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Community Reinvestment Act Attack by Otting Continues But With Comments to April 9

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

SOUTH BRONX, Feb 19 –   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 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, below. It included a demand that Otting recuse himself (not yet acted on) and a request for an extension of the comment period.

  Now on February 19 from FDIC, this: "FDIC and OCC Announce 30-day Extension of Comment Period for Proposed Changes to Community Reinvestment Act Regulations WASHINGTON – The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) today extended the public comment period for proposed changes to the regulations implementing the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) until April 8, 2020.  On December 12, 2019, the FDIC and OCC announced a proposal to modernize the regulations under the CRA and provided for a 60-day comment period following formal publication on January 9, 2020 in the Federal Register (85 FR 1204). The FDIC and OCC have now determined that a 30-day extension of the comment period is appropriate."

  So, April 9, more to follow. But Otting must still be recused. Here's from Fair Finance Watch's first comments (there's been a second):

 January 26, 2020  Re: Docket ID OCC-2018-0008 &  - total opposition to OCC/FDIC plan to weaken CRA 

To whom it may concern at the OCC and FDIC: On behalf of Fair Finance Watch, and Inner City Press, and in my personal capacity, this is a 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.  Some advocacy, from 2001, here;  2002 here (Wells Fargo);  jump cut to 2015, here (due to 5000 character restriction)  and more  

But 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. It is in keeping with our experience with Otting when, as head of One West, he oversaw false comments submitted to regulators to support One West's merger with CIT. People wrote it and said they had not commented; the regulators asked Otting's OneWest's counsel - and there the trail of evidence ends, for now. See, for the record (including the record on this timely request that Otting be recused and the proposal withdrawn), here.

  In 2020 we are aware of the OCC calling community groups looking to be able to say they didn't authorize their sign-ons. Well, we proudly signed onto NCRC's letter(s). And for now, in advance of Otting's January 29 House appearance, we re-affirm these views:   Under the NPRM, the definition of affordable housing is relaxed to include middle-income housing in high-cost areas. In addition, housing is assumed to be affordable if lower-income people can afford to pay the rent without verifying that lower-income people will be tenants. Essential infrastructure such as bridges is added as an activity eligible for community development but clearly estimating the benefit to LMI populations of such large-scale projects is difficult and likely to result in ratings inflation as well as diverting funding from community development directly in LMI communities...

Absurdly, the proposal would grant CRA credit for work on stadia, for example. The proposal must be withdrawn.  In short, we are totally opposed to Otting's and the FDIC's proposals and think for the reasons set forth above, including actions at OneWest and more recently trying to intimidate community groups, 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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