Inner City Press

In Other Media-eg New Statesman, AJE, FP, Georgia, NYTAzerbaijan, CSM Click here to contact us     .

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis

Share |   

Follow on TWITTER

More: InnerCityPro

Home -

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis


(FP Twitterati 100, 2013)

ICP on YouTube
Sept 24, 2013

UN: Sri Lanka


FOIA Finds  

Google, Asked at UN About Censorship, Moved to Censor the Questioner, Sources Say, Blaming UN - Update - Editorial

Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"




Bank Beat

Freedom of Information

How to Contact Us

US Comptroller Otting Moves To Strip Community from CRA, FOIA Docs Withheld

By Matthew R. Lee, Patreon

NEW YORK, May 1 – US Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting, who generated fake comments supporting his OneWest Bank's merger with CIT Group, is now seeking to remove the "community" from the US Community Reinvestment Act, eliminating any focus on the areas from which banks draw their insured deposits. Otting told the ABA he wants to make it  “easy and simple for banks to understand” the CRA. His OCC spokesperson spuns that "the comptroller has mentioned in numerous public settings that we need to revisit how assessment areas are defined." The WSJ, for now, did not mention Otting's previous history of undermining the CRA. Otting has also been shown to have continued buy and owning bank and insurance company stocks even after he was nominated, confirmed and began at the OCC. The stocks included Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, KeyCorp and Prudential Financial. Now Otting has his eye on further weakening Community Reinvestment Act reviews of mergers. The OCC is still withholding documents requested by Inner City Press and CRC under FOIA including about how Otting's bank's lawyers responded to the fake comment issue. We'll have more on this. Even as Consumer Financial Protection Bureau chief Mick Mulvaney promises to scrap payday lending and other protections, on April 20 his CFPB with a new logo along with Joseph Otting's OCC announced a $1 billion fine against Wells Fargo. As one Inner City Press agency source put it, imagine what the fine would be under anyone else. Others noted how unspecific the press release of the CFPB - apparently being renamed the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection - is, compared to those which came before. On April 9 the payday lenders' lobbying group Community Financial Services Association of America sued to overturn the rule, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division. This comes as the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency's Joseph Otting has ended the ban on payday lender ACE Cash Express working with national banks, and with Mulvaney set to testify to the House Financial Services Committee on April 11, amid #JustEconomy outreach on Capitol Hill. Watch this site. Speaking of paydays, that of Janet Yellen in NYC's Tribeca last week, a big bucks speech to 40 Jeffries clients as a sort of appetizer to the NCAA March Madness basketball final, shows how corrupt US bank regulation is. While lower level bank regulators at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency face a cooling off period before they can go through the revolving door, the very Chair of the Federal Reserve can sell out in two months, or as little as a week as Alan Greenspan did it. This should have been prohibited in Dodd Frank but wasn't. But Yellen? For shame - including to refusing to each disclose how much money she charged. We'll have more on this. After much focus on who at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York should replace outgoing William Dudley, on April 3 the Fed did the expected, picking insider John Williams from the San Fransisco Fed who oversaw Wells Fargo's many frauds. We'll have more on this. This comes days after Dudley himself on March 30 misrepresented the bill S.2155 as offering relief to "small banks" -- actually, it's banks up to $250 billion in assets, and foreign mega-banks larger than that. Dudley's misleading comment came on the New York public radio show of Brian Lehrer, who erroneously said that the bill has been enacted "by Congress" when it has only passed the Senate. Meanwhile everyone from Mayor Bill de Blasio to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has been saying the Fed's process for naming the President of its Reserve Bank is not transparent enough. Now that the expected Williams has been picked, what next? We'll have more on this. Collusion between payday lenders and national banks has been invited by US Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting, under whose watch OneWest Bank generated fake public comments urging approval of its merger with CIT. Otting has lifted the 2002 consent order prohibiting ACE Cash Express from "partnering" with national banks. Speaking earlier in, where else, Las Vegas Otting said, "We think there’s a big market there that’s underserved, that really has the ability to be served by capital going forward." When he was selling off OneWest, those whose e-mail addresses and identities were stolen in order to promote the merger were thanked by David Finnegan of the OCC Otting now runs. Finnegan then asked OneWest's and Otting's lawyer Stephen M. Salley at Sullivan & Cromwell to explain. We'll have more on this - there's a lot of explaining to do. On March 14 as what was presented as a community bank regulatory relief bill was passed in the U.S. Senate 67-31 as S.2155, along with undercutting fair lending enforcement the bill would provide particular benefit to the US subsidiaries of some of the largest global banks. These include at least one which helped evade North Korea sanctions: Bank of Tokyo - Mitsubishi. But on the evening of March 14, this from the White House: "President Donald J. Trump commends the Senate, led by Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) for passing S.2155, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act. The President supports this bill, and as recently noted in a Statement  of Administration Policy (SAP), he would sign it into law. The bill provides much-needed relief from the Dodd-Frank Act for thousands of community banks and credit unions and will spur lending and economic growth without creating risks to the financial system. By tailoring regulation, the bill seeks to prevent excessive regulation from undermining the viability of local and regional banks and their ability to serve their communities. The President looks forward to discussing any further revisions the House is interested in making, with the goal of bipartisan, pro-growth Dodd-Frank relief reaching his desk as soon as possible." Relief for foreign banks violating North Korea sanctions? These are banks with over $250 billion in assets which, by using "intermediary holding companies," would be evading regulation: Barclays, BBVA, Credit Suisse, RBC, Deutsche Bank, UBS, Santander, BNP Paribas and, notably, MUFG a/k/a Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi. This last, as Inner City Press has reported on, already switched regulator to escape an including into non-enforcement of North Korea sanctions, in a process that included no public comment period at all. The OCC gave its approval in a week even while belatedly listing Bank of Tokyo - Mitsubishi's filings under "THESE APPLICATIONS APPEARED INCORRECTLY IN A PRIOR WEEKLY BULLETIN." Photo here; link to Bulletin here. The public, as is the trend under the OCC, was cut out.  Something to keep in mind as S.2155 is portrayed as all about community banks. While Inner City Press has been most focused on the proposed changes to the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act rules (NCRC op-ed here), the august New York Times appears to have lifted from the detailed earlier reporting of The Intercept. This happens at the United Nations all the time, with the added twist of the corporate thieves them working with the UN to evict and restrict the Press with the scoops. But it's particularly ironic hear, when predatory lending is the underlying topic. So we'll run these quotes to explicitly credit The Intercept: "The bill raises that threshold to $100 billion immediately, and to $250 billion within 18 months. That would relieve 25 of the 38 largest U.S. banks from enhanced regulations, including Citizens Bank (Philadelphia Phillies), Comerica (Detroit Tigers), M&T Bank (Baltimore Ravens), SunTrust (Atlanta Braves), KeyBank (Buffalo Sabres), BB&T (Wake Forest University), Regions Bank (AA baseball’s Birmingham Barons), and Zions Bank (Salt Lake City’s Real Monarchs of Major League Soccer).... The bill raises that threshold to $100 billion immediately, and to $250 billion within 18 months. That would relieve 25 of the 38 largest U.S. banks from enhanced regulations, including Citizens Bank (Philadelphia Phillies), Comerica (Detroit Tigers), M&T Bank (Baltimore Ravens), SunTrust (Atlanta Braves), KeyBank (Buffalo Sabres), BB&T (Wake Forest University), Regions Bank (AA baseball’s Birmingham Barons), and Zions Bank (Salt Lake City’s Real Monarchs of Major League Soccer)... Raising the threshold for stadium banks will likely also affect the U.S. operations of globally systemic foreign banks, companies like Barclays (Brooklyn Nets), Bank of Montreal (Toronto FC of Major League Soccer), BBVA Compass (Houston Dynamo, MLS), Santander (minor-league baseball’s York Revolution), and Deutsche Bank (an equestrian stadium in Aachen, Germany)." The bill is S.2155, the "Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act." Meanwhile, the bank with the worst record in the United States for gouging consumers with overdraft fees, Ameris, has applied to the Federal Reserve to buy Atlantic Coast Bank in Florida, and thereafter Hamilton State Bancshares. On January 29, Fair Finance Watch filed formal opposition to both with the Federal Reserve, citing the gouging, Ameris' disparate mortgage lending record in Atlanta, Georgia and Florida, and the Community Reinvestment Act. See below. It turns out, from Ameris' response, that its application was false when it said it would continue the CRA policies of Atlantic - see full response on Patreon, here, question 3. Inner City Press has requested records under the Freedom of Information Act. Now the Federal Reserve has asked Ameris a series of question, full copy here on Patreon: "In connection with the application under section 3 of the Bank Holding Company Act on behalf of Ameris Bancorp (“Ameris”), Moultrie, Georgia, to merge with Atlantic Coast
Financial Corporation (“ACFC”), and thereby indirectly acquire Atlantic Coast Bank, both of
Jacksonville, Florida, the following additional information is requested. Supporting
documentation should be provided as appropriate. 1. Describe any due diligence performed by Ameris or related to the Community Reinvestment Act (“CRA”), including any efforts to ascertain the needs of the communities served by Atlantic Coast Bank. To the extent the needs of the communities
to be served were identified, summarize how Ameris contemplates assisting in addressing
those needs. 2. Indicate any of products or services of Atlantic Coast Bank that Ameris contemplates discontinuing in connection with the proposal. To the extent that any products or
services would be offered in replacement of any products or services to be discontinued,
indicate what these are and how they would assist in meeting the convenience and needs
of the communities affected by the transaction. 3. In the application (page 10), Ameris indicates that Ameris Bank plans to continue to
implement the current CRA policies of Atlantic Coast Bank following consummation.
Elaborate on that statement, including to what extent, if at all, the CRA policies of
Ameris Bank would be implemented at the combined institution. 4. Indicate to what extent Ameris Bank’s consumer compliance program, including its fair lending program, would be implemented at the combined institution. 5. Relative to the branches of Atlantic Coast Bank that Ameris currently intends to close
upon consummation of the bank merger, which are listed on page 6 of the Bank Merger
application, as well as the “Julington Creek Branch” and “Jacksonville Branch” of
Ameris Bank that Ameris currently intends to close upon consummation, please specify
which are consolidations/relocations and closures in accordance with the guidance
provided in the revised joint policy statement by the banking agencies regarding branch
closings. 1 In addition, specify the branches which are located in LMI or minority census
tracts, and, for the contemplated closures in LMI or minority tracts, indicate efforts
contemplated to mitigate the potential impact of these closures. 6. Describe any litigation or investigations by local, state, or federal authorities involving Ameris or any of its subsidiaries or ACFC or any of its subsidiaries that is currently pending or was resolved within the last two years. 7. Based on staff’s review of the Agreement and Plan of Merger dated
November 16, 2017, between Ameris and ACFC (the “Agreement”), section 4.9 of the
Agreement (regarding the making of any loans in excess of $1,000,000) raises concerns
that Ameris may be able to exercise control over the day-to- day operations of ACFC and
Atlantic Coast Bank prior to the Federal Reserve’s approval of the application. Discuss
in detail the reasons ACFC and Atlantic Coast Bank are required to give prior notice to
Ameris for the actions described in section 4.9. Explain whether this provision would
give Ameris the ability to control the activities that ACFC and Atlantic Coast Bank
conduct in the ordinary course of business. Discuss the reason for choosing the specific
dollar amounts requiring prior notice to Ameris and provide the number and percentage
of transactions within the last year that would have required prior approval under the
stated conditions. 8. Provide the Disclosure Schedule referenced in the Agreement.
9. Clarify whether section 5.3 of the Agreement would require ACFC or Atlantic Coast
Bank to disclose confidential supervisory information or other information the disclosure
of which is prohibited by applicable statute or regulation. If section 5.3 of the Agreement
would require the disclosure of such information, provide a commitment signed by
Ameris stating that Ameris will not seek to enforce section 5.3 of the Agreement with
respect to any confidential supervisory information, and provide a copy of such
commitment to ACFC. 10. Provide updated financials for the period ending December 31, 2017. In your response, please include pro forma capital and asset quality ratios, as well as pro forma estimates for exposure to commercial real estate lending for the combined firm.
Please provide your response within eight business days." We'll have more on this. From Fair Finance Watch's (and Inner City Press') filing with the Fed: "This is a timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the FRB's public comment period on the Application by Ameris Bancorp to merge with Atlantic Coast Financial Corporation, and thereby directly acquire shares of Atlantic Coast Bank in Jacksonville, Florida. Fair Finance Watch has reviewed Ameris' lending in 2016, the most recent year for which Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data is available, in both the Atlanta and the Jacksonville Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and finds both to be disparate. In the Atlanta MSA in 2016 for refinance loans, Ameris denied the applications of African Americans 3.75 times more frequently than those of whites. Ameris made 152 such loans to whites, only 16 to African Americans and only eight to Latinos. In the Atlanta MSA in 2016 for home purchase loans, Ameris denied the applications of African Americans 2.11 times more frequently than those of whites. Ameris made 582 such loans to whites, only 206 to African Americans and only 48to Latinos. In the Jacksonville MSA in 2016 for home purchase loans, Ameris denied the applications of African Americans 2.69 times more frequently than those of whites. Ameris made 203 such loans to whites and only SEVEN to African Americans. In the Jacksonville MSA in 2016 for home improvements loans, Ameris made five such loans to whites and none to African Americans or Latinos. In the Jacksonville MSA in 2016 for refinance loans, Ameris denied the applications of African Americans 2.2 times more frequently than those of whites. Ameris made 100 such loans to whites and only FOUR to African Americans. This is disparate. Fair Finance Watch also reviewed Ameris' home purchase lending in the Tallahassee MSA in 2016: Ameris denied the applications of African Americans 3.78 times more frequently than those of whites. Ameris made 147 such loans to whites and only FIVE to African Americans. Ameris is systemically disparate. Also for the record, and to be addressed at the requested evidentiary hearings: “Georgia bank socking customers with overdraft fees,” Atlanta Journal Constitution, January 3, 2017: “Ameris Bank collected the most overdraft/insufficient fund fees per account of any U.S. bank, says the analysis, which is based on federal government data from the first three quarters of 2016. Ameris collected an average of about $176 per account.. The No. 2 bank on the list of the top 10 collected an average of about $131 per account. The national average was $17.76.”  This is predatory. Ameris gobbled up Jacksonville Bank and now seeks Atlantic Coast. Would branched be consolidated or closed? This must be addressed, including at the requested evidentiary hearings. We note that Ameris is already trying to look beyond this challenged proposal, to try to acquire Hamilton State Bancshares, Inc. and Hamilton State Bank. We also hereby oppose that; the two proposal should be consolidated and hearings held on both. On the current record, Ameris' application should be denied." 

Amid the ongoing scandal of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency 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 the OCC is now trying to strong-arm Inner City Press into scaling back its request to exclude "internal OCC communications." On November 30 the OCC wrote to Inner City Press, "Since the Federal Reserve Board has already submitted its final response to you regarding your FOIA request to them, would you consider modifying your OCC request to receiving: 1) All communications between the OCC and the Bank minus the Federal Reserve Board application transmittal documents; 2) Bank CRA Data; 3) Public Comments received by OCC on the merger application. Please respond to this email if you concur as soon as practicable." Inner City Press replied, "The problem Inner City Press has with this proposed limitation of FOIA request is we don't know what we are waiving - what beyond this that is responsive to our request are you asking us to waive our request to?" Now on December 5, this response: "OCC internal communications." But this is a purpose of FOIA, to see how government actually works, and for who. On December 27, the OCC provided Inner City Press a "final" response with virtually all information about the CRA data redacted. Inner City Press has submitted a FOIA appeal "of the OCC's December 27, 2017 (and any other) Denials of ICP's FOIA Request regarding the application Sterling to acquire Astoria and in particular Sterling's unreliable CRA data and the [OCC's] awareness of this unreliability." This is UNacceptable. The FDIC is primed to take as its leader the lawyer of Fifth Third Bank, Jelena McWilliams. When Fair Finance Watch asked Fifth Third for its Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data, Fifth Third insisted on only giving the data in paper form, unlike nearly all other banks which gave it electronically. The effect was to make it impossible to analyze patterns in the data, the purpose of the HMDA law. Meanwhile the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has become a battlefield. In order to run in Ohio, Richard Cordray stepped down at the head of the CFPB, naming as his successor Leandra English. Hours later, Trump issued a statement that "he is designating Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Mick Mulvaney as Acting Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)." On November 25 the White House held a background press call, on which opposition to the naming of Mulvaney was characterized coming from "blog-posts." Still, the Senior Administration Officials were asked if they plan to have Leandra English removed from the premises. No, was the answer: she should show up at the Deputy. But have they spoken with Ms English? No, was the answer.  On Sunday English filed suit against Mulvany "in his capacity as the person claiming to be the acting director of the CFPB." But a preliminary injunction has been denied. Watch this site. After non-response by the OCC even has it promises merger approvals to banks with Needs to Improve CRA ratings and allows Bank of Tokyo - Mitsubishi to skirt North Korea sanctions review by fast approving applications for which effective public notice was never provided (ICP scoop on notice here),Already, the low percentage of banks being given less than satisfactory Community Reinvestment Act rating has become infinitesimal. Now the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has signaled that even those few low scores will have no impact. In a "Policy and Procedures Manual" quietly issued on November 8, with no notice or comment, the OCC says "An overall less than satisfactory CRA rating is not a bar to approval of an application. Rather, the facts and
circumstances of the application must be evaluated as discussed in this PPM." (PPM 6300-2). All of this under an "Acting" Comptroller who has overstayed his term. We'll have more on this- and this: Sseven months after Wells Fargo Bank's CRA rating was dropped two levels to "Needs to Improve," barring it from acquisitions, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has quietly said, in a footnote to a Bulletin issued on October 12, that "The OCC’s policy is not to lower a bank’s CRA composite or component rating by more than one rating level." See here, footnote 8. So when did this become the OCC's policy, after it dropped Wells by two levels? Call it a stealth sop to Wells Fargo - and seemingly a violation of the Administrative Procedures Act. We'll have more on this. In July it emerged that over 800,000 people who took car loans from Wells were charged for needless auto insurance, pushing 274,000 Wells Fargo customers into delinquency and triggering nearly 25,000 wrongful vehicle repossessions. So much for the industry having cleaned itself up after the predatory lending meltdown. 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." But 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.


Feedback: Editorial [at]

UN Office, past and future: S-303, UN, NY 10017 USA

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

 Search  Search WWW (censored?)

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

 Copyright 2006-2018 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] for