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Ongoing Community Reinvestment Act Attack by Otting Critiqued By Fair Finance Watch On Evans Bank

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

SOUTH BRONX, Feb 9 – 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.

   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 February 9, after Otting's belated January 29 House of Representatives appearance, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch submitted a second formal comment, this one 1k4-9ex5-jbqi, including: February 9, 2020  Re: Docket ID OCC-2018-0008 - 2d opposition to OCC/FDIC plan to weaken CRA

To whom it may concern at the OCC & FDIC: 

  On behalf of Fair Finance Watch, and Inner City Press, and in my personal capacity, this is a second timely comment opposing the proposal by Comptroller Joseph Otting and the FDIC to weaken the CRA. Enforcing the CRA including through commenting to the Federal Reserve and FDIC, and OCC under previous Comptrollers, the results have been new bank branches in the South Bronx, and lending and consumer protection commitments well beyond.   Now under Otting the OCC is ignoring, rebuffing and sometimes simply rejecting such public comments. This as Otting says he is personally unaware of discrimination. So, during and in connection with this comment period on his attempt to more systematically defang the CRA, Fair Finance Watch has commented on a proposed acquisition by a national bank which settled race discrimination charges, Evans Bank: "Evans had redlined Buffalo’s predominantly African-American East Side neighborhoods, intentionally excluding these neighborhoods from its lending area.  Evans Bank also allegedly developed mortgage products that it made unavailable to these neighborhoods, notwithstanding the creditworthiness of the applicants; and refused to solicit customers, market mortgages or provide banking facilities in those neighborhoods."   

This is a national bank. Its Fairport Savings application should be denied. And for the record, the CFPB's elimination of the HMDA informaiton that has been available on the FFIEC's and even its own website for 2017 data is part of the destruction of CRA and HMDA of which the OCC is a part.   Also for the record, "Nasca says there may be consolidation of some back office staff." Public hearings should be held. But Otting routinely denies such requests.    

Aain, since Otting became Comptroller, we have seen timely comments ignored, and been denied access to bank merger applications by a retaliatory imposition of FOIA fees. The Federal Reserve and other federal agencies, like the OCC pre-Otting, grant Inner City Press FOIA fee waivers. Under Otting, the OCC does not. On Chinatown FSB, the OCC refused to consider a timely comment. The OCC unilaterally determined not to accept public comments on a major bank's charter conversion application, which it rubber stamped. This has been rogue-like behavior.   

As a proud member of NCRC we join in its comments... including that the role of public comments must be elevated, not diminished. The agencies did not discuss the vital role of public input in any detail except to state that public comments on performance context would be considered. This is important but public comment on bank performance and whether banks are serving needs must be an integral part of CRA exam analysis. The agencies must also make commenting on CRA exams and merger applications easier, including providing easy access to agency staff that can guide the public in making comments. The central point of CRA is ensuring that banks meet local needs. For agencies to ascertain that, they must listen carefully to the public.   But Otting has shown that he does not, or does so only selectively. The proposal must be rejected.

Again, Otting must be recused and the proposal withdrawn. We will have further comments.  Matthew R Lee Fair Finance Watch (and Inner City Press) New York. Watch this site. 


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