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RBS Sale of 93 Branches to US Bank Stalled, Info Withheld, CRA Protests

By Matthew R. Lee

SOUTH BRONX, March 26 -- When Royal Bank of Scotland proposed to sell its 93 Chicago-area branches to US Bank, the comment period was set to expire on February 20. Today that was extended to April 25.

The extension or "re-publication of notice" came after Fair Finance Watch and other community advocacy organizations commented to the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, about lending disparities and US Bank's refusal to disclose how many and which of the 93 branches it would close.

FFW commented, back in January, that

While on this disclosure of branches which would be closed the OCC should extend the comment period, for now, to ensure consideration, US Bank NA (Ohio)'s 2012 HMDA data reflect that in the Chicago MSA for home purchase loans both conventional and subsidized, US Bank made a smaller portion of its loans to Latinos than did even the aggregate, including lenders not subject to the Community Reinvestment Act.

For conventional home purchase loans in the Chicago MSA in 2012, US Bank made 1083 such loans to whites, 78 to African Americans and only 77 to Latinos. That is, US Bank made 14 such loans to whites for each loan to a Latino, a bigger disparity than is the case with the aggregate.

For the home purchase loans in Table 4-1 in the Chicago MSA in 2012, US Bank made 268 such loans to whites, 68 to African Americans and only 60 to Latinos. That is, US Bank made 4.47 such loans to whites for each loan to a Latino, a significantly bigger disparity than is the case with the aggregate.

  US Bank replied that it needn't disclose which branches it would close. Fair Finance Watch reiterated its request in Washington DC in mid-March, along with NCRC, and in supplemental comments. And on March 26, the OCC confirmed that the comment period is extended to April 25, and portions of US Bank's response released.

  The problem is that large portions of US Bank's response are withheld, or simply redacted in black Magic Marker, first Tweeted here by @FinanceWatchOrg, click here to view. Fair Finance Watch and Inner City Press immediately filed with the OCC a Freedom of Information Act request

"for all withheld / redacted information from US Bank's March 21, 2014 submission in connection with its application to acquire branches from RBS Charter One. ICP / Fair Finance Watch commented on the application, and earlier today the OCC provided a redacted copy of US Bank's submission. Nearly the entire fair lending response is redacted, as is information about US Bank's claimed support to non-profits. Since such information is presumptively public, it must be unredacted and released. We are challenging each redaction, making this FOIA request for the entire, unredacted submission in this application process we timely challenged."

Now whether these withholdings can stand up must be ruled upon.

  In terms of commenting of what was released, ICP says "Now that US Bank has admitted to the Federal Reserve that it would eliminate Charter One's Credit Builder and energy efficiency loan programs, and make it more difficult for the customers it would acquire to avoid fees, the Fed should schedule public hearings."

  Prediction: the document put online yesterday will be reported in the Windy City.
Meanwhile Royal Bank of Scotland is looking to sell off its Citizen Bank unit in the Northeast, to Japanís Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group or another. Watch this site.


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