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As CFPB Evades Public Process With Advisory Opinions Its Whitewash of Mortgage Continues With Attack on CRA

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
Honduras - The Source - The Root - etc

Bronx / SDNY, March 6 –  With US Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting formally moving along with the FDIC to undermine the  Community Reinvestment Act, on January 11 Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch filed a CRA protest with the OCC to Community Bank NA's application to acquire Steuben Trust Company. The Otting's OCC is now trying to intimidate groups with phone "interviews" of which the OCC won't show the target their write-ups.

  On March 6 the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced "plans to create an advisory opinion program which, if enacted, would circumvent the public notice-and-comment process, a pillar of our government and democracy. The intent of the advisory opinion program, according to the CFPB, would be to provide clear guidance to assist companies in better understanding their legal and regulatory obligations through advisory opinions. But in actuality, the CFPB is proposing to sidestep the usual public notice-and-comment rulemaking process under the Administrative Procedures Act, and the congressionally-mandated process for providing interpretations of the Truth and Lending Act.       Worse, once these interpretations are issued, they could be entitled to a level of deference almost equal to that of regular rulemaking, outside of the context of the original requester. Agencies that issue advisory opinions usually end up with a welter of contradictory, mostly pro-industry interpretations that have the long-term impact of undermining the credibility of the agency and the deference accorded to it." This is a pattern.

The CFPB under Kathy Kraninger issued 2018 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data - with an interface without any racial or ethnic information unlike 2017 and every previous year, undermining the entire purpose of the HMDA law. See this page and this December 16 filing with FDIC, cc-ed to the CFPB:

December 16, 2019  Via e-mail

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Attn: John Vogel, Regional Director and Doreen R. Eberley, Jim Watkins, Robert P. Cordeiro, Scott D. Strockoz 350 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1200 New York, NY 10118-0110  

Re: Timely First Comment on Applications by Flushing Bank to Acquire Empire National Bank 

Dear Regional Director Vogel and others at the FDIC:  

This is a timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the FDIC's public comment period on the Applications by Flushing Bank to Acquire Empire National Bank.   

Flushing Bank in 2018, for race specified loans, made six times more loans to whites than to African Americans, entirely out of keeping with the demographics of its market.   

Compare the demographics of its lending to the geography: 68 loans to Queens, 35 in Manhattan, 27 in The Bronx, 35 in Manhattan, five on Staten Island and 24 in Westchester County.    

Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch would like to and has a right to submit more detailed HMDA data. But for the record, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for 2018 data has unilaterally removed the ability of the public to view HMDA data by race on its website, which the FFIEC / Federal Reserve allowed in previous years and the CFBP did even in 2017.

Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch contends that the CFPB's move is both anti-public and illegal.    

For further context, last week the FDIC opted in a party line vote to go with the OCC of ex-banker Otting which is trying to further weaken the CRA, and has already in rogue-like fashion barred the public from comment on charter conversion and even merger applications like that involving Chinatown FSB earlier this year.   

In this context, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch is demanding an extension of this comment period by the FDIC, its intervention with the CFPB to restore access on the website itself to 2018 HMDA data, a reversal of the FDIC's anti-CRA moves, and on the current record the denial by the FDIC of these application(s).  Thank you for your prompt attention, 
Matthew R. Lee
Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch

cc's incl Brenda.Muniz [at]

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