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Community Reinvestment Act Attack by Otting Questioned In FOIA For Bank Meetings By Inner City Press

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - CJR - PFT

SOUTH BRONX, Feb 12 – The current US Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting cashed out of his position with OneWest Bank in California by overseeing fake comments in favor its acquisition by the CIT Group.

   Then, emboldened, he devoted the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to weakening or destroying the Community Reinvestment Act which provides for the public process that he subverted with fake comments.

  On February 12, Inner City Press submitted a FOIA request: "Dear OCC FOIA Officer: On behalf of Inner City Press, Fair Finance Watch and in my personal capacity this request for records pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552, and OCC regulations. On an expedited basis, this is a request for all record regarding the OCC's January 30, 2020 Meeting with Consumer Bankers Association (CBA) bankers [including

Yvonne Blumenthal, US Bank (Chair)  Lloyd Brown, Citigroup (Vice Chair)  Kelli Arnold, KeyBank  Reza Aghamirzadeh, Citizens Financial Group  Nathalia Artus, Atlantic Union Bank  Jan Bergeson, Ally  Tonya Billings, Independent Bank  Norm Bliss, Bank of the West  Len Bolton, Rockland Trust  Melissa Borino, BMO Harris  Sunada Brookins, Hancock Whitney Bank  Doug Craycraft, Chase  Jennifer Creger, Crescent Bank & Trust  Christina Cudney, United Bank  Jon Davies, Regions  Brad Dossinger, M&T Bank  Scott Fujii, Bank of Hawaii  Alberto Garofalo, Bank of America  Staci Glenn Short, Huntington  Emmanuel Glover, TCF  Seth Goodall, Santander  Joseph Hernandez, TIAA  Amy Howcroft, PNC  Angela Hudson, Bank OZK  Sharon Jeffries-Jones, Truist  Matthew Joy, Mechanics Bank  Lori-Anne Lawton, Webster Bank  Christine Lloyd, HSBC  Robert Manuel, Wells Fargo Bank  Jim Matthews, Capital One  Roddell McCollough, First Financial Bank  Chris McGillis, BBVA Compass  Beverly Meek, Flagstar  Kapil Narang, Ameriprise  Cathy Niederberger, PNC Bank  Donna Normandin, Frost Bank                                                                           , Rey Ocanas, Byron Reed, CIT  Karl Renney, Eastern Bank  Julius Robinson, MUFG Union Bank, N.A.  Kathleen Robinson, TD Bank  Bobbie Salgado, MUFG Union Bank, N.A  Doug Schaeffer, WoodForest  Camino Smith, Banner Bank  Natalie Smith Parker, Synovus  Christopher Stelma, First Commonwealth  Beth Trotter, IBERIABANK  Alan Urie, Synchrony  Paul Vicente, Fifth Third  Amy Walls, Discover

All that has been disclosed is:  "On January 29, 2020, representatives from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) participated in a conference call with representatives of CBA member banks regarding the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) notice of proposed rulemaking (NPR)1 and the associated request for information (RFI).2  The discussion focused on several aspects of the CRA NPR and RFI, including (1) the information and data requested in the RFI, (2) the implementation timeframe, (3) the retail lending distribution tests, (4) data aggregation, (5) where banks will receive credit for qualifying activities, (6) the empirical benchmarks and thresholds, (7) credit for retail loan originations, and (8) data collection."    That is laughable and abusive as it does not contain any information about what the banks, or the OCC, said, in the middle of an already flawed rulemaking process. The records should be provided on an expedited basis and under a FOIA fee waiver Inner City Press has become aware Otting's OCC grants to others, non-media, while denying to ICP in retaliation.    ICP also again requests copies of records sufficient to show all of Comptroller Otting's scheduled meetings, appointments, and scheduled events from the date he became Comptroller to the date of your response including but not limited to Outlook calendar entries and daily briefing books for Comptroller Ottings on those dates. Please search for responsive records regardless of format, medium, or physical characteristics. We seek records of any kind, including paper records, electronic records, audiotapes, videotapes, photographs, data, and graphical material. Our request includes without limitation all correspondence, letters, emails, text messages, facsimiles, telephone messages, voice mail messages, and transcripts, notes, or minutes of any meetings, telephone conversations, or discussions. Our request also includes any attachments to emails and other records, as well as those who were cc’ed or bcc’ed on any emails. If it is your position any portion of the requested records is exempt from disclosure, ICP requests that you provide it with an index of those documents as required under Vaughn v. Rosen, 484 F.2d 820 (D.C. Cir. 1973). In the event some portions of the requested records are properly exempt from disclosure, please disclose any reasonably segregable non-exempt portions of the requested records. See 5 U.S.C. § 552(b). If it is your position that a document contains non-exempt segments, but that those non-exempt segments are so dispersed throughout the document as to make segregation impossible, please state what portion of the document is nonexempt, and how the material is dispersed throughout the document. See Mead Data Central v. U.S. Dep’t of the Air Force, 566 F.2d 242, 261 (D.C. Cir. 1977). Please search all records regarding agency business. You may not exclude searches of files or emails in the personal custody of your officials, such as personal email accounts. Records of official business conducted using unofficial systems or stored outside of official files is subject to the Federal Records Act and FOIA.  It is not adequate to rely on policies and procedures that require officials to move such information to official systems within a certain period of time; ICP has a right to records contained in those files even if material has not yet been moved to official systems or if officials have, through negligence or willfulness, failed to meet their obligations. ICP requests that you expedite the processing of this request.  I certify to be true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief, that there is media interest and there exist possible questions concerning the OCC's integrity, which affect public confidence. See e.g. here and the CRA ANPR since.  I further certify that ICP is actively engaged in disseminating information to the public. ICP will use the information gathered, and its analysis of it, to educate the public through reports, press releases, and other media. ICP will also make materials it gathers available on our website and promote their availability on social media platforms, such as Twitter, where ICP has over 80,000 followers. Accordingly, ICP request satisfies the criteria for expedition.

   Inner City Press, which along with CRC opposed the merger and then pursued a Freedom of Information Act request for all documents about Otting's fraud, soon found its and Fair Finance Watch's comments to the OCC being rejected, or ignored, or returned. 

  While Inner City Press' FOIA requests get fee waivers from the Federal Reserve and a range of agencies in the US and beyond, Otting's OCC suddenly started denying them, hindering access to the merger applications on which CRA is enforced.   

Otting is trying to push through this CRA-killing proposal on a short comment period, cognizant of the other CRA, the Congressioal Review Act. But it is obvious that even banks want more time.

On January 26, in advance of Otting's belated January 29 House of Representatives appearance, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch submitted a formal comment



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