growth has slowed dramatically because of deeper worries about consumer-loan defaults and shifting preferences among some investors for other kinds of debt. Some of the largest online lenders have cut jobs, with Avant Inc. and Prosper Marketplace Inc. shrinking their number of employees by more than 25%. Confidence also was bruised badly when LendingClub pushed out its chief executive in May because of a scandal involving fabricated loan data. In the second quarter, venture-capital investments into lending startups fell by nearly half from a year earlier.. SoFi itself stumbled when consumers flooded its website after the lender ran an ad during the Super Bowl in February. Applicants who didn’t hear from SoFi for days blasted it in online ratings.”
Ready for prime time and FDIC insurance?
  Again, we request public hearings, and on the current record the denial of SoFi's application."

June 12, 2017

While OCC Papers Over Sterling's CRA Scam, Otting Nominated as Head, Resume Fraud

By Matthew R. Lee, New Platform

NEW YORK, June 10 – Amid the scandal of the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency covering up Sterling National Bank's unreliable Community Reinvestment Act data by quickly issuing a Satisfactory CRA rating, on June 5 a new head of the OCC was nominated: Joseph Otting, previously of OneWest Bank. Now beyond Otting's gaming of the CAR system, another problem has arisen: Otting misrepresented his resume on education. He listed a degree on his resume from the "School of Credit and Financial Management at Dartmouth College." It's a fraud. "Joseph Otting is not a Dartmouth graduate," Dartmouth spokeswoman Diana Lawrence said. "Dartmouth does not have a school of credit and financial management." In turns out the school is a four-week program spread over two years. The White House now syas this characterization of Mr. Otting’s credentials is correct. So who will be Comptroller of the Currency? While at OneWest, as reported by Inner City Press in 2015, Otting was best know for trying to get his own employees, fundees and investors to submit comments to the OCC to support OneWest's purchase by CIT.  Click here.

June 5, 2017

Wells Fargo Gets Cut Off from New NYC Business After CRA Downgrade, Sterling Next?

By Matthew R. Lee

WASHINGTON, May 31– Two months after Wells Fargo Bank's Community Reinvestment Act rating was dropped to "Needs to Improve," barring it from acquisitions, New York City announced it will not enter any new relationships with the bank, also suspending Wells Fargo's role as a senior book-running manager for NYC General Obligation and Transactional Finance Authority bond sales. A statement by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Controller Scott Stringer noted that "Currently, Wells Fargo holds contracts with the City to provide banking services, including to operate 'Lock Box' services that hold taxes and fees collected by the City. There is approximately $227 million of City dollars held in Wells Fargo accounts." Bu will they get involved in opposing Sterling National Bank, which Inner City Press and Fair Finance Watch have exposed as having "unreliable" CRA data, notwithstanding the OCC's scam "Satisfactory" rating on May 30? Click here. We'll have more on this. Back in late March, the bank settled for $110 million a class action lawsuit for having opened fake accounts without customers' knowledge or approval. But will Wells Fargo, which Inner City Press has covered through its acquisition of First Union and even before, from Washington to Alaska, still be allowed to go forward with its reported plan to close 400 bank branches, including in low and moderate income areas? The question reverberated, with others, on Capitol Hill on March 29 - and we'll have more on it.

  Meanwhile the US Federal Reserve Board, which bears more than a little responsibility for the global financial crash from 2008 due to inattention to predatory lending including on mergers, has now further reduced its scrutiny of bank mergers, with little notice to date. Now Fair Finance Watch and Inner City Press has timely challenged the Federal Reserve's stealth reduction of scrutiny, in a timely request for reconsideration filed with the Federal Reserve on the evening of March 27, below. FFW and others including NCRC protested, and Inner City Press has Freedom of Information Act requests pending regarding, the application by People's United to acquire Suffolk County National Bank.

May 29, 2017

After Fair Finance Watch Protested Synovus - Cabela, Federal Reserve Asks Synovus 7 Questions

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, May 22 –  The Federal Reserve has asked  Synovus more than a half dozen questions on May 22, on its (straw-man)  application to acquire Cabela's World's Foremost Bank, the questions annexed on May 22 here. Two months after Inner City Press reported  Capital One failing in its  proposal to acquire this   "World's Foremost Bank," a way  to try to avoid the regulators  and Capital One's Community  Reinvestment Act record  emerged. The scam involves Synovus buying the bank then passing one the credit card   receivables to Capital One, while keeping the deposits, so  Capital One wouldn't be  reviewed under CRA. The Fair Finance Watch has now opposed this, in a filing to the Federal Reserve. NCRC has commented as well. We'll have more on this.

May 22, 2017

Regulators Said Sterling's CRA Data Unreliable, Sterling Mis-Sends Response, Fed Expedites ICPs FOIA

By Matthew R. Lee, New Platform

NEW YORK, May 20 – Sterling Bank, which is applying for approvals to acquire Astoria Bank, is known by its regulators to have filed unreliable Community Reinvestment Act data from at least 2014 through 2016, a document obtained by Inner City Press shows. The story, and outrage, has been picked up by the American Banker newspaper here, by Paul Davis and Allison Prang, crediting Inner City Press - and Sterling Bank had no comment. Instead, Sterling's outside counsel Wachtel Lipton chose to snail-mail its response to the wrong address, and not e-mail it to Fair Finance Watch. Via here, with envelope re-submitted to Fed and OCC. This while the Federal Reserve has granted Inner City Press' request for expedited treatment of its FOIA request for all records, promising the responsive documents by June 1. Fed letter on Scribd, here.

Regulators Said Sterling's CRA Data Unreliable, Sterling Mis-Sends Response, Fed Expedites ICPs FOIA, Here by Matthew Russell Lee on Scribd

Fair Finance Watch has asked both the Fed and OCC to extend their comment periods past this date. Watch this site. Sterling has issued a press release ("covered" without any analysis by Reuters) that "the Federal Reserve inadvertently made public confidential supervisory information.. Because of the legal constraints relating to disclosure of confidential supervisory information, we are working closely with our regulators to craft a more detailed public response." Sterling is working WITH the regulators - the judges in this case - to spin its inaccurate data? After on its last acquisition, challenged by ICP, having to make a CRA compliance plan? Inner City Press has submitted Freedom of Information Act requests (a response here) and Fair Finance Watch has filed additional comments to the Federal Reserve and OCC, demanding public hearings into the unreliable data AND into how the regulators were dealing with (or covering up) the issue, in stealth. We'll have more on this: the US Federal Reserve denied Fair Finance Watch's request to extend the comment period on Sterling's application, in which even the Fed suspects there is incorrect CRA data.

On May 11, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York along with questions about about branch closures and a CRA plan required after Fair Finance Watch's previous challenge to Sterling asked: "In a letter dated December 23, 2016, from the OCC to Sterling Bank regarding the OCC's data integrity review, the OCC stated that Sterling Bank's 2014-2016 CRA data is not reliable and that Sterling Bank lacks an effective process for collecting, verifying and reporting such data. To the extent that any of the CRA data in the notice is incorrect, submit the corrected data. In addition, describe Sterling Bank's efforts to address its CRA data compliance management deficiencies."

So on April 26 in Sterling's analysts' call, did CEO Jack Kopnisky or Senior EVP Luis Massiani disclose the “unreliable” CRA data to, among others, Dave Bishop – FIG Partners, Casey Haire – Jefferies, Alex Twerdahl – Sandler O'Neill,, Collyn Gilbert – KBW, Matthew Breese – Piper Jaffray and Erik Zwick – Stephens Inc? Questions about this deal (here) and the Fed's commitment to public scrutiny are raised by its simultaneous denial of FFW's request for a hearing and to extend the comment period. There is no indication that the "corrected" CRA data would ever be made available to the public, or that this issue would not have been swept under the US bank regulators' carpet, like so many others. We'll have more on this. 

May 15, 2017

Regulators Said Sterling Bank's CRA Data Unreliable, ICP Exposed It, FFW Demands Hearing

By Matthew R. Lee, New Platform

NEW YORK, May 12 – Sterling Bank, which is applying for approvals to acquire Astoria Bank, is known by its regulators to have filed unreliable Community Reinvestment Act data from at least 2014 through 2016, a document obtained by Inner City Press shows. The story, and outrage, has been picked up by the American Banker newspaper here, by Paul Davis and Allison Prang, crediting Inner City Press - and Sterling Bank has "no comment." But Fair Finance Watch has filed additional comments to the Federal Reserve and OCC, demanding public hearings into the unreliable data AND into how the regulators were dealing with (or covering up) the issue, in stealth. We'll have more on this: the US Federal Reserve denied Fair Finance Watch's request to extend the comment period on Sterling's application, in which even the Fed suspects there is incorrect CRA data.

On May 11, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York along with questions about about branch closures and a CRA plan required after Fair Finance Watch's previous challenge to Sterling asked: "In a letter dated December 23, 2016, from the OCC to Sterling Bank regarding the OCC's data integrity review, the OCC stated that Sterling Bank's 2014-2016 CRA data is not reliable and that Sterling Bank lacks an effective process for collecting, verifying and reporting such data. To the extent that any of the CRA data in the notice is incorrect, submit the corrected data. In addition, describe Sterling Bank's efforts to address its CRA data compliance management deficiencies."

So on April 26 in Sterling's analysts' call, did CEO Jack Kopnisky or Senior EVP Luis Massiani disclose the “unreliable” CRA data to, among others, Dave Bishop – FIG Partners, Casey Haire – Jefferies, Alex Twerdahl – Sandler O'Neill,, Collyn Gilbert – KBW, Matthew Breese – Piper Jaffray and Erik Zwick – Stephens Inc? Questions about this deal (here) and the Fed's commitment to public scrutiny are raised by its simultaneous denial of FFW's request for a hearing and to extend the comment period. There is no indication that the "corrected" CRA data would ever be made available to the public, or that this issue would not have been swept under the US bank regulators' carpet, like so many others. We've submitted FOIA requests. We'll have more on this. 

May 8, 2017


After Capital One Failed on Cabela, Synovus Applies & FFW Protests to Federal Reserve, Here

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, May 6 – Two months after Inner City Press reported Capital One failing in its proposal to acquire Cabela's "World's Foremost Bank," a way to try to avoid the regulators and Capital One's Community Reinvestment Act record emerged. The scam involves Synovus buying the bank then passing one the credit card receivables to Capital One, while keeping the deposits, so Capital One wouldn't be reviewed under CRA. The Fair Finance Watch has now opposed this, in a filing to the Federal Reserve: "On behalf of Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch (FFW), this is a timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the FRS' public comment period on the Application by Synovus - and, we contend, CAPITAL ONE NA, to acquire the “WORLD'S FOREMOST BANK.”This comment is timely. For the record, there was initially filed with the OCC an application by Capital One to buy this “Foremost Bank.” When the compliance problems of that proposal became clear, this sham transaction was devised: for Synovus (also dubious) to make the initial acquistion, and then pass much of it on to Capital One, thereby evading review of Capital One, including but not limited to CRA review. This should not be countenanced. This applications is not even listed in the FRB's H2A, but only the H2, thusly: “* 18C Not applicable Synovus Bank, Columbus, Georgia, to acquire 05/19/2017 certain assets and to assume the deposits of World's Foremost Bank Sidney, Nebraska” It does not mention the role of Capital One. In the New York City MSA in 2015, the most recent year for which HMDA data is available, for conventional home purchase loans Capital One denied the applications of whites 23% of the time, while denying African Africans fully 45% of the time, and Latinos even more, 46% of the time. This is unacceptable.
Meanwhile, Capital One is “closing branches in Laurel, Gaithersburg, Frederick and Merrifield.”
As to Synovus' Bank, in 2015 in the Atlanta GA MSA it made 53 home purchase loans to whites and only seven to African Americans, NONE to Latinos. In the Birmingham Alabama MSA it made 45 home purchase loans to whites and only three to African Americans. If the bank cites Synovus Mortgage, note that in the Charlotte NC MSA in 2015 for home purchase loans, it lend to whites but not African Americans much less Latinos. Fair Finance Watch will submit further comments in the extended comment period. On the current record, the application(s) should be denied."

May 1, 2017

After FFW Protests Sterling's Application To Buy Damaged Astoria, Fed Confirms Receipt

By Matthew R. Lee, New Platform

NEW YORK, April 28 – After Astoria Bank's protested proposal to be acquired by New York Community Bank fell apart in late 2016, it found a new, equally controversial suitor: Sterling Bancorp. Now Fair Finance Watch has submitted a first Community Reinvestment Act challenge to the proposed merger, receipt of which the Federal Reserve has now confirmed, here. Inner City Press' summary of FFW's filing: "Dear Chair Yellen, Secretary Misback and others in the FRS: This is a timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the FRB's public comment period on the Application by Sterling Bancorp, Montebello, New York (“Sterling”) to merge with Astoria Financial Corporation, Lake Success, New York, and indirectly acquire Astoria Bank (“Astoria”).
This would be a combination of banks with disparate and in places highly irregular Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (“HMDA”) data. The proposal is the desperate result of the failure of Astoria's attempted merger with NYCB. That is no reason to approve this mis-conceived combination. The applicant's Sterling National Bank (“Sterling”) in the New York City MSA in 2015 for African Americans for home purchase loans denied the applications of African Americans 3.58 times more frequently than those of whites - much worse than other lenders. Sterling made only 22 such home purchase loans to African Americans, versus 495 to whites (and only 37 to Latinos) - again, much more disparate than other lenders. This bank should not buy Astoria. Remember: in the Nassau Suffolk MSA in 2013, Sterling made 149 home purchase loans to whites – and only one to an African American. For home improvement loans, Sterling made 30 to whites, none to African Americans. Taken together, this is unacceptable. The comment period should be extended to clarify – or refile – the HMDA data; evidentiary hearings should be held; and on the current record, the application should not be approved.
For the record, the CRA plan required after Fair Finance Watch's previous protest, we contend has not been complied with, and request evidentiary and public hearings on that basis.
Also for the record:  'The NYCB-Astoria Financial Merger is Kaput: Consumer advocates were among the groups that opposed NYCB’s acquisition of Astoria…'"

   In January, disparate lender Investor Bancorp, on which Fair Finance Watch previously got a condition imposed saw its proposal with Bank of Princeton fall apart.

April 24, 2017

  The beginning of something? "The Federal Reserve on Thursday announced two enforcement actions against Deutsche Bank AG that will require the bank to pay a combined $156.6 million in civil money penalties."

April 17, 2017

  Following the protest by Fair Finance Watch, the Federal Reserve has asked TIAA-CREF a fifth round of questions: "Provide an update on EverBank’s CRA activities since its last publicly available CRA Performance Evaluation. Your response should include any significant CRA initiatives undertaken, particularly with respect to credit and deposit products and retail banking services targeted toward low-to-moderate income geographies and individuals. In addition, provide information regarding community development lending, investments, and services in EverBank’s CRA assessment area since the last evaluation period, including the total number and dollar amount (except for community development services) and a brief description of the most significant community development loans, investments, and services." We'll have more on this.
April 10, 2017

We devote this week's Community Reinvestment Reporter to Jeff Williams, valiant CRA activist and public interest lawyer in Kansas City who has died of an apparent heart attack. Inner City Press and Fair Finance Watch worked with him on many campaigns and learned a lot. Here's from a recent filing: "I represent the Concerned Clergy Coalition, (“CCC”), a ministerial alliance of several dozen inner city churches in Kansas City, Missouri and the Historic East Neighborhood Coalition, (“HENC”), a group of thirteen inner urban core neighborhood associations in the area roughly bounded by Truman Road on the North, Brush Creek Boulevard on the South, Troost Avenue on the West, and Interstate 435 on the East in Kansas City, Missouri. For a number of years CCC has worked on issues concerning community reinvestment as part of its efforts to improve the economic condition of the community it serves. This has included periodically commenting on applications by banks to regulatory agencies for permission to consummate changes in their organizations. It has also included having an ongoing dialogue with local banks and regulators on community reinvestment needs and programming in what is commonly known as Kansas City, Missouri’s Eastside. HENC has for the past several years worked with various agencies to improve housing, public safety, health, and economic conditions in the various neighborhoods it serves. Its activities have recently included working on community reinvestment issues in their member neighborhoods... In the course of reviewing the CRA activities of local banks our clients were surprised to find that UMB Bank has not had a CRA Public Evaluation release since..." To be carried on. RIP.

April 3, 2017

Wells Fargo Paying $110 Million For Fake Accounts, 400 Branch Closures Still On?

By Matthew R. Lee

WASHINGTON, March 29 – The day after Wells Fargo Bank's Community Reinvestment Act rate was dropped to "Needs to Improve," barring it from acquisitions, the bank settled for $110 million a class action lawsuit for having opened fake accounts without customers' knowledge or approval. But will Wells Fargo, which Inner City Press has covered through its acquisition of First Union and even before, from Washington to Alaska, still be allowed to go forward with its reported plan to close 400 bank branches, including in low and moderate income areas? The question reverberated, with others, on Capitol Hill on March 29 - and we'll have more on it.

  Meanwhile the US Federal Reserve Board, which bears more than a little responsibility for the global financial crash from 2008 due to inattention to predatory lending including on mergers, has now further reduced its scrutiny of bank mergers, with little notice to date. Now Fair Finance Watch and Inner City Press has timely challenged the Federal Reserve's stealth reduction of scrutiny, in a timely request for reconsideration filed with the Federal Reserve on the evening of March 27...

March 27, 2017

  So the CFPB finally fined Nationstar Mortgage LLC $1.75 million for violating the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA). And the other lenders violating HMDA?

March 20, 2017

Amid DC Ideas of Glass-Steagall, Acquisitive Simmons Is Asked by Fed of FFW's CRA Protest

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, March 14 – Amid proposals in Washington even for a re-instituted modified Glass Steagall Act (Inner City Press is following the proposals of Tom Hoenig, even reported overseas), acquisitive bankers and their hangers-on around the United States are getting sassy.

  As an example of acquisitive sass, Arkansas-based Simmons National's CEO George Makris in a January conference call was dismissive of the abuses raised by Fair Finance Watch to the Federal Reserve in opposition to his bank's application to acquire Hardeman Investments. Simmons has announced yet another proposed acquisition, of Southwest Bancorp in Texas.

  Well, now the Federal Reserve has asked Makris' Simmons questions including this on the Community Reinvestment Act issues Fair Finance Watch has raised: "“This letter concerns the application dated November 23, 2016, by Simmons First National Corporation, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to merge with Hardeman County Investment Company, Inc., and thereby indirectly acquire its subsidiary, First South Bank, both of Jackson, Tennessee, pursuant to section 3 of the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, as amended. Upon review of the information in the record, staff of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (“Board”) requests the following additional information. Supporting documentation should be provided as appropriate.
1. Describe in depth the Community Reinvestment Act (“CRA”) related initiatives of Simmons Bank, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, in both the Little Rock, Arkansas, metropolitan statistical area (“MSA”), and the Memphis, Tennessee-Mississippi-Arkansas, MSA, since the bank’s 2013 CRA performance evaluation, performed by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Your response should describe the specific CRA-related initiatives that Simmons Bank has undertook in these MSAs since its 2013 evaluation, as well as its CRA-related plans in both MSAs after consummation of the proposal. Please address your responses within eight business days...”

 This follows a February letter, here, from the Federal Reserve to Simmons, posing questions about the issues FFW has raised, such as these:

"This is a timely first comment by Fair Finance Watch opposing the Application by Simmons First National Corporation to acquire Hardeman County Investment Company Inc., and thereby indirectly acquire First South Bank.

    Simmons First has a presumptive not-credible Home Mortgage Disclosure Act reporting record, which may in turn violate Equal Credit Opportunity Act rights. Now that it reports some denials, they are disparate.

   In essence, the HMDA data still reflect that Simmons First “cooks the books” to not issue or acknowledge denials. For conventional home purchase loans in the Little Rock MSA in 2015, Simmons First reported 394 applications from whites, with fully 329 originations and 12 denials, a 3% denial rate. For African Americans, Simmons First's denial rate was 19% -- more than six times higher than for whites.

 In the Memphis MSA for conventional home purchase loans in 2015, Simmons First's denial rate for African Americans was 100%, while it was only 4% for whites - an incalculable disparity.

Simmons First “plans to reduce Hardeman's annual noninterest expenses by $5.3 million.” How?

  This acquisition application should be denied."

March 13, 2017

After FFW Protest Stopped NYCB Bid, Astoria Wants To Be Bought By Disparate Sterling

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, March 7 – After Astoria Bank's protested proposal to be acquired by New York Community Bank fell apart in late 2016, now it has found a new, equally controversial suitor: Sterling Bancorp. Fair Finance Watch showed in 2015 that Sterling's lending record was so disparate that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency imposed a Community Reinvestment Act condition on Sterling. Now Inner City Press' review of the most recent Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data from that in the New York City Metropolitan Statistical Area Sterling denied the home purchase loan applications of African Americans more than 3.5 times more frequently that those of whites, worse that the rest of the industry. It denied Latinos 2.15 times more frequently than whites, also worse than other lenders. We'll have more on this.

   In January, disparate lender Investor Bancorp, on which Fair Finance Watch previously got a condition imposed saw its proposal with Bank of Princeton fall apart.

  There's also Capital One - Cabela, on which Inner City Press commented: "In the New York City MSA in 2015, the most recent year for which HMDA data is available, for conventional home purchase loans Capital One denied the applications of whites 23% of the time, while denying African Africans fully 45% of the time, and Latinos even more, 46% of the time. This is unacceptable.

  Meanwhile, Capital One is “closing branches in Laurel, Gaithersburg, Frederick and Merrifield.”

   Capital One came back with snark, as has Simmons National -- but then announced including to NCRC that  it will withdrawn its application. Onward.

March 6, 2017

After FFW Protest, Fed Sends Community Bank System 9 Questions, CEO Tryniski Trashes CRA

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, March 2 – At what point does bank executives' spin to investors and the media become more than misleading? Take Community Bank System (NYSE: CBU), which has now received nine additional questions from the Federal Reserve on its proposal to acquire Merchants, after its CEO derided issues Fair Finance Watch raised about the proposal.

  On its last proposal, CBSI bad-mouthed a Community Reinvestment Act protest even as it had to delay its Oneida deal. First, CBSI's "Hal Wentworth said that Inner City Press is not a local group and pointed out that letter was the only one filed on the Oneida deal. 'This activist does not do business with either Oneida or Community Bank, but nonetheless made vague allegations regarding Community,' Wentworth said. 'These allegations were entirely without merit and will be fully addressed by Community Bank and Oneida Savings in the application process.'" Then the deal was significantly delayed, with CBSI pushing the date back.

  More spin:  CFO Scott Kingsley told the media that FFW's protest "is not the sole reason. We have other things that have to sequentially happen to get to the technological conversion in July. When we did not have a definitive answer from the Fed or other parties last week, that put the technological conversion at risk, so we opted not to go ahead.”

  This time, it went to the CEO Mark Tryniski, who in January 2017 told stock analysts that "despite the baseless protest filed with the Fed Reserve by a serial activist, we expect to close in the second" question. We'll see. Among the nine questions: "Community Bank states that, to the extent it does not intend to continue to offer certain loan products and services offered by Merchants Bank post-merger, it does not believe that not offering such products and services would have a significant impact on the target bank's communities. As an example, Community Bank cites the fact that Merchants Bank would no longer accept applications for FHA/VA loans (on behalf of a mortgage company), but that Community Bank would offer loan products and programs which are not currently offered by Merchants Bank that Community Bank believes are comparable and 'equally valuable' to its communities, such as FNMA's Home Ready Program, Community Bank's Affordable Housing Program, and the USDA loan program. Compare the features of FHA and VA loans for which applications are presently taken by Merchants Bank with the features of the products and programs that Community Bank asserts are comparable, including any features of FHA and VA loans that are not covered by Community Bank's offerings."  Watch this site.

February 27, 2017

   The Federal Reserve, confronted even with court settlements by banks, says it was without admission of guilt. From February 24: "FNB’s overdraft practices were found to be unfair trade practices resulting in unjust enrichment as part of a class-action litigation, Ord v. First National Bank of Pennsylvania, No. 2:12-cv-00766-AJS (W.D. Pa. dismissed June 21,
2013). The case was settled without any admission of wrongdoing by the parties. Final Judgment & Order of Dismissal with Prejudice at 4–5, Ord (No. 2:12-cv-00766-AJS). " We'll have more on this.

February 20, 2017

While stock arbitrageurs continue to ask Fair Finance Watch and Inner City Press to confirm, this: "Capital One withdrew its application to acquire the card business late last month, according to the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a government bank regulator that also is in charge of approving such an acquisition as the Capital One-Cabela’s tie-up."

February 13, 2017

Amid DC Moves On CFPB, Acquisitive Simmons Is Asked by Fed of FFW's Protest

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, February 9 – Amid de-regulatory moves in Washington, acquisitive bankers and their hangers-on around the United States are getting sassy.

  From Washington -- K Street to be exact -- comes this memo, which Fair Finance Watch is putting online here. And as an example of acquisitive sass, Arkansas-based Simmons National's CEO George Makris in a January conference call was dismissive of the abuses raised by Fair Finance Watch to the Federal Reserve in opposition to his bank's application to acquire Hardeman Investments. Simmons has announced yet another proposed acquisition, of Southwest Bancorp in Texas.

  Well, here now is a question-letter from the Federal Reserve to Simmons, posing questions about the issues FFW has raised, such as these:

"This is a timely first comment by Fair Finance Watch opposing the Application by Simmons First National Corporation to acquire Hardeman County Investment Company Inc., and thereby indirectly acquire First South Bank.

    Simmons First has a presumptive not-credible Home Mortgage Disclosure Act reporting record, which may in turn violate Equal Credit Opportunity Act rights. Now that it reports some denials, they are disparate.

   In essence, the HMDA data still reflect that Simmons First “cooks the books” to not issue or acknowledge denials. For conventional home purchase loans in the Little Rock MSA in 2015, Simmons First reported 394 applications from whites, with fully 329 originations and 12 denials, a 3% denial rate. For African Americans, Simmons First's denial rate was 19% -- more than six times higher than for whites.

 In the Memphis MSA for conventional home purchase loans in 2015, Simmons First's denial rate for African Americans was 100%, while it was only 4% for whites - an incalculable disparity.

Simmons First “plans to reduce Hardeman's annual noninterest expenses by $5.3 million.” How?

  This acquisition application should be denied."

February 6, 2017

  The branch closing are coming fast and furious. Scandal plagued Wells Fargo is set to close 400 by 2018; the Huntington closures are looming, starting with 39. FFW protested the latter and will the former - watch this site.

January 30, 2017

  After saying his bank's proposed merger will be delayed, Community Bank System President and CEO Mark Tryniski said Fair Finance Watch's is a "baseless protest." No, it's that the bank's record is still terrible - as it was when Fair Finace Watch got a condition imposed on it in connection with Oneida. Will this one go the way of Investors - Bank of Princeton?

January 23, 2017

  Among other comments, Fair Finance Watch has filed this:

On behalf of Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch (ICP), this is a timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the FRB's public comment period on the Application of Community Bank System to acquire Merchants Bancshares, Inc. and Merchants Bank. This first comment is timely:

Community Bank System proposes to acquire Merchants. But in the the Buffalo and Syracuse MSAs in 2015, the most recent year for which Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data is publicly available, Community Bank NA dramatically excluded people of color.

For conventional home purchase loans in the Buffalo MSA in 2015, Community Bank NA made 58 such loans to whites and NONE to African Americans. It denied the only application it received from an African American.

For refinance home purchase loans in the Buffalo MSA in 2015, Community Bank NA made 19 such loans to whites and NONE to African Americans or Latinos.

For home improvement loans in the Buffalo MSA in 2015, Community Bank NA made 100 such loans to whites and NONE to African Americans or Latinos.

This is outrageous.

In the Syracuse MSA in 2015, Community Bank NA made 155 conventional home purchase loans to whites and NONE to African Americans.

For refinance loans in the Syracuse MSA in 2015, Community Bank NA made 121 such loans to whites and NONE to African Americans. It denied the only application it received from an African American.

This is outrageous.

Also, “Vermont still has 6 other state-chartered banks, but they all serve small regions of the state.... The last state-chartered bank to merge with a federally-chartered bank was Chittenden Bank, which became part of the Connecticut-based People’s United Bank on Jan. 1, 2008.”

In this context, the comment period should be extended so that public evidentiary hearings can be held, and the application should be denied.

Nor should Community Bank Systems be permitted to acquire Northeast Retirement Services...

January 16, 2017

Fair Finance Watch has timely raised issues on TD - Scottrade. Some of them:

"On behalf of Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch (ICP), this is a timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the OCC's public comment period on the Application by TD BANK, NA To Acquire SCOTTRADE BANK. This comment is timely.

As you should know, the overall deal faces challenges. See, e.g, “TD Ameritrade faces scrutiny over Scottrade purchase,” http://finance.yahoo.com/news/td-ameritrade-buy-scottrade-two-110347591.html, including that

“As part of those plans, Hockey said around 25 percent of the combined business's 600 branches will be closed. TD Ameritrade currently has 100 branches while Scottrade has 500. Hockey said in the interview the combined workforce of 10,000 will be reduced by about 20 percent.”

For purposes of this initial comment -- the link to the application in the OCC's FOIA Reading Room has not been working, and the comment period should be extended on that ground as well - we focused on Scottrade Bank's HMDA reporting, of purchased loads in Alabama, Arizona - and that's just in the A's.

Because the loans are purchased and sold, they do not contain the identifying information we are requesting. But how this nationwide purchase of mortgages, presumably from brokerage clients, complies with the Community Reinvestment Act is one of the issues we intend to address at the request hearing(s).

See, e.g., from Scottrade bank's Disclosure Supplemental Table 2 for 2015, in NYS:
NY/BRONX COUNTY/0293.02 1 687"
etc

January 9, 2017

The Federal Reserve has asked, after comments, about branches closings and consolidations:

"In response to Question 10 of the Bank Merger Act application, United indicates that it anticipates consolidating six UBVA branches into six Cardinal Bank branches and six Cardinal Bank branches into six UBVA branches, and is considering consolidating two additional branches. Exhibit L to Form 2070 indicates that United plans to consolidate six UBVA branches into six Cardinal Bank branches and seven Cardinal Bank branches into seven UBVA branches, and is considering consolidating two additional branches. Please provide clarification as to the number and location of branches to be consolidated or closed following the merger."
 
  We'll have more on this.

January 2, 2017

After Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch requested TIAA's withheld fair lending exhibits under FOIA, the Fed between Christmas and New Years emailed a document - with the entire fair plan redacted...

December 26, 2016

Bank Merger Called Off After ICP Protested  NYCB - Astoria on Disparities

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, December 20 -- In January of this year, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch submitted a protest to the Federal Reserve to New York Community Bank's application to acquire Astoria.

 And now on December 20 the companies have called off the merger, after being told they would not get any approval before the end of the year. Inside Mortgage Finance, for example, cites Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch as the slayer of the deal. It's about time.

 On July 20, the Fed asked NYCB this:

"Based on staff’s review of the current record, the following additional information is requested. Supporting documentation, as appropriate, should be provided.

"In its February 13, 2016, comment on the proposal, Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch (“ICP”) alleges that New York Community Bank’s and Astoria’s branch patterns disproportionately exclude Upper Manhattan and particularly the Bronx, which ICP states is the most predominately minority and low-income community in the state of New York. Please respond to these allegations. Please provide a copy of the public portion of your response directly to Matthew Lee of ICP. Any information for which you desire confidential treatment should be so labeled and separately bound in accordance with section 261.15 of the Board’s Rules Regarding Availability of Information"

 We'll see. Inner City Press' protest set forth that  NYCB in the New York City MSA in 2014 made 109 home purchase loans to whites -- and only THREE to African Americans. For refinance loans, NYBC in the the NYC MSA in 2014 made 27 loans to whites and only ONE to an African American.
 
  In the Cleveland, Ohio MSA (where NYCB bought Ohio Savings - and in the new this week), NYCB in 2014 made 17 refinance loans to whites in 2014 and only one to an African American, while denying African Americans, while denying African Americans three times more frequently than whites.

 " In the Nassau Suffolk (Long Island) MSA in 2014 NYCB made 107 home purchase loans to whites -- and only ONE to an African American, while denying African Americans 4.7 times more frequently than whites.

Aggregate / all lenders on Long Island 2014, conventional home purchase loans:

Unlike NYCB's 4.7 denial rate disparity between African Americans and whites, for all lenders it is (substantially) below 2 to 1: by all lenders on Long Island in 2014 for conventional home purchase loans, African Americans were denied 1.62 times more frequently then whites.

  Unlike NYCB's 107 loans to whites for each (1) loan(s) to African Americans, for the aggregate there are 23 loans to whites for each loan to African Americans.

" For refinance loans, NYCB in the the Long Island MSA in 2014 made 52 loans to whites and only three to African Americans and only TWO to Latinos, while denying Latinos 2.32 times more frequently than whites."

December 19, 2016

These are ones to watch:

Federal Reserve:

Chair: Janet L. Yellen, Term Expires February 3, 2018 (as Chair), January 31, 2024 (as Gov.)
Vice Chair: Stanley Fischer, Term Expires June 12, 2018 (as Vice Chair), January 31, 2020 (as Gov.)
Governor: Daniel K. Tarullo, Term Expires January 31, 2022
Governor: Jerome H. Powell, Term Expires January 31, 2028
Governor: Lael Brainard, Term Expires January 31, 2026
2 Governor Seats Currently Vacant

OCC
Comptroller: Thomas Curry, Term Expires April 2017

FDIC
Chairman: Martin J. Gruenberg, Term (as Chair) Expires November 2017
Vice Chairman: Thomas M. Hoenig, Term (as Commissioner) Expires April 2018
Director: Seat Currently Vacant
Outside Directors: Comptroller of the Currency

December 12, 2016

  The TIAA fight goes on - now they are trying to withhold fair lending information, which on December 10 we challeged:

or the entirety of the December 9, 2016 submission in connection with the Application by TIAA et al to acquire EverBank. As provided under the FRB's ex parte rules, the submission refers to “confidential” portions the withholding of which we are challenging with this FOIA request on, for example, “consumer compliance and fair lending compliance, as well as the Resultant Institution’s Fair and Responsible Practices Program.”

December 5, 2016

After ICP Challenges TIAA-Everbank, Fed's 3d Round of Qs, CRA Included

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, November 29 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks like Goldman Sachs - down to People's United Bank now trying to buy Suffolk County National Bank while barely lending to people of color in New York. 

  Then there are cross-industry proposals like TIAA's attempt to acquire Everbank of Florida, which Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch on October 29 challenged, and attempts from overseas to buy Genworth.

The Federal Reserve has asked a third round of questions of TIAA, which we publish here in full, including one on CRA:

"In connection with the request for the Board’s prior approval pursuant to section 10(e)(1)(A)(iii) of the Home Owners’ Loan Act, as amended, 12 U.S.C. 1467a(e)(1)(A)(iii), and 12 CFR 238.11(e) by TIAA Board of Overseers, Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (“TIAA”), and TCT Holdings, Inc., each of New York, New York, to acquire control of EverBank Financial Corp., a savings and loan holding company, and EverBank, a federal stock savings association, both of Jacksonville, Florida, the following information is requested. Supporting documentation should be provided as appropriate.

1. If the transaction is consummated as proposed, describe in detail any authority that the New York Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) or any other regulatory entity (apart from the Federal Reserve Board) may have to:

a. Prevent TIAA from down streaming funds or otherwise acting as a source of financial strength to a subsidiary, including a subsidiary depository institution;

b. Directly or indirectly prevent the Surviving Intermediate HoldCo (as that term is defined and used in the application) from down streaming funds or otherwise serving as a source of financial strength to the resultant subsidiary depository institution;

c. Directly or indirectly require Surviving Intermediate HoldCo to dividend or otherwise distribute funds to TIAA; or

d. Directly or indirectly require a subsidiary depository institution to dividend or otherwise distribute funds to TIAA. For each of the scenarios described above, include a detailed discussion of the circumstances in which the regulator could exercise such authority, and include citations as appropriate.

2. Indicate any dollar amount or percentage thresholds or limitations on transactions that TIAA may conduct with a subsidiary or affiliate, including with the Surviving Intermediate HoldCo, without prior approval of DFS, and provide any statutory or regulatory authority that addresses this limitation.

3. To the extent not previously disclosed in the application, and to the extent known with respect to EverBank, discuss any pending or recently resolved litigation with or investigations by regulators, including, but not limited to, those pertaining to consumer protection laws and regulations, against TIAA-CREF Trust Company, FSB (“TIAA FSB”) or EverBank.

4. Clarify the extent to which the consumer compliance, fair lending compliance, and Community Reinvestment Act programs of the resultant depository institution will consist of the current programs of TIAA FSB or EverBank. Discuss any aspects of these programs that differ from those currently in place at TIAA FSB or EverBank."

Earlier, some of TIAA's answers were provided to Inner City Press on November 10 and are published here (here and embedded below in full)

"We are grateful for this opportunity to respond to the comment letter filed by Inner City Press  /Fair Finance Watch on 29 October 2016 (the “Comment Letter”), regarding the application submitted by TCT Holdings, Inc., Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (“TIAA”)... The Comment Letter makes a series of assertions regarding the lending practices of TIAA-CREF Trust Company, FSB (“TIAA FSB”) and EverBank by referencing certain Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (“HMDA”) data for 2015. It also suggests that TIAA does not satisfy the requisite managerial standards consistent with approval. Finally, the Comment Letter requests an extension of the public comment period and a public hearing on the Application...

EverBank has advised the Applicants that it has carefully evaluated and investigated the allegations and it has provided the Applicants with information following its manual review of each of the eight declined applications underlying the data cited in the Comment Letter...

The commenter also suggests that allegations in a dated news article that TIAA has engaged in improper business practices in Brazil should be considered by the Federal Reserve Board as a factor when considering the managerial resources of the Applicants. The news article cited in the Comment Letter does not provide a complete or accurate portrayal of how TIAA conducts business in Brazil and other markets... TIAA is a signatory to the U.N. Principles for Responsible Investment."

  Ah, the United Nations... We'll have more on this.

November 28, 2016

Inner City Press has just filed: "This is a FOIA request for the entirety of the November 22, 2016 submission in connection with the Application by TIAA et al to acquire EverBank. As provided under the FRB's ex parte rules, the submission refers to “confidential” exhibits the withholding of which we are challenging with this FOIA request for, for example, “Please see Confidential Exhibit 7 for an explanation of the uncommitted $300 million credit line;” “the Resultant Institution will continue to satisfy the QTL test under prong (iv), as demonstrated in Confidential Exhibit 2;”" etc...

And this:

This is a timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the FRS's public comment period on the Application by United Bankshares and UBV Holding Company to acquire 100 percent of the voting shares of Cardinal Financial Corporation and Cardinal Bank

These transaction raises troubling Community Reinvestment Act issues. United Bank has a disparate lending record and is growing worse, as does Cardinal's George Mason Mortgage.

And, significantly, the specifics of which branches would be closed have not been publicized.

In the Washington DC MSA in 2015 for home purchase loans, United Bank (Virginia) made 96 such loans to whites and only five to African American applicants, and only seven to Latinos.

In the Silver Spring - Rockville MSA in 2015, for home purchase loans High Point made 14 loans to whites and NONE to African Americans or Latinos.

Consider also the record of Cardinal's George Mason Morgage, which United wants to buy.
In the Washington DC MSA in 2015 for conventional home purchase loans, George Mason denied the applications of African Americans 3.17 times more frequently than whites, and those of Lationos 2.17 times more frequently than whites.

See also, http://www.wvgazettemail.com/news-business/20160827/united-bankshares-buys-cardinal-now-largest-company-headquartered-in-wv#sthash.8FhbkxWN.dpuf:

“Cardinal is based in Tysons Corner, Virginia, with 30 branches of its subsidiary Cardinal Bank in the Washington, D.C., metro area.... As with most mergers, there’s potential for overlap whether it’s in branch-based or corporate positions, but Adams said it’s too soon to tell how many positions will overlap... Adams said United has also seen the effect of this trend. 'In all of our locations, five states and the nation’s capital, there is a trend toward customers not using the branches as much as they used to, and I think that trend will continue.'”

On the current record, hearings should be held and the application(s) should not be approved. The comment period must be extended.

November 21, 2016

Of BOK, the Fed said last week of ICP's comment, " a commenter objected to the proposal on the basis of alleged disparities in the number of residential real estate loans made to minority borrowers, as compared to white borrowers, by BOK Bank in the Kansas City, Missouri-Kansas, Metropolitan Statistical Area (“Kansas City MSA”); the Houston, Texas, MSA (“Houston MSA”); and the Phoenix, Arizona, MSA (“Phoenix MSA”), as reflected in data reported under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (“HMDA”) for 2014.25 The
commenter further alleged that BOK Bank confined African American and Hispanic borrowers to government loan programs instead of conventional loan products in the
Kansas City MSA. Also, the commenter criticized the rate at which BOK Bank denied applications by African Americans and/or Hispanics, compared to the rate of denials for
whites, for home refinance loans in the Houston and Phoenix MSAs, as reported under HMDA for 2014. In addition, the commenter generally alleged that BOK Bank has a
weak record of lending to people of color and low-income individuals and a weak record of consumer compliance."

And we maintain that - and note the Fed accepting that "On September 9, 2016, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced that it had settled charges against BOK regarding allegations that BOK Bank’s Corporate Trust Department, primarily through a senior executive, concealed problems and red flags from investors in certain bond offerings for which BOK Bank served as indenture trustee and dissemination agent between 2007 and 2015. See BOK Bank, SEC Order Instituting Cease-and-Desist Proceedings, File No. 3-17533 (September 9, 2016)"

November 14, 2016

After ICP Challenges TIAA-Everbank, Defense of Lending, Land Grabs

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, November 10 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks like Goldman Sachs - down to People's United Bank now trying to buy Suffolk County National Bank while barely lending to people of color in New York. 

  Then there are cross-industry proposals like TIAA's attempt to acquire Everbank of Florida, which Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch on October 29 challenged, and attempts from overseas to buy Genworth.

The Federal Reserve has asked questions of TIAA, some of whose answers were provided to Inner City Press on November 10 and are published here (here and embedded below in full)

"We are grateful for this opportunity to respond to the comment letter filed by Inner City Press  /Fair Finance Watch on 29 October 2016 (the “Comment Letter”), regarding the application submitted by TCT Holdings, Inc., Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (“TIAA”)... The Comment Letter makes a series of assertions regarding the lending practices of TIAA-CREF Trust Company, FSB (“TIAA FSB”) and EverBank by referencing certain Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (“HMDA”) data for 2015. It also suggests that TIAA does not satisfy the requisite managerial standards consistent with approval. Finally, the Comment Letter requests an extension of the public comment period and a public hearing on the Application...

EverBank has advised the Applicants that it has carefully evaluated and investigated the allegations and it has provided the Applicants with information following its manual review of each of the eight declined applications underlying the data cited in the Comment Letter...

The commenter also suggests that allegations in a dated news article that TIAA has engaged in improper business practices in Brazil should be considered by the Federal Reserve Board as a factor when considering the managerial resources of the Applicants. The news article cited in the Comment Letter does not provide a complete or accurate portrayal of how TIAA conducts business in Brazil and other markets... TIAA is a signatory to the U.N. Principles for Responsible Investment."

  Ah, the United Nations... We'll have more on this.

After ICP Challenges TIAA-Everbank, Here's TIAA's Defense to Federal Reserve of Lending Disparities, Land G... by Matthew Russell Lee on Scribd

November 7, 2016

After ICP Challenges People's United Bank's Suffolk Bid, Fed Asks 13 More Questions

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, October 31 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks like Goldman Sachs - down to People's United Bank now trying to buy Suffolk County National Bank while barely lending to people of color in New York.  Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch on August 13 challenged this application and People's United, as it did Bancorp South in 2014, which led to redlining charges by the Department of Justice and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Now the Federal Reserve, as released to Inner City Press on October 31, has asked People's United a series of questions, including for Community Reinvestment Act information from 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 year to date, it's (lack of) lending to African Americans and small businesses, its claims about  RBS Citizens Bank branches and restrictions imposed in connection with the still only proposed - and opposed - merger. We'll have more on this.

And on this: People's United Bank, if allowed to acquire Suffolk National Bank, would layoff at least 76 workers, according to a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification under the WARN Act, to the NYS Dep't of Labor....

October 31, 2016

Challenge to TIAA's Attempt To Buy Everbank, Citing Landgrab in Brazil

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, October 29 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks like Goldman Sachs - down to People's United Bank now trying to buy Suffolk County National Bank while barely lending to people of color in New York. 

  Then there are cross-industry proposals like TIAA's attempt to acquire Everbank of Florida, which Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch on October 29 has challenged. Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has written to the Federal Reserve:

On behalf of Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch (ICP), this is a timely first comment opposing and requesting public hearings and an extension of the FRB's public comment period on the Applications of TCT Holdings Inc., Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America and TIAA Board of Overseers, all of New York, New York; to acquire EverBank Financial Corp and thereby indirectly acquire EverBank. This first comment is timely.

This is in essence a proposal for a major cross-industry acquisition, in which TIAA (accused among other things of land grabs in Brazil, see below), which has limited experience in banking and a limited and highly disparate record in mortgage lending, seeks to acquire the largest Florida-based bank, with its own issues. Public hearings are needed.

In the St. Louis MSA, TIAA-CREF Trust in 2015, the most recent year for which Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data is available, reported data but lent only to whites.

Meanwhile Everbank, in the Miami MSA in 2015 for home mortgage loans in HMDA Table 4-1 had a 77% denial rate for African Americans, versus a 36% denial rate for whites. In Tampa for Table 4-1 it had a 100% denial rate for African Americans. Public hearings are required.

For the record, under the Managerial Resources and integrity factors, consider this:

TIAA-CREF, U.S. Investment Giant, Accused of Land Grabs in Brazil NOV. 16, 2015

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — As an American investment giant that manages the retirement savings of millions of university administrators, public school teachers and others, TIAA-CREF prides itself on upholding socially responsible values, even celebrating its role in drafting United Nations principles for buying farmland that promote transparency, environmental sustainability and respect for land rights.

But documents show that TIAA-CREF’s forays into the Brazilian agricultural frontier may have gone in another direction.

The American financial giant and its Brazilian partners have plowed hundreds of millions of dollars into farmland deals in the cerrado, a huge region on the edge of the Amazon rain forest where wooded savannas are being razed to make way for agricultural expansion, fueling environmental concerns.

In a labyrinthine endeavor, the American financial group and its partners amassed vast new holdings of farmland despite a move by Brazil’s government in 2010 to effectively ban such large-scale deals by foreigners.”

For obvious reasons anticipating regulatory push-back against this proposal, TIAA got a clause to withdraw if too much questions are asked or restrictions proposed.

What is the public benefit? The fact that TIAA is run by a former FRB vice chairman militates even more strongly for the requested public hearings."

October 24, 2016

Lending Discrimination Kills Mergers as BancorpSouth Withdraws, ICP Proceeds on People's United

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, October 22 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks like Goldman Sachs - down to People's United Bank now trying to buy Suffolk County National Bank while barely lending to people of color in New York.  Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch on August 13 challenged this application and People's United, as it did BancorpSouth in 2014, which led to redlining charges by the Department of Justice and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

After BancorpSouth settled the redlining charges, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch immediately wrote to the Federal Reserve urging that its pending merger applications be denied or withdrawn. Now the latter has happened. The Fed has informed Inner City Press of the formal withdrawal of BancorpSouth's application; we've published the letter here, and will stay on this, to December 2017, as long as it takes.

As to People's United, using the just-released 2015 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data. Inner City Press has now commented to the Federal Reserve:

 "in 2015 in the New York City MSA, People's United made 110 home purchase loans to whites and only ONE to an African American and only four to Latinos...  In 2015, for refinance loans in the New York City MSA, People's United made 103 loans to whites, only five to African Americans and only two to Hispanics.

   People's United record is scarcely better on Long Island, where it snapped up Bank of Smithtown and Citizen's Bank as it now proposes to do to Suffolk County National Bank. In 2015 for home purchase loans on Long Island People's United made 49 home purchase loans to whites, only four to African Americans and only four to Latinos. For refinance loans it mad 70 loans to whties, only one to an African American and only four to Latinos. Again, this is systematic redlining; this proposed acquisition could not legitimately be approved and People's United should be referred for prosecution for redlining by the Department of Justice and CFPB."

  Responding to ICP and NCRC, People's claims that acquiring another suburban bank would improve this disparate record in New York City. How?

October 17, 2016

ICP Challenges FNB's Reach into the Carolinas for Yadkin Bank, Disparities in Baltimore & Ohio, Insiders

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, October 15 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks like Goldman Sachs - down to FNB / First National Bank of Pennsylvania now trying to buy Yadkin Bank in the Carolinas while barely lending to people of color in Baltimore, Cleveland or Akron.

 Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch on October 15 challenged this application and FNB, as it did Bancorp South in 2014, which led to redlining charges by the Department of Justice and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Using the just-released 2015 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data, Inner City Press has commented to the Federal Reserve in Washington and Cleveland:

 "On behalf of Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch (ICP), this is a timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the FRB's public comment period on the Application of F.N.B. Corporation to acquire Yadkin Financial and Yadkin Bank. This first comment is timely.

F.N.B. Corporation's lead bank, First National Bank of PA, has a disparate record of lending, for example in the Baltimore and Cleveland MSAs, below. Yadkin is an amalgam of banks slapped together by private equity investors, who would be the primary beneficiaries of this proposed deal. But what is the public benefit?

In the Baltimore MSA in 2015, the most recent year for which Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data is publicly available and not taken into account in any FNB CRA example, FNB made 86 home purchase loans to whites and only 3 to African Americans, only two to Latinos. This is inconsistent with the demographics of Baltimore, to put it mildly. FNB's denial rate for African Americans was 2.75 times higher than for whites; it was 3.13 times higher than for whites. This is redlining; this proposed acquisition could not legitimately be approved and FNB should be referred for prosecution for redlining by the Department of Justice and CFPB.

People's United record is scarcely better in the Cleveland MSA, another out-of-Pennsylvania market that would be a predictor of how FNB would (under) perform in the Carolinas. In the Cleveland MSA in 2015, FNB made 297 home purchase loans to whites and only 12 to Africans and only 3 to Latinos, applications from which it denied 4.13 times more frequently than whites.

In the Akron, Ohio MSA in 2015, FNB made 41 home purchase loans to whites, only one to an African American (in Table 4-1) and none to Latinos.

In this context, the comment period should be extended so that public evidentiary hearings can be held, and the application should be denied.

Please also note for the record: “Using Tuesday’s closing price on the NYSE, here’s how much more the top 10 individual backers’ stakes will be worth at close, according to FactSet Research:

Adam Abram, lead independent director: $14,298,826.15

Michael Patterson, director: $6,969,354.35

Scott Custer, CEO: $3,836,876.80

Harry Spell, board member: $3,453,074.25

Joseph Towell, chairman: $2,705,434.65

David Brody, board member: $1,645,403.35

Steven Lerner, board member: $1,311,405.15

Steven Jones, chief banking officer: $1,285,450.00

Barry Dodson, board member: $1,117,767.15

Terry Earley, CFO: $1,030,739.45

Insiders currently own about 12 percent of Yadkin, with the bulk, at 67 percent, owned by institutional investors.”

See also:

"The prominent level of private-equity ownership in the Raleigh bank had many analysts and financial experts convinced that it would be sold sooner than later, even though Yadkin just completed on March 1 its $456 million purchase of Greensboro-based NewBridge Bancorp. NewBridge went on a three-bank buying spree after securing $56 million in new private-equity capital in November 2012.

Meanwhile, Yadkin gained $45 million in private-equity capital in October 2012 and subsequently bought VantageSouth Bancshares Inc. of Raleigh and NewBridge. Those private-equity infused deals provided Yadkin with a sufficient branch coverage of North Carolina’s three urban areas to convince FNB Corp. executives to leapfrog over Virginia to make its $1.4 billion offer.

Stone Point Capital LLC, LY Holdings LLC and Lightyear Capital LLC each own 4.46 percent of Yadkin’s 50.84 million outstanding shares. Stone Point and Lightyear were provided with a representative on Yadkin’s board of directors. At $27.35 a share, the sale could be worth $61.2 million for each firm.”

This is a proposal driven by these private equity investors: but what is the public benefit?
 

October 10, 2016

ICP Protests BNC - High Point, 2015 Lending Fell 80% from 2014

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, October 4 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks like Goldman Sachs - down to Bank of North Carolina (BNC), whose proposed acquisition of High Point Bank Corporation Inner City Press has challenged and the Federal Reserve has asked questions on, and BancorpSouth, which Inner City Press protested for discrimination in 2014, and has now been charged by the Department of Justice and CFPB.

On the evening of August 24, the Federal Reserve asked BNC questions about Inner City Press' protest, including:

"The public comment submitted on the proposed merger includes assertions that Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data from several metropolitan areas indicate that both BNC Bank and High Point Bank had unfavorable levels of mortgage lending to African American and Hispanic individuals as compared to white individuals."

Now while BNC brags it will close its deal by the end of October, Inner City Press has just submitted a second comment with the just released 2015 HMDA data. BNC's conventional home purchase lending to African Americans in the Charleston MSA has falling by over 80% from 2014 to 2015. Inner City Press has today submitted to the Federal Reserve:

"this, with Compliance Plan withheld, is the record of the proposal acquirer: in the Charleston MSA in 2014 for conventional home purchase loans, BNC made 173 such loans to whites and only SIX to African Americans, and none to Latinos. For refinance loans, it made 68 loans to whites and only ONE to an African American, while denying the applications of African Americans 3.94 times more frequently than those of whites.

  In 2015, things got substantially worse. For conventional home purchase loans in the Charleston MSA in 2015, while BNC made 45 such loans to whites, it made only ONE to an African American (down from six in 2014).  This application should be denied. We ask for more time to comment on this 2015 data.

On the current record, hearings should be held and the application(s) should not be approved. The comment period must be extended."

 The Winston-Salem Journal reported: "regulatory approval was delayed in part by two New York advocate groups challenging BNC's lending practices involving minority and underserved applicants in its markets. Inner City Press and affiliate Fair Finance Watch filed a protest with the Federal Reserve under the federal Community Reinvestment Act. It is a normal practice of those groups to challenge minority-lending practices when a significant bank purchase is announced. Fed officials asked for additional information Dec. 2. BNC responded and asked that its minority-lending data remain confidential. Rick Callicutt, the bank's chief executive and president, said in April that because BNC has surpassed $5 billion in total assets, it faces "a higher level of expectation to market more heavily to the underserved in its markets. All our Community Reinvestment Act exams have been good."

  Really? BNC's conventional home purchase lending to African Americans in the Charleston MSA has falling by over 80% from 2014 to 2015.

October 3, 2016

The Fed on September 30 said, "Of the 42 proposals withdrawn in the first half of 2016, 20 proposals were withdrawn at the initiative of the applicant. The remainder were withdrawn after consultation with staff for technical or procedural reasons or because the proposals raised significant issues regarding the statutory factors that must be considered by the Federal Reserve. Specifically, 13 of these proposals raised financial and managerial issues as well as regulatory compliance and CRA and fair lending issues."

  So what about BancorpSouth? Or a Spanish bank down the pike?

 The Federal Reserve has responded to Inner City Press' FOIA request about BNC - but has, tellingly, redacted everything about "Enforcement Actions." We are not convinced.

September 26, 2016

And now more questions from the Fed to BNC:

"on Bank of North Carolina, Thomasville, North Carolina (“BNC Bank”), to acquire High Point Bank Corporation (“HPBC”), parent of High Point Bank and Trust Company (“High Point Bank”), both of High Point, North Carolina, pursuant to section 3(a)(5) of the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, as amended (“BHC Act”), the following additional information, including the information in the confidential appendix, is requested. Supporting documentation should be provided as appropriate.
1. Given BNC’s rapid expansion, describe in detail BNC’s merger and acquisition processes for targeting, acquiring, and integrating acquired businesses. Include the level of board and senior management oversight and reporting, due diligence activities, audit coverage, and the involvement of risk control groups as appropriate.
2. Describe how BNC governs significant project activities and whether there is an independent oversight function that oversees project changes that occur when BNC makes an acquisition.
3. Regarding BNC’s current enterprise risk management, respond to the following:
a. Discuss the impact that the integration of Southcoast has had to BNC’s risk management framework.
b. Indicate whether risk reporting includes information regarding integration activities. If so, describe how this information could be used by senior management to allocate the necessary resources to address integration concerns, should any arise.
c. Describe how BNC’s risk management framework would change upon consummation of the proposed transaction.
4. Provide a pro forma list of shareholders who will own, control, or hold with the power to vote 5 percent or more of the voting shares of BNC upon consummation of the proposed transaction. Your response should indicate whether any identified shareholder is a bank or bank holding company. In calculating the voting ownership, include any warrants, options, and other convertible instruments, and show all levels of ownership on both a fully diluted and on an individually diluted basis. Aggregate the interests of any related shareholders."

September 19, 2016

So Bank of Oklahoma, after Inner City Press' protest, was asked in what markets it will improve. It has now named cities in six states. We'll see....

September 12, 2016

After ICP Challenges Its Suffolk Bid, People's United Calls NYC "Lower Hudson," Recent

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, September 8 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks like Goldman Sachs - down to People's United Bank now trying to buy Suffolk County National Bank while barely lending to people of color in New York.  Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch on August 13 challenged this application and People's United, as it did Bancorp South in 2014, which led to redlining charges by the Department of Justice and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

On September 7, the General Counsel of People's United Robert E. Trautmann filed a response, which as to the analysis of New York City redlining submitted by Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch argues that the disparities are OK because People's supposedly only recently entered the market.

  But it entered in 2010. How long can it call this recent? And why should it be permitted to build itself up on Long Island while this redlining of New York City's lower income communities of color persists?

Tellingly, People's United Bank's purported response to Inner City Press' redlining analysis calls New York Times the “Lower Hudson Valley region.”

  Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch filed with the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency:

"a timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the OCC's public comment period on the Application by People's United to buy The Suffolk County National Bank of Riverhead, NY. The newspaper notice says the comment period runs at least through August 16; this comment is timely.

People's United proposes to buy Suffolk County National Bank and its 27 branches in New York. But in the the New York City MSA in 2014, the most recent year for which Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data is publicly available, People's United made 82 home purchase loans to whites and NONE to African Americans or Latinos. This is redlining; this proposed acquisition could not legitimately be approved and People's United should be referred for prosecution for redlining by the Department of Justice and CFPB.

For refinance loans in the New York City MSA in 2013, People's United made 24 loans to whites, 1 to an African American and four to Hispanics. For home improvement loans in the New York City MSA in 2013, People's United made eight loans to whites, and NONE to African Americans or Latinos.

People's United record is scarcely better on Long Island, where it snapped up Bank of Smithtown and Citizen's Bank as it now proposes to do to Suffolk County National Bank. In the Nassau-Suffolk MSA in 2014, People's United made 48 home purchase loans to whites and NONE to African Americans. For home improvement loans it made 16 loans to whites and NONE to African American or Latinos.

In this context, the comment period should be extended so that public evidentiary hearings can be held, and the application should be denied."

September 5, 2016

Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has been looking at the Bank of Oklahoma, noting that

In the Kansas City MSA in 2014 for home purchase loans, BOK for Table 4-2 made 242 loans to whites and only eight to African Americans. People of color were confined to Table 4-1 loans: 35 to African Americans, and 36 to Latinos, versus 204 to whites.

In the Houston MSA in 2014 for refinance loans, BOK made 126 loans to whites and only six to African Americans; it had a denial rate for African Americans of 55%, and for Latinos of 52%, versus only 30% for whites.

In the Phoenix MSA in 2014 for refinance loans, BOK made 168 loans to whites and only THREE to African Americans and 11 to Latinos; it had a denial rate for Latinos of 36%, versus only 26% for whites.

Now, as if on cue, BOK serves up a new Community Reinvestment Act performance evaluation as a rebuttal. But even it lists Low Satisfactory rating in Arizona and Texas for lending, in Arkansas and Colorado for service, and in Maryland for both lending AND service.

So what rating do you think the OCC gave Bank of Oklahoma, which is trying to buy Missouri Bank and Trust in Kansas City? And what Kansas City bank do you think hasn't had a CRA exam in nine years? Watch this site.

August 29, 2016

ICP Protested BNC - High Point, Now Fed Asks Questions, Here

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, August 24 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks like Goldman Sachs - down to Bank of North Carolina (BNC), whose proposed acquisition of High Point Bank Corporation Inner City Press has challenged and the Federal Reserve has asked questions on, and BancorpSouth, which Inner City Press protested for discrimination in 2014, and has now been charged by the Department of Justice and CFPB.

On the evening of August 24, the Federal Reserve asked BNC questions about Inner City Press' protest, including:

"The public comment submitted on the proposed merger includes assertions that Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data from several metropolitan areas indicate that both BNC Bank and High Point Bank had unfavorable levels of mortgage lending to African American and Hispanic individuals as compared to white individuals.

-Directly address the assertions of unfavorable levels of mortgage lending to those population segments identified by the commenter in each relevant geographic area referenced in the comments;

-Discuss in detail the outreach and marketing activities by BNC Bank and High Point Bank, including any contemplated changes to those activities after consummation of the proposal; and

-Describe in detail the fair lending risk management policies and procedures of BNC Bank and High Point Bank, including any contemplated changes to these policies and procedures after consummation of the proposal...

 Discuss any plans to open, close, or consolidate any bank branches in connection with the proposal, or separately from the proposal, particularly in low- and moderate-income (“LMI”) areas. To the extent that any branches in LMI areas would be closed, discuss management’s plans to mitigate the impact of such closures on the affected communities."

On BNC, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has raised to the Federal Reserve:

In the Charleston MSA in 2014 for conventional home purchase loans, BNC made 173 such loans to whites and only SIX to African Americans, and none to Latinos. For refinance loans, it made 68 loans to whites and only ONE to an African American, while denying the applications of African Americans 3.94 times more frequently than those of whites.

  Southcoast in the Charleston MSA in 2014 for conventional home purchase loans made 136 such loans to whites and NONE to African Americans. For refinance loans, Southcase made 35 loans to whites and only TWO to African Americans. To combine these two banks would make them worse.

  In the Greenville MSA in 2013 for home purchase loans, BNC made 117 such loans to whites and only SIX to African Americans, and only seven to Latinos.  For refinance loans, it made 31 loans to whites and only one to an African Americans and none to Latinos.

  BNC admits, as it must, that it is below-market in lending to African Americans, but paradoxically tries to use that the fact that it is subject to a compliance order as its defense to the Fed.

 To Fair Finance Watch, too. FFW asked to see, in writing, what are BNC's CRA plans going forward. BNC replied that it is "unable to share this with you. It is an internal document that is only shared with our Board of Directors and the FDIC (under the Order)."

  We'll have more on this.

August 22, 2016

Last week, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch challenged People's United - Suffolk County National Bank. Now: "Elizabeth Montgomery, a People’s United spokeswoman, said the bank does not comment on pending litigation, but noted that it feels “comfortable” with its lending practices. “We’re a highly regulated institution and we’re very proud of our history of residential lending and we’re comfortable with our practices,” she said. Suffolk did not return a call for comment."

  We'll have more on this.

For BancorpSouth, which Inner City Press has challenged for some time, the other shoe has dropped. It announced: "As a result of the retroactive downgrade of the bank’s CRA rating, the company and the bank likely will be unable to obtain the necessary Federal Reserve or FDIC regulatory approvals to complete the two pending mergers with Ouachita Bancshares Corp. and Central Community Corporation and their respective affiliated banks until such time as the bank’s CRA rating is improved to “satisfactory.” The company presently understands that the FDIC expects to begin its next CRA evaluation of the bank later this year and to complete that evaluation during the first quarter of 2017; however, the company cannot make any assurances as to the timing or outcome of its next CRA evaluation."

August 15, 2016

Citing Redlining, ICP Challenges People's United Bid For Suffolk County National Bank

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, August 8 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks like Goldman Sachs - down to People's United Bank now trying to buy Suffolk County National Bank while barely lending to people of color in New York.  Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has now challenged this application and People's United, as it did Bancorp South in 2014, which led to redlining charges by the Department of Justice and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has filed with the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency:

"a timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the OCC's public comment period on the Application by People's United to buy The Suffolk County National Bank of Riverhead, NY. The newspaper notice says the comment period runs at least through August 16; this comment is timely.

People's United proposes to buy Suffolk County National Bank and its 27 branches in New York. But in the the New York City MSA in 2014, the most recent year for which Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data is publicly available, People's United made 82 home purchase loans to whites and NONE to African Americans or Latinos. This is redlining; this proposed acquisition could not legitimately be approved and People's United should be referred for prosecution for redlining by the Department of Justice and CFPB.

For refinance loans in the New York City MSA in 2013, People's United made 24 loans to whites, 1 to an African American and four to Hispanics. For home improvement loans in the New York City MSA in 2013, People's United made eight loans to whites, and NONE to African Americans or Latinos.

People's United record is scarcely better on Long Island, where it snapped up Bank of Smithtown and Citizen's Bank as it now proposes to do to Suffolk County National Bank. In the Nassau-Suffolk MSA in 2014, People's United made 48 home purchase loans to whites and NONE to African Americans. For home improvement loans it made 16 loans to whites and NONE to African American or Latinos.

In this context, the comment period should be extended so that public evidentiary hearings can be held, and the application should be denied."

August 8, 2016

After Taking Goldman Sachs Calls on Sunday, Fed Fines It $36M, Denies FOIA

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, August 3 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the largest banks like Goldman Sachs - which gets weekend service from the Federal Reserve's top lawyer - down to the Bank of North Carolina, for which it hides the "compliance plan" that ostensibly rebuts Fair Finance Watch.

On August 3 after earlier in the year doling out an approval for Goldman Sachs on GE, the Fed announced it has

"ordered Goldman Sachs Group to pay a $36.3 million civil money penalty for its unauthorized use and disclosure of confidential supervisory information and to implement an enhanced program to ensure the proper use of confidential supervisory information. Additionally, the Board announced that it is instituting enforcement proceedings against Joseph Jiampietro, a former managing director at Goldman Sachs, seeking to impose a fine and permanently bar him from the banking industry."

 Goldman Sachs on January 14, 2016 withheld basic information from the response it was required to send to Inner City Press, see below.

But on March 21, after the Fed was notified of extensive irregularities in its processing of the Goldman Sachs - GE application, the Board hauled off and approved it, saying, in footnote 49, that

"Two commenters express concerns about GS Bank’s use of the Board’s prefiling process, suggesting that commenters could not participate in the resolution of substantive issues raised by the proposal because these issues were resolved before the filing of this application. One of these commenters withdrew its comments in full following its discussions with GS Bank.

 The Federal Reserve has established a prefiling process to provide potential applicants with information about the procedural requirements, such as timing and the applicable forms, associated with a proposal. See SR Letter 12-12. This process also helps to identify information that may be needed in connection with issues that the Board typically considers in connection with a particular type of application or notice, such as
competition or financial stability. The prefiling process is not used, and was not used in this case, to resolve or predetermine the outcome of any substantive issues. As in every case, the substantive issues involved in this case were considered and resolved as part ofthe processing of GS Bank’s formal application. In doing so, the Board considered all public comments on the proposal.

Voting for this action: Chair Yellen, Vice Chairman Fischer, and Governors Tarullo, Powell, and Brainard."

 Absurdly, when on January 22 Goldman Sachs sent Inner City Press a copy of its January 18 answer to the Fed, it withheld whole pages and exhibits.

August 1, 2016

Here is the fraud of US Community Reinvestment Act "enforcement" - detailed challenges are deemed rebutted by "Compliance Plans" a bank submits -- which are then deemed confidential in full, no reasonably segregable information, under FOIA exemption 8. This is from the FDIC this week:

Dear Mr. Lee:
This is our final response to your July 8, 2016 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for information that you described as follows:
This is a request for the Bank of North Carolina submission to the FDIC in connection with Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch's CRA protest, referred to
(and relied on) by the Federal Reserve in this order:

"BNC further represents that BNC Bank is committed to continually improving its performance in the Greenville and Charleston MSAs and to meeting the needs of
all members of the communities. BNC notes that the commenter filed similar comments with the FDIC on an application for an unrelated acquisition, which was approved on the condition that BNC Bank develop and submit a supplement to its existing compliance plan that would strengthen the bank’s fair lending compliance program. BNC asserts that the supplement to BNC Bank’s compliance plan, which has been approved by the FDIC and implemented by the
bank, adequately addresses the concerns raised by the commenter on this proposal."

ICP's June 18, 2016 comments on Bank of North Carolina's application to acquire High Point Bank and Trust requested this plan. The FDIC extended the comment period to July 8 - but still, none of the plan has been received. Hence this formalFOIA request (and request for further extension of the BNC - High Point Bank and Trust comment period).

Our records search has been completed, and the record that you requested (Record) was located. We have determined that the Record does not contain any reasonably segregable non-exempt information. Therefore, your FOIA request is being denied.

The Record is exempt from disclosure in its entirety under FOIA Exemptions 4 and 8, 5 U.S.C. §552(b)(4) and (b)(8), and is being withheld in full. Exemption 4 permits the withholding of trade secrets, and confidential or privileged commercial or financial information obtained from a person. Exemption 8 permits the withholding of information contained in, or related to, the examination, operating, or condition reports prepared by, on behalf of, or for the use of the FDIC in its regulation or supervision of financial institutions.
This completes the processing of your request.

 We'll have more on this.

July 25, 2016

ICP Protested  NYCB - Astoria on Disparities from NY to Cleveland, Fed Qs

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, July 20 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks like Goldman Sachs - down to New York Community Bank, Chemical Bank in Michigan, Bank of North Carolina and BancorpSouth, which Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch protested for discrimination in 2014, and has now been charged by the Department of Justice and CFPB.

In January of this year, Inner City Press submitted a protest to the Federal Reserve to NYCB's application to acquire Astoria, see below. Now on July 20, the Fed has asked NYCB this:

"Based on staff’s review of the current record, the following additional information is requested. Supporting documentation, as appropriate, should be provided.

"In its February 13, 2016, comment on the proposal, Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch (“ICP”) alleges that New York Community Bank’s and Astoria’s branch patterns disproportionately exclude Upper Manhattan and particularly the Bronx, which ICP states is the most predominately minority and low-income community in the state of New York. Please respond to these allegations. Please provide a copy of the public portion of your response directly to Matthew Lee of ICP. Any information for which you desire confidential treatment should be so labeled and separately bound in accordance with section 261.15 of the Board’s Rules Regarding Availability of Information"

 We'll see. Inner City Press' protest set forth that  NYCB in the New York City MSA in 2014 made 109 home purchase loans to whites -- and only THREE to African Americans. For refinance loans, NYBC in the the NYC MSA in 2014 made 27 loans to whites and only ONE to an African American.
 
  In the Cleveland, Ohio MSA (where NYCB bought Ohio Savings - and in the new this week), NYCB in 2014 made 17 refinance loans to whites in 2014 and only one to an African American, while denying African Americans, while denying African Americans three times more frequently than whites.

 " In the Nassau Suffolk (Long Island) MSA in 2014 NYCB made 107 home purchase loans to whites -- and only ONE to an African American, while denying African Americans 4.7 times more frequently than whites.

Aggregate / all lenders on Long Island 2014, conventional home purchase loans:

Unlike NYCB's 4.7 denial rate disparity between African Americans and whites, for all lenders it is (substantially) below 2 to 1: by all lenders on Long Island in 2014 for conventional home purchase loans, African Americans were denied 1.62 times more frequently then whites.

  Unlike NYCB's 107 loans to whites for each (1) loan(s) to African Americans, for the aggregate there are 23 loans to whites for each loan to African Americans.

" For refinance loans, NYCB in the the Long Island MSA in 2014 made 52 loans to whites and only three to African Americans and only TWO to Latinos, while denying Latinos 2.32 times more frequently than whites."

In April 2014, Inner City Press submitted a protest to the Federal Reserve of the "Applications of BancorpSouth to merge with Ouachita Bancshares Corporation and thereby indirectly acquire Ouachita Independent Bank, and with Central Community Corporation, and thereby indirectly acquire First State Bank Central Texas, Austin, Texas - Round Two."

Fair Finance Watch's analysis to the Fed showed that "in the Jackson MS MSA for conventional home purchase loans, BancorpSouth made 258 loans to whites, only 17 to African Americans and five to Latinos. BancorpSouth's denial rate for whites was 7.4% while for African Americans it was 25.8% -- 3.49 times higher. This was troubling.

NOW, more troubling: in 2013 for conventional home purchase loans in the Jackson MS, BancorpSouth's denial rate for whites was 4.5% while for African Americans it was 26.4% -- now 5.87 times higher.

  In 2012 in the Baton Rouge LA MSA for conventional home purchase loans in 2012, BancorpSouth made 60 such loans to whites; only three to African Americans and one to a Latino.
NOW, more troubling: in 2013 for conventional home purchase loans in the Baton Rouge MSA, BancorpSouth was up to 72 loans to whites - but NONE to African Americans."

Now BancorpSouth is changed by the government with "redlining by placing its branches in the Memphis area outside of minority neighborhoods and directing nearly all its marketing away from such neighborhoods."

July 18, 2016

In a proposed $1 bbillion merger, the applicant (Chemical) has... misunderstood, telling the Federal Reserve "Applicant misunderstood the initial question in the June 21, 2016, request for information and included in Exhibit B only that space used for teller lines and platform branch staff. The Exhibit did not include other portions of the buildings by the bank in its operations. Attached is a Revised Exhibit B that shows the correct percentage of the space occupied by Talmer. Only three parcels of owned real estate are occupied less than 100 percent by Talmer. Those three are Elyria, Ohio – Downtown (73.8%), Muskegon, Michigan (67.2%) and Portage, Michigan (77.42%)."

July 11, 2016

ICP Protested BancorpSouth, Now Sued by DOJ, Chemical & BNC

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, July 9 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation grows from the relatively smaller to the largest banks like Goldman Sachs - down to Chemical Bank in Michigan, Bank of North Carolina and BancorpSouth, which Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch protested for discrimination in 2014, and has now been charged by the Department of Justice and CFPB.

In April 2014, Inner City Press submitted a protest to the Federal Reserve of the "Applications of BancorpSouth to merge with Ouachita Bancshares Corporation and thereby indirectly acquire Ouachita Independent Bank, and with Central Community Corporation, and thereby indirectly acquire First State Bank Central Texas, Austin, Texas - Round Two."

Fair Finance Watch's analysis to the Fed showed that "in the Jackson MS MSA for conventional home purchase loans, BancorpSouth made 258 loans to whites, only 17 to African Americans and five to Latinos. BancorpSouth's denial rate for whites was 7.4% while for African Americans it was 25.8% -- 3.49 times higher. This was troubling.

NOW, more troubling: in 2013 for conventional home purchase loans in the Jackson MS, BancorpSouth's denial rate for whites was 4.5% while for African Americans it was 26.4% -- now 5.87 times higher.

  In 2012 in the Baton Rouge LA MSA for conventional home purchase loans in 2012, BancorpSouth made 60 such loans to whites; only three to African Americans and one to a Latino.
NOW, more troubling: in 2013 for conventional home purchase loans in the Baton Rouge MSA, BancorpSouth was up to 72 loans to whites - but NONE to African Americans."

Now BancorpSouth is changed by the government with "redlining by placing its branches in the Memphis area outside of minority neighborhoods and directing nearly all its marketing away from such neighborhoods."

July 4, 2016

On Bank of North Carolina's application to acquire and merge with High Point Bank and Trust, the FDIC has given Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch until July 8 to submit comments - but will they be releasing the until-now withheld (but FRB-relied on) compliance plan of BNC?

June 27, 2016

  What's (not) in your wallet? Capital One is closing branches in New Jersey: "Capital One will close five of its six branches at the Shore on July 23, a company spokesperson said Thursday, in a sign that giant banks are re-evaluating how they serve their customers.The bank is closing branches in Aberdeen, Lakewood, Marlboro, Toms River and Wall." Wallet...

June 20, 2016

Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has submitted a "timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the FDIC's public comment period on the Application by Bank of North Carolina (BNC) to acquire and merge with High Point Bank and Trust.

These transaction raises troubling Community Reinvestment Act issues. Bank of North Carolina (BNC) has a disparate lending record and is growing worse. The lack of transparency concerning BNC's “Compliance Plan” must end on this transaction: the plan must be publicly released.

Consider also the record of High Point, which BNC wants to buy.

In the Greensboro MSA in 2014 for conventional home purchase loans, High Point made 39 such loans to whites and only ONE to an African American applicant, and none to Latinos. For refinance loans, it made 23 loans to whites and only ONE to an African American, while denying the applications of African Americans FIVE times more frequently than those of whites.

For home improvement loans in the Greensboro MSA in 2014, High Point made 8 loans to whites and only one to an African American applicant.

In the Winston Salem MSA in 2014, for home purchase loans High Point made 11 loans to whites and only one to an African American applicant.

And this, with Compliance Plan withheld, is the record of the proposal acquirer: in the Charleston MSA in 2014 for conventional home purchase loans, BNC made 173 such loans to whites and only SIX to African Americans, and none to Latinos. For refinance loans, it made 68 loans to whites and only ONE to an African American, while denying the applications of African Americans 3.94 times more frequently than those of whites.

In the Greenville MSA in 2013 for home purchase loans, BNC made 117 such loans to whites and only SIX to African Americans, and only seven to Latinos. For refinance loans, it made 31 loans to whites and only one to an African Americans and none to Latinos.

The Federal Reserve recently relied on this withheld compliance plan and commitments from BNC we've yet to see: "BNC further represents that BNC Bank is committed to continually improving its performance in the Greenville and Charleston MSAs and to meeting the needs of all members of the communities. BNC notes that the commenter filed similar comments with the FDIC on an application for an unrelated acquisition, which was approved on the condition that BNC Bank develop and submit a supplement to its existing compliance plan that would strengthen the bank’s fair lending compliance program. BNC asserts that the supplement to BNC Bank’s compliance plan, which has been approved by the FDIC and implemented by the bank, adequately addresses the concerns raised by the commenter on this proposal."

But that's been withheld.

The Winston Salem Journal of June 3, 2016 reported: “Inner City Press and affiliate Fair Finance Watch filed a protest with the Federal Reserve under the federal Community Reinvestment Act. It is a normal practice of those groups to challenge minority-lending practices when a significant bank purchase is announced.

Fed officials asked for additional information Dec. 2. BNC responded and asked that its minority-lending data remain confidential.

Rick Callicutt, the bank’s chief executive and president, said in April that senior management “has been actively working with our banking regulators to gain the necessary approvals for the Southcoast transaction.”

Because BNC has surpassed $5 billion in total assets, Callicutt said, it faces “a higher level of expectation to market more heavily to the underserved in its markets. All our Community Reinvestment Act exams have been good.”

He said that as part of the Southcoast approval process, “we have allocated additional planning, marketing, outreach and credit resources to the underserved within our markets.”

Callicutt said the bank is “confident that the significant progress we have made in this area will position us for more expeditious regulatory approvals in the future.”

Without releasing the compliance plan? And with High Point's weak record? This cannot be. We request evidentary hearings.

On the current record, hearings should be held and the application(s) should not be approved. The comment period must be extended."

June 13, 2016

Chemical Bank in Michigan tells the Federal Reserve, in a response late-provided to Inner City Press, that its 100% denial rate for Latinos in the Flint MSA is okay, citing a case in which they asked for an unexpired resident alien card and none was provided. Toxic like that water....

June 6, 2016

Federal Reserve Gives BNC An Approval Based on Secret Compliance Plan

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, June 2 -- The lack of seriousness in US bank regulation expends from the relatively smaller of mid-sized to the largest banks, with Goldman Sachs the most recent example.

  A mid-sized bank Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch is scrutinizing, based on its records, is BNC Bancorp, seeking to acquire Southcoast Financial in South Carolina and, after that, High Point Bank & Trust.

On June 2 after a long delay, including delay in providing basic information to Inner City Press, the Federal Reserve approved the Southcoast deal. The Fed said, "In this case, the Board received comments from a commenter who objects to the proposal on the basis of alleged disparities in the number of conventional home
purchase loans made to African Americans and Hispanics, as compared to whites, by BNC Bank."

 Then the Fed says, "BNC further represents that BNC Bank is committed to continually improving its performance in the Greenville and Charleston MSAs and to meeting the needs of all members of the communities. BNC notes that the commenter
filed similar comments with the FDIC on an application for an unrelated acquisition, which was approved on the condition that BNC Bank develop and submit a supplement to its existing compliance plan that would strengthen the bank’s fair lending compliance program. BNC asserts that the supplement to BNC Bank’s compliance plan, which has been approved by the FDIC and implemented by the bank, adequately addresses the concerns raised by the commenter on this proposal."
 
But that's been withheld. We'll have more on this.

 On March 1 the Federal Reserve e-mailed Inner City Press a memo about a meeting it had with BNC Bank's highest executives, under the Fed's rules on Ex Parte contacts, avoiding the fair lending and Community Reinvestment Act issues which Inner City Press has raised. We are publishing the Federal Reserve memo online here.

  But as Inner City Press immediately replied, including to the Fed's Office of the Secretary, why did the Fed wait until March 1 to send a memo of a January 28, 2016 meeting -- more than a month? Does that comply with any meaningful rule on Ex Parte communications? We'll have more on this.

  There's a problem with this acquisitiveness: BNC is subject to to Compliance Order with the FDIC, which is rare, based on its fair lending record. But after Fair Finance Watch protested the deal, and the Fed told BNC to send it a copy of the bank's response, the response was provided six days later with with the entirety of the Community Reinvestment Act response withheld. See here.

Inner City Press has immediately filed a Freedom of Information Act request, and a second comment with the Fed.

May 30, 2016

  Why should proposed bank mergers be commented on and fought? Consider Old National - Anchor bank, announced in J