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May 16, 2022

Now with two new Governors, what will change at the Fed? An RFI on mergers? More importantly, an end to rubberstamping? We'll see.

May 9, 2022

The Federal Reserve, which constructively denies FOIA request on issues ranging from branch closings to crypto-currency, pretends to be transparent. But why then on its page about interactions with the public is there nothing on consumer protection since 2014? See here.

May 2, 2022

  With Lisa Cook delayed by COVID among those voting, the Fed has STILL not issued the CRA proposal for comment, much less a much needed merger review RFI. Shameful.

April 25, 2022

That even with two new governors coming, those on the Board haven't even put out the CRA proposal, or an RFI on merger review, tells you all you need to know about thatm...

April 18, 2022

On Branch Closures Federal Reserve Withholds Info and Tells Inner City Press No Closure List

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Maxwell Book
BBC-Guardian UK - Honduras - ESPN NY Mag

South Bronx / SDNY, April 11 –  Amid a wave of bank branch closings in the US, particularly in lower income areas, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Inner City Press in October 2020 filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the main US regulator, the Federal Reserve, for information about branch closing.  

Tellingly, despite talk about improved community and consumer protection regimes among the bank regulators, the Federal Reserve after 17 months on this FOIA request has told Inner City Press it has only five pages that it will release, about a single Wisconsin branch closure (even then, redacted).

Worse, the Federal Reserve, charged with reigning in swaps and even crypto-currency fraud, says it does not maintain a list of branch closings, as even the OCC does. This is shameful, and must be addressed by the two incoming Governors, and who ever will replace Sarah Bloom Raskin as a Fed nominee.

From the Fed's April 2022 FOIA request to Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch: 

"This is in response to your electronic message dated and received by the Board’s  Information Disclosure Section on October 20, 2020. Pursuant to the Freedom of  Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552, you seek: electronic records concerning requests to the Federal Reserve  System about branch closings or consolidations in low or moderate  income census tracts including request for public meetings, from  July 4, 2018 to the date of your response.  Your request included an example of a notice by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago  (“Reserve Bank”) for a public meeting concerning the notice by Johnson Bank, Racine,  Wisconsin to close its branch located at 2729 18th Street, Kenosha, Wisconsin.

You  further noted that your request also includes: all such meetings held, as well as requests for meetings, direct or  indirect, which were denied, as well as all non-exempt portion of  FRS records reflecting considering and decision making on such  requests.1

1  In an email correspondence with Ms. Katrina Allen Austin of the Board’s Legal Division on  March 23, 2021, seeking clarification about the nature of your request, you noted that “[t]he  OCC, for example, publishes each branch closing in its Weekly Bulletins” and you subsequently  sought FRS “records [of] when public meetings have been requested on branch closings, and  when they have been granted …[separate] out those in LMI communities and where public  meetings were requested and / or granted.” 2

In light of your March 23, 2021, email, staff interpreted your request as seeking  records concerning “branch closings by FRS-supervised institutions (state member  banks) … where public meetings were requested and / or granted” from 2020.2 You may wish to know that the Board does not publish a “list of branch closings”  as the OCC does. Staff searched Board records and located information responsive to  your modified request.  This information is subject to  withholding and will be withheld from you pursuant to exemptions 5 and 6 of the FOIA,  5 U.S.C. §§ 552(b)(5) and (b)(6), respectively. I have also determined that the  information should be withheld because it is reasonably foreseeable that disclosure would  harm an interest protected by an exemption described in subsection (b) of the FOIA, 5  U.S.C. § 552(b). The responsive documents have been reviewed under the requirements  of subsection (b), and all reasonably segregable nonexempt information will be provided  to you. Additionally, approximately 5 pages are being withheld in full. 

  Inner City Press will have more on this.

April 11, 2022

Fed and Citizens Bank Thumbed Noses At CRA On Investors Bank, Govs Refuse to Reconsider

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Story Order
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - ESPN

FEDERAL COURT / S Bronx, April 5 – Whether or not the U.S. Community Reinvestment Act will be again enforced under the current Administration and its regulators is an open question still - though the answer is more and more No.  The proposed acquisition of Investors Bank by Citizens Bank was a litmus test, one that both Citizens and the Fed have failed.

   Investors Bank is one of the most disparate banks in New York State, where in 2020 it made only three mortgage loans to African Americans, while denying fully seven applications from African Americans. By contrast, it made 164 loans to whites while denying only 76 applications from whites.

  Inner City Press raised the 2019 disparities to the FDIC - and on July 30 was contacted by the FDIC that it imposed rare conditions on Investors. Letter here. This was raised on Citizens' applications: "be aware that based on Fair Finance Watch's comments to the FDIC about Investors, it recently imposed a condition on Investors. Investors has yet to meaningfully implement the required improvements; this application should not be approved, much less at this time.    The FDIC wrote:

 "Matthew Lee, Esquire Executive Director Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch  Dear Mr. Lee: We are writing to inform you that the FDIC approved Investors Bank’s application to acquire eight branches from Berkshire Bank. As part of the application review process, we investigated the issues you raised in your e-mail dated January 19, 2019... The Bank will develop and Board approve an Action Plan within 60 days of the  effective date of this Order to ensure that its home mortgage lending adequately  addresses the credit needs of all segments of its market areas. The Action Plan  should include, at a minimum, the following: a. The Bank will regularly monitor application and origination activity of home  mortgage loans in majority-minority census tracts and from Blacks throughout the  Bank’s assessment areas.  b. The Bank will ensure marketing and outreach efforts are inclusive of all communities,  including minority communities within all the Bank’s assessment areas. The  marketing and outreach efforts should focus on home mortgage product awareness.  Marketing activities should use materials and media that reflect the racial and ethnic  composition of the targeted communities. The Bank should also have specific  advertising and outreach goals, and the results of these efforts should be documented,  monitored, and evaluated for effectiveness.  5. Upon Board approval of this Order, the Bank will provide a copy of the signed Order to  the FDIC's New York Regional Office within 30 days.  6. Upon Board approval of such Action Plan, the Bank will provide a copy of the Plan  to the FDIC’s New York Regional Office. 7. The Bank will provide the FDIC’s New York Regional Office with quarterly  updates detailing its progress in meeting the goals listed in the Action Plan."

  But in response to this, Citizens only said dismissively that the record of the acquiree doesn't matter. So they could buy OneCoin? It is major law firm making this argument. It is an embarrassment. And the Federal Reserve's question letter of October 22 does not address it, and Citizens' law firm late provided its "answer" and two responses to the Fed.

Nevertheless on March 22 the Federal Reserve Board, with Sarah Bloom Raskin blocked from joining and two others yet to arrived, rubber stamped Citizens' application. It stated that "The commenter also alleged that, as a result of disparate marketing, Investors Bank made disproportionately fewer home loans in the states of New Jersey and New York to African American individuals as compared to white individuals based on 2020 HMDA data. In addition, the commenter noted that the FDIC had imposed a condition in connection with a previous branch acquisition that Investors Bank develop an action plan to ensure that its home mortgage lending adequately addresses the credit needs of all segments of its market areas. The commenter asserted that Investors Bank has yet to meaningfully implement the required improvements and that the proposal should not be approved at this time."

The Fed gave its March 22 approval despite Investors having done very little or nothing. This as Fair Finance Watch has raised another moribund condition, by Oakwood Bank in Dallas, to the FDIC. What do these conditions mean?

Inner City Press filed a timely request for reconsideration: "This is a timely request for reconsideration of the Board's approval of the Applications by Citizens Financial Group's application to acquire Investors Bancorp noting but not addressing Investor's weakness which gave rise to FDIC condition.    This is a new low for the FRB. This was a condition imposed by one of the two other Federal bank regulators. If the Board won't even inquire into and take a written position on a merger partner's performance under a written condition imposed by another regulators, these conditions are meaningless.    Fair Finance Watch timely put into record before the Board:  The FDIC wrote: "Matthew Lee, Esquire Executive Director Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch  Dear Mr. Lee: We are writing to inform you that the FDIC approved Investors Bank’s application to acquire eight branches from Berkshire Bank. As part of the application review process, we investigated the issues you raised in your e-mail dated January 19, 2019...  The Bank will develop and Board approve an Action Plan within 60 days of the  effective date of this Order to ensure that its home mortgage lending adequately  addresses the credit needs of all segments of its market areas. The Action Plan  should include, at a minimum, the following: a. The Bank will regularly monitor application and origination activity of home  mortgage loans in majority-minority census tracts and from Blacks throughout the  Bank’s assessment areas.  b. The Bank will ensure marketing and outreach efforts are inclusive of all communities,  including minority communities within all the Bank’s assessment areas. The  marketing and outreach efforts should focus on home mortgage product awareness.  Marketing activities should use materials and media that reflect the racial and ethnic  composition of the targeted communities. The Bank should also have specific  advertising and outreach goals, and the results of these efforts should be documented,  monitored, and evaluated for effectiveness.  5. Upon Board approval of this Order, the Bank will provide a copy of the signed Order to  the FDIC's New York Regional Office within 30 days.  6. Upon Board approval of such Action Plan, the Bank will provide a copy of the Plan  to the FDIC’s New York Regional Office. 7. The Bank will provide the FDIC’s New York Regional Office with quarterly  updates detailing its progress in meeting the goals listed in the Action Plan."      The Board in its approval merely recited this, without addressing it: "the commenter noted that the FDIC had imposed a condition in connection with a previous branch acquisition that Investors Bank develop an action plan to ensure that its home mortgage lending adequately addresses the credit needs of all segments of its market areas. The commenter asserted that Investors Bank has yet to meaningfully implement the required improvements and that the proposal should not be approved at this time."     Has Investors meaningfully implemented these requirements? The Fed with all its resources does not address it. The Order makes a mockery of the regulators' way to approve an otherwise unapprovable merger like Investors.    The Order should be reconsidered, by each current government and those incoming, before this proposal is consummated - the Order should be stayed for that purpose."

  The Fed waited until April 5 and then this boilerplate: "Your request presents matters that you raised in the application process or that were otherwise considered by the Board in acting on the proposal. Your request fails to provide additional material information related to these matters that was not already part of the record that the Board reviewed.  For the reasons discussed above and in the Order, and in light of all the facts of record, no member of the Board has requested that the Order be reconsidered or modified in any manner. Accordingly, your request for reconsideration is denied." This Fed must (be) change(d). Watch this site.

April 4, 2022

  With Sarah Bloom Raskin out of the running, who will the Administration nominate for the Federal Reserve seat? Some are talking about existing Fed personalities. But if they meant well on CRA, we would have known. Others are talking about the AFL-CIO economist, or someone (bipartisan) to represent rural America. Watch this site.

March 28,2022

Fed and Citizens Bank Thumb Noses At CRA On Investors Bank FDIC Conditions, Rubber Stamp

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Story Order
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - ESPN

FEDERAL COURT / S Bronx, March 22 – Whether or not the U.S. Community Reinvestment Act will be again enforced under the current Administration and its regulators is an open question still - though the answer is more and more No.  The proposed acquisition of Investors Bank by Citizens Bank was a litmus test, one that both Citizens and the Fed have failed.

   Investors Bank is one of the most disparate banks in New York State, where in 2020 it made only three mortgage loans to African Americans, while denying fully seven applications from African Americans. By contrast, it made 164 loans to whites while denying only 76 applications from whites.

  Inner City Press raised the 2019 disparities to the FDIC - and on July 30 was contacted by the FDIC that it imposed rare conditions on Investors. Letter here. This was raised on Citizens' applications: "be aware that based on Fair Finance Watch's comments to the FDIC about Investors, it recently imposed a condition on Investors. Investors has yet to meaningfully implement the required improvements; this application should not be approved, much less at this time.    The FDIC wrote:

 "Matthew Lee, Esquire Executive Director Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch  Dear Mr. Lee: We are writing to inform you that the FDIC approved Investors Bank’s application to acquire eight branches from Berkshire Bank. As part of the application review process, we investigated the issues you raised in your e-mail dated January 19, 2019... The Bank will develop and Board approve an Action Plan within 60 days of the  effective date of this Order to ensure that its home mortgage lending adequately  addresses the credit needs of all segments of its market areas. The Action Plan  should include, at a minimum, the following: a. The Bank will regularly monitor application and origination activity of home  mortgage loans in majority-minority census tracts and from Blacks throughout the  Bank’s assessment areas.  b. The Bank will ensure marketing and outreach efforts are inclusive of all communities,  including minority communities within all the Bank’s assessment areas. The  marketing and outreach efforts should focus on home mortgage product awareness.  Marketing activities should use materials and media that reflect the racial and ethnic  composition of the targeted communities. The Bank should also have specific  advertising and outreach goals, and the results of these efforts should be documented,  monitored, and evaluated for effectiveness.  5. Upon Board approval of this Order, the Bank will provide a copy of the signed Order to  the FDIC's New York Regional Office within 30 days.  6. Upon Board approval of such Action Plan, the Bank will provide a copy of the Plan  to the FDIC’s New York Regional Office. 7. The Bank will provide the FDIC’s New York Regional Office with quarterly  updates detailing its progress in meeting the goals listed in the Action Plan."

  But in response to this, Citizens only said dismissively that the record of the acquiree doesn't matter. So they could buy OneCoin? It is major law firm making this argument. It is an embarrassment. And the Federal Reserve's question letter of October 22 does not address it, and Citizens' law firm late provided its "answer" and two responses to the Fed.

Nevertheless on March 22 the Federal Reserve Board, with Sarah Bloom Raskin blocked from joining and two others yet to arrived, rubber stamped Citizens' application. It stated that "The commenter also alleged that, as a result of disparate marketing, Investors Bank made disproportionately fewer home loans in the states of New Jersey and New York to African American individuals as compared to white individuals based on 2020 HMDA data. In addition, the commenter noted that the FDIC had imposed a condition in connection with a previous branch acquisition that Investors Bank develop an action plan to ensure that its home mortgage lending adequately addresses the credit needs of all segments of its market areas. The commenter asserted that Investors Bank has yet to meaningfully implement the required improvements and that the proposal should not be approved at this time."

The Fed gave its March 22 approval despite Investors having done very little or nothing. This as Fair Finance Watch has raised another moribund condition, by Oakwood Bank in Dallas, to the FDIC. What do these conditions mean? Watch this site.

March 21, 2022

After Fed Disses Community Reinvestment Act Raskin Blocked By Manchin Cook 12-12 Tie

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Maxwell Book
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - ESPN

SDNY COURT, March 16 – When the US bank regulators and Administration say they are taking the Community Reinvestment Act more seriously, it does not appear to be true.

Case in point: the Federal Reserve Bank of New York on February 28, on Berkshire Bank which got a rare Needs to Improve CRA rating in New York State, gave out an approval on a delegated basis. The FRBNY cannot, as a matter of law and as an entity owned by private banks, deny or even condition an approval. This is a new low.

  So to the blocking of Sarah Bloom Raskin, after which this: Jay Powell advanced through the Senate Banking Committee with Elizabeth Warren opposing. Lael Brainard was backed in a 16-8 vote for the Fed vice chair, Phil Jefferson won unanimous support and Lisa Cook moved forward to the full Senate on a 12-12 tie. But will the Fed just keep rubber-stamping?

 Fair Finance Watch, with Inner City Press on the FOIA, which commented to the Fed on January 8, has immediately filed a petition for review saying it should be reviewed by each current, and all Administration-nominated Governors:

Dear Chair Powell, Secretary Misback and others in the FRS:  This is a timely petition to review the decision today by the FRBNY to approve - on a delegated basis -- the Applications of TBB Investments LLC and TBB Intermediate LLC to become bank holding companies by acquiring Berkshire Bancorp, Inc and Berkshire Bank -- which got a rare Needs to Improve CRA rating in New York.

    Significantly - and we think, disposively and requiring review by the full Board and each member, and the nominated members - Berkshire Bank received a “Needs to Improve” rating in the New York state assessment area during its May 7, 2019, CRA Performance Evaluation.  

 How could the Reserve Bank, which has no authority to deny or even condition approval on applications, deign to rubber stamp this application? This is a new low, and shows the FRS is not complying with its and the Administration's public statements about CRA and fair lending...

See also: "Reclusive landlord Moses Marx resigns as Berkshire chairman, see here. 

 FFW and Inner City Press are now even more deeply concerned about the rush by the Federal Reserve's to rubber-stamp mergers by redliners and predatory lenders. This has been killing the Community Reinvestment Act.   This bogus delegated approval must be stayed and reviewed by each Governor and nominated Governor.

 Very Truly Yours,     Matthew Lee, Esq.   Executive Director  Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch

This was sent to the FDIC (Frank Hughes), NYSDFS, and the bank lawyers at Stoock.

  In a letter dated March 9 emailed to Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch on March 10, Federal Reserve Board Secretary Ann E. Misback wrote, "Your petition for review was presented to the Board, and no member of the Board requested review of the Reserve Bank’s action. Accordingly, your request that the Board review the Reserve Bank’s action on the Application is denied." These Governors are: Chair Jerome H. Powell, Michelle W. Bowman, Christopher J. Waller and, yes, Lael Brainard." They say that a privately owned Federal Reserve Bank, which has not authority to disapprove any application, can approve an application by a bank with a Needs to Improve CRA rating. We'll have more on this.

It is a litmus test. Failed by these Governors.

March 14, 2022

Fed Governors Diss Community Reinvestment Act As FRBNY Approves Berkshire Bank With NTI Rating

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Maxwell Book
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - ESPN

SDNY COURT, March 10 – When the US bank regulators and Administration say they are taking the Community Reinvestment Act more seriously, it does not appear to be true.

Case in point: the Federal Reserve Bank of New York on February 28, on Berkshire Bank which got a rare Needs to Improve CRA rating in New York State, gave out an approval on a delegated basis. The FRBNY cannot, as a matter of law and as an entity owned by private banks, deny or even condition an approval. This is a new low.

 Fair Finance Watch, with Inner City Press on the FOIA, which commented to the Fed on January 8, has immediately filed a petition for review saying it should be reviewed by each current, and all Administration-nominated Governors:

Dear Chair Powell, Secretary Misback and others in the FRS:  This is a timely petition to review the decision today by the FRBNY to approve - on a delegated basis -- the Applications of TBB Investments LLC and TBB Intermediate LLC to become bank holding companies by acquiring Berkshire Bancorp, Inc and Berkshire Bank -- which got a rare Needs to Improve CRA rating in New York.

    Significantly - and we think, disposively and requiring review by the full Board and each member, and the nominated members - Berkshire Bank received a “Needs to Improve” rating in the New York state assessment area during its May 7, 2019, CRA Performance Evaluation.  

 How could the Reserve Bank, which has no authority to deny or even condition approval on applications, deign to rubber stamp this application? This is a new low, and shows the FRS is not complying with its and the Administration's public statements about CRA and fair lending...

See also: "Reclusive landlord Moses Marx resigns as Berkshire chairman, see here. 

 FFW and Inner City Press are now even more deeply concerned about the rush by the Federal Reserve's to rubber-stamp mergers by redliners and predatory lenders. This has been killing the Community Reinvestment Act.   This bogus delegated approval must be stayed and reviewed by each Governor and nominated Governor.

 Very Truly Yours,     Matthew Lee, Esq.   Executive Director  Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch

This was sent to the FDIC (Frank Hughes), NYSDFS, and the bank lawyers at Stoock.

  In a letter dated March 9 emailed to Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch on March 10, Federal Reserve Board Secretary Ann E. Misback wrote, "Your petition for review was presented to the Board, and no member of the Board requested review of the Reserve Bank’s action. Accordingly, your request that the Board review the Reserve Bank’s action on the Application is denied." These Governors are: Chair Jerome H. Powell, Michelle W. Bowman, Christopher J. Waller and, yes, Lael Brainard." They say that a privately owned Federal Reserve Bank, which has not authority to disapprove any application, can approve an application by a bank with a Needs to Improve CRA rating. We'll have more on this.

It is a litmus test. Failed by these Governors.

March 7, 2022

Fed Scam on Community Reinvestment Act As FRBNY Approves Berkshire Bank With NTI Rating

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Maxwell Book
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - ESPN

SDNY COURT, Feb 28 – When the US bank regulators and Administration say they are taking the Community Reinvestment Act more seriously, it does not appear to be true.

Case in point: the Federal Reserve Bank of New York on February 28, on Berkshire Bank which got a rare Needs to Improve CRA rating in New York State, gave out an approval on a delegated basis. The FRBNY cannot, as a matter of law and as an entity owned by private banks, deny or even condition an approval. This is a new low.

 Fair Finance Watch, with Inner City Press on the FOIA, which commented to the Fed on January 8, has immediately filed a petition for review saying it should be reviewed by each current, and all Administration-nominated Governors:

Dear Chair Powell, Secretary Misback and others in the FRS:  This is a timely petition to review the decision today by the FRBNY to approve - on a delegated basis -- the Applications of TBB Investments LLC and TBB Intermediate LLC to become bank holding companies by acquiring Berkshire Bancorp, Inc and Berkshire Bank -- which got a rare Needs to Improve CRA rating in New York.

    Significantly - and we think, disposively and requiring review by the full Board and each member, and the nominated members - Berkshire Bank received a “Needs to Improve” rating in the New York state assessment area during its May 7, 2019, CRA Performance Evaluation.  

 How could the Reserve Bank, which has no authority to deny or even condition approval on applications, deign to rubber stamp this application? This is a new low, and shows the FRS is not complying with its and the Administration's public statements about CRA and fair lending.  

As we timely noted, on January 8, Fair Finance Watch has been tracking Berkshire Bank, and has found its lending patterns troubling. Berkshire Bank in 2020 in New York State based on its disparate marketing made 335 mortgage loans to whites, with only 129 denials to whites -- while making only TWO loans to African Americans, and denying three applications from African Americans. This is outrageous.

Also: "Reclusive landlord Moses Marx resigns as Berkshire chairman, see https://www.crainsnewyork.com/commercial-real-estate/reclusive-landlord-moses-marx-resigns-berkshire-chairman  

 FFW and Inner City Press are now even more deeply concerned about the rush by the Federal Reserve's to rubber-stamp mergers by redliners and predatory lenders. This has been killing the Community Reinvestment Act.   This bogus delegated approval must be stayed and reviewed by each Governor and nominated Governor.

 Very Truly Yours,     Matthew Lee, Esq.   Executive Director  Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch

This has also been sent to the FDIC (Frank Hughes), NYSDFS, and the bank lawyers at Stoock

It is a litmus test.

February 28, 2022

After Investors Bank Hit With Conditions, Fed Rubber Stamps Home BancShares Texas Entry

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Story Order
BBC - Guardian UK - <