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October 3, 2022

Now Governor Bowman, who urged banks to rally against CRA proposal even after the comment period for others closed, wants to further loosen merger review, saying last week that "if that framework does not account for the full range of competitors, we’re only restricting banks from making strategic merger choices, while allowing those outside the framework to proliferate.” So, she says, throw in fintechs. We say no. Watch this site.

September 26, 2022

Now the Federal Reserve is belated providing Inner City Press will portions of merger applications wrongfully approved - but only after the comment period long ago closed. This is a scam and must be fixed.

September 19, 2022

Annals of Fed FOIA: "Good afternoon Mr. Lee,     We received your message indicating that you were having issues with locating documents related to FOIA request FOIA-2022-00004 in your account in the Board’s FOIA portal system.  Your documents for FOIA-2022-00004 have been emailed to you in a separate email, however, I wanted to circle back with you on the account issue.  After reviewing account and access data information, we’ve become aware that you have 4 accounts in our system." Onward toward transparency - even on the Fed's great delay.

September 12, 2022

The Federal Reserve sent out Toronto Dominion's purported response to substantive issues raised at the Fed's public meeting - but the response did not address the consumer abuse issues raised, and it appears that Fed has not asked about them, just as it never asked MUFG about its Russian business. Does Barr mean business? We'll see.

September 5, 2022

BMO Harris BNP Face Fed Qss After Admitting Mislabeling Info Now Confidential Answers

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

FED COURT / S Bronx, Sept 2 – Whether or not the U.S. Community Reinvestment Act will actually be enforced under the Administration and its regulators remains an open question. Consider: Inner City Press immediately reported that BMO Harris' application to buy Bank of the West and its more than 500 branches from BNP would be a litmus test.

 Fair Finance Watch noted, from Day 1, that in 2020 BMO Harris denied many more mortgage applications from African Americans than it approved: 509 denied versus only 223 loans made to African Americans, nationwide. BMO's numbers for whites were the reverse: 9270 loans made, versus less then six thousand denials. As noted, there are also climate and secrecy issues. Fair Finance Watch and other raised branch closings.

On August 23-4 the Fed has asked questions.

Late on September 2, the banks submission answers - referring repeated to withheld "Confidential" exhibits:

"a. Copies of policies and procedures for BHB’s new overdraft program; 

See Confidential Exhibits A-1 thru A-15 for the policies and procedures  related to BHB’s overdraft practices.  

8. Provide pro forma asset quality information, including total allowance for loan losses for BFC and BHB, as of March 31, 2022. Include a discussion of why the proposed level of capital and loan loss reserves would be adequate to support the level of nonperforming assets following consummation of the proposed transaction. 

See Confidential Exhibit B. 

 9. Provide actual and pro forma risk-based capital ratios (and supporting documentation) calculated according to CECL as of March 31, 2022.

 See Confidential Exhibit C.  

10. The original filing stated that there would be no changes to the board of directors of Bank of Montreal; however, the directorate of BFC and BHB will include some representation from BOTW’s current board of directors. Provide an update as to who has been or will be asked to join the directorate of BFC and BHB and include a 7  brief background on the individuals and the timeline of when they will join post  consummation. In addition, please confirm that there are still no contemplated  changes to the Bank of Montreal directorate.  

See Confidential Exhibit D.."

This is outrageous. The Fed itself should made these exhibits public. Watch this site.

August 29, 2022

BMO Harris BNP Face Fed Questions Here As Admit Mislabeling Info Confidential, Misled

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

FEDERAL COURT / S Bronx, August 24 – Whether or not the U.S. Community Reinvestment Act will actually be enforced under the Administration and its regulators remains an open question. Consider: Inner City Press immediately reported that BMO Harris' application to buy Bank of the West and its more than 500 branches from BNP would be a litmus test.

 Fair Finance Watch noted, from Day 1, that in 2020 BMO Harris denied many more mortgage applications from African Americans than it approved: 509 denied versus only 223 loans made to African Americans, nationwide. BMO's numbers for whites were the reverse: 9270 loans made, versus less then six thousand denials. As noted, there are also climate and secrecy issues. Fair Finance Watch and other raised branch closings.

Now on August 23-4 the Fed has asked questions:

"BHB’s and BOTW’s business models do not align and thus the approval of this transaction would result in branch closures. Discuss BHB’s plans to integrate BOTW’s existing branches pursuant to BHB’s overall business strategy. Specifically discuss the function of retail branches in the anticipated strategy and business model of the combined organization. 2. Discuss whether BHB plans to close any branches or relocate or consolidate any BOTW or BHB branches in connection with the proposed transaction. 3. One commenter raised concerns that BHB would discontinue BOTW’s CRA programs in California following the merger. Discuss BHB’s plans with respect to BOTW’s CRA community development activities in California following consummation of the proposed transaction, including loans, investments, and services.

4. Multiple commenters raised concerns that BOTW did not engage in enough philanthropic activities when compared to similar institutions. Please respond to these allegations. 5. Provide a list of organizations and community groups, if any, with which BHB engaged since 2020 to help reach African American and Hispanic borrowers in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the State of Wisconsin. If applicable, provide detailed information regarding such partnerships. In addition, provide information about BHB’s current and planned efforts to reach African American and Hispanic borrowers in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the State of Wisconsin, including specialized products and marketing campaigns. 

6. Please provide a list of organizations and community groups, if any, with which BOTW engaged since 2020 to help reach African American and Hispanic borrowers in Denver, Colorado, San Francisco California, and the State of California. If applicable, provide detailed information regarding such partnerships. In addition, provide information about BOTW’s current and planned efforts to reach African American and Hispanic borrowers in Denver, Colorado, San Francisco, California, and the State of California, including specialized products and marketing campaigns.

7. Provide further information on BHB’s plans on changing its overdraft practices, including: a. Copies of policies and procedures for BHB’s new overdraft program; b. Information on the procedure for when an account is overdrawn for an extended period; c. The definition of “extended period”; d. Whether customers can incur consecutive day overdraft fees if the account is overdrawn within the extended period; and e. Whether BHB’s Compliance staff has reviewed the bank’s revised overdraft policy, procedures, and communications to existing and potential customers."  We'll have more on this.

August 22, 2022

The Fed has asked US Bancorp... a confidential question: "Provide an updated version of Confidential Exhibit 13 (GSIB Score Information) from the Confidential Exhibits to the Application. Please update the exhibit with data as of June 30, 2022. Please provide your response via E-Apps within eight business days of this letter. Any information for which confidential treatment is desired should be so labeled and separately bound in accordance with section 261.17 of the Board’s Rules Regarding Availability of Information, 12 CFR 261.17." Yeah...

August 15, 2022

A recent, much delayed FOIA response says "In an email message with Mr. Wyatt Eck of the Board’s Legal Division dated June 28, 2022,  you agreed to modify the scope of the second portion of your request to seek “email  communications with First Internet or First Century or either’s affiliates” between the specified  timeframe." Why agree to limit, if it still comes so late?

August 8, 2022

  So while the Fed "deliberated" on US Bancorp, given their fine by the CFPB, does a community group really have to write it make them aware of it? Or would the Fed just call the comment untimely?

August 1, 2022

  The Federal Reserve, already slow on FOIA, has ground to a halt. Now they sent you messages that your request is closed, and to sign in their website to find why. But there, neither determination records nor responsive documents are visible. And reply to the Fed FOIA email just bounces back. FOIA problems solved, from Federal Reserve's perspective! We'll have more on this.

July 25, 2022

NY Fed Dissolved TRO to Fire Unvaccinated Staff, Permanent Injunction Merged into Trial

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

SDNY COURTHOUSE, July 20 – The Federal Reserve Bank of New York wants to fire longtime employees Lori Gardner-Alfred of The Bronx and Jeanette Diaz of Bayonne, New Jersey for not being vaccinated against COVID-19. And now it may be able to.

  The two women won a temporary restraining order in New York State court. But the FRBNY removed the case to Federal court and Friday argued to dissolve the TRO and fire the women, saying that their harm is not irreparable.      

       On March 4, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Lewis J. Liman held a proceeding. Inner City Press covered it.  

 FRBNY in-house lawyer Alex Leonard argued the TRO should be immediately lift. The women, representing themselves, asked for time to respond to the papers the Fed, their employer for decades, had just given them.

  Judge Liman to his credit did give them time, until Sunday to file their response to his chambers by email. Then, it should be docketed.

   Jeanette Diaz asked about the FRBNY's definition and denial of religious exemptions. Judge Liman said perhaps Mr. Leonard could answer. But he said no, that would be getting in to the merits and the Fed's focus was getting the TRO dissolved and presumably firing the employees.

  On March 7, Judge Liman heard from the parties again. Inner City Press live tweeted here:

now staffers the Federal Reserve Bank of NY wants to fire for being unvaccinated are before SDNY Judge Liman as they were Friday. FRBNY lawyer: Now plaintiffs over the weekend make a a Constitution argument. But the New York Fed is not a government agency.

[Inner City Press: Then how does NY Fed approve bank mergers? See, FRBNY Approves Berkshire Bank With NTI Rating, here

Judge Liman: Even if discrimination were being alleged, would an injunctions be issues? NY Fed staffer's new/1st lawyer: The very pressure put on these plaintiffs to abandoned their bona fide religious beliefs is irreparable harm, per se

Judge Liman: What do you say about the NY Fed not being a state agency? Lawyer: They removed to this court by saying that are an organ of the Federal government...  [And, the Fed Board had this "non government agency," owned by banks, approving bank mergers]

 Lawyer: On the merits we have this Federal Reserve agency, now trying to revoke the religious exemption based on their job titles. These jobs could be performed remotely. Or, in the office a few days a week.


Lawyer: The Fed has granted others an ongoing exemption. That burden is on the Fed to offer up some justification. Judge Liman: What about irreparable harm?

Lawyer: There's the Northern District of NY case...  Judge Liman: Citation? Lawyer: 17 F.4th 368, 370

 NY Fed's Leonard: He says we are forcing them to violate their religious beliefs. But it is a condition of employment. They got a temporary accommodation, but there's no longer a reasonable one. We understand that's difficult. See, the Hawaii Airlines case.

 NY Fed's Leonard: They did not claim in their state court submission any free exercise violation. NY Fed is not a government agency.  Judge Liman: Authority for that? A: Uh, uh, NY Fed's employment actions are not state action. Judge: Cases? A: Nothing on point.

NY Fed's Leonard: There is no irreparable harm.

Judge Liman: I'm going to take this under advisement. I will render a decision quite quickly. Expect to hear from me soon. Plaintiffs' lawyer: There's a case, Agricultural Bank of China, 2016 WL 27566661

 NY Fed's Leonard: US v. Wells Fargo case, while not on point, the Federal Reserve Bank for the purpose of emergency lending are government agencies, but by implication, not as employers. Plaintiffs' lawyer: 24 hours for an interlocutor appeal? NY Fed: We object. ]

NY Fed's Leonard: We are doing this in the middle of pandemic. We shouldn't be restrained any longer. Judge Liman: Do you want to dismiss the complaint under 12(b)(6)? NY Fed: There's no complaint, it's futile. Yes, dismiss. Judge Liman: I'm asking about process.

 NY Fed's Leonard: We'll submit more papers in 2 weeks.

Judge Liman: Reply by April 11. We are adjourned.

On March 11, this: "ORDER granting in part [7] Motion Emergency Motion to Dissolve Ex Parte Temporary Restraining Order and Dismiss . Accordingly, the TRO is dissolved as improperly issued under Rule 65. See Rabbi Jacob Joseph School v. Province of Mendoza, 342 F. Supp. 2d 124, 127 (E.D.N.Y. 2004) ("The temporary restraining order that was issued without notice to the attorney for the Defendant whose identity was known, without declaring in an affidavit or verified complaint that immediate and irreparable harm would result before the adverse party or his attorney could be heard in opposition, was plainly in violation of Fed.R.Civ.P. 65(b), and the temporary restraining order was vacated for the additional reason that it was improperly issued."); Dolan v. Portaro, 2015 WL 3444351, at *1 (N.D. Ohio May 28, 2015) ("Had Plaintiff Dolan initially filed this case in this Court, the TRO could not have been granted. When the motion for a TRO was first made in state court, Plaintiff's counsel did not provide the required certification as to what efforts were made to give notice and why notice should not be required. Nor did Plaintiff's counsel file such certification in this Court after removal. That deficiency alone justifies dissolving the TRO."). Moreover, "[o]n this motion to dissolve a temporary restraining order,... the party that obtained that order... bears the burden of justifying continued injunctive relief." Gardner v. Weisman, 2006 WL 2423376, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 21, 2006) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting SC Cowen Sec. Corp. v. Messih, 2000 WL 663434, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. May 17, 2000)). The FRBNY argues that the evidence submitted by Plaintiffs does not satisfy that burden, because they have not shown irreparable harm, a likelihood of success, or a balance of hardships in their favor, as further set forth herein. Plaintiffs also have not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of their claims; their operative pleadings are wholly conclusory, and their arguments regarding a likelihood of success on the merits again hinge entirely on the Free Exercise claims, Dkt. No. 14 at 5; once again, the operative pleadings assert no Free Exercise claims. As such, Plaintiffs have not carried their burden of justifying continued injunctive relief. For this additional reason, the TRO must be dissolved."

  On March 21 the New York Fed filed a motion to dismiss, leading that "the New York Fed - part of the nation's central bank and a federal instrumentality established pursuant to the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 is not a state agency whose decisions are subject to review under Article 78."

On June 21 Judge Liman held another proceeding. He said he did not anticipate granting a motion to dismiss, but also doubted in a preliminary injunction, given that the staffers have already been fired. (The Fed's lawyer slipped in that the Fed doubts that the lead plaintiff's beliefs are religious).

Judge Liman told counsel to discuss with their clients the option of an expedited hearing on a permanent injunctions. A case management plan is due July 8, with another conference set for July 18 at 2 pm. 

  Inner City Press covered the July 18 conference; there was a request for a trial in January but a decision to hold it in May. Then into the docket this: "ORDER deferring ruling on [27] Motion for Preliminary Injunction. Upon consent of the parties at Dkt. No. 41, the hearing on Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction will be consolidated with a trial on the merits pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65(a)(2). (HEREBY ORDERED by Judge Lewis J. Liman)."

Inner City Press will continue to cover the case and the Fed.

We will have more on this. The case is Gardner-Alfred, et al. v. Federal Reserve Bank of NY, 22-cv-1585 (Liman)

July 18, 2022

According to the Fed's online H2A, as of July 16 there are only three comment periods on applications subject to CRA open: two mergers with public meetings, and one other. Is that possible?

July 11, 2022

On Branch Closures Federal Reserve Withheld Info Then Found It Under FOIA on W Virginia

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

South Bronx / SDNY, July 8 –  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 appealed - and then (much) later, the Federal Reserve provided documents it had initially withheld or "overlooked," it's phone it in response to a  branch closing by First Community Bank of Bluefield, Virginia at 16 West Main Street,  Richwood, West Virginia; we're putting it on DocumentCloud here and will again be appealing.

  Inner City Press will have more on this.

July 4, 2022

As BMO Harris Seeks Bank of the West For July 14 Federal Reserve Roadblocks and 2bl Speak

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

FEDERAL COURT / S Bronx, July 1 – Whether or not the U.S. Community Reinvestment Act will actually be enforced until the new Administration and its regulators remains an open question. Back in December Inner City Press reported that BMO Harris' application to buy Bank of the West and its more than 500 branches from BNP would be a litmus test.

 Fair Finance Watch noted, from Day 1, that in 2020 BMO Harris denied many more mortgage applications from African Americans than it approved: 509 denied versus only 223 loans made to African Americans, nationwide. BMO's numbers for whites were the reverse: 9270 loans made, versus less then six thousand denials.

On May 17 the Federal Reserve and OCC announced that they will at least hold a public meeting: The public meeting will be held virtually on July 14, 2022, at 11:00 a.m. EDT. Members of the public seeking to present oral comments must register by 12:00 p.m. EDT on June 23, 2022, through the online registration webpage."

  Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch visited the page on June 20, Juneteenth (Observed), in order to register - and found the Fed's "we want to know your views" - in 200 characters. Is that enough? Fair Finance Watch entered: "Concerns: BMO Harris HMDA disparities (nationside in 2020 only 223 mortgages to African Americans, vs. 9270 to whites), its destruction of evidence in a MN bankruptcy case;  BNP's activities in Russia." 

  Next came a series of Federal Reserve emails that went into spam, then a threat that if one didn't appear on screen for the Fed in one of four one-hour windows (three remaining) you couldn't testify. You had to ask to get the WebEx link. Inner City Press signed up - then came, at the same time, an FBI press conference about crypto fraud OneCoin, on which the Fed told Inner City Press under FOIA it has not a single document. Really?

 The penultimate slot conflicts with a press conference by the incoming president of the UN Security Council for July, Brazil. And July 5? The irony is, Inner City Press did this same sign up for the US Bancorp - MUFG public meeting. Why have to do it again? We'll have more on this- watch this site.

June 27, 2022

On Federal Reserve & Antitrust Inner City Press Asks IMF Georgieva Who Cites Concentration</