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Federal Reserve Rubber Stamps Varo Into Banking On Delegated Basis As Denies FOIAs

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

South Bronx, July 28–  How corrupt has the Federal Reserve become using the COVID-19 pandemic as ground cover? Well, despite rules that substantively challenged applications can only be approved by the Board of Governors in DC, on July 28 the Fed rubber stamped on a delegated basis fintech Varo's application to form a bank holding company. It is an unprecedented now low - but happens while the Federal Reserve withholds under FOIA all information about the impact of COVID-19 on the application by Brazil-based Banco Bradesco. Something has gone dreadfully wrong on C St.

  Here's the Fed's - Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco's - July 28 letter, sent to Inner City Press: "July 28, 2020 Via Electronic Mail Mr. Colin Walsh Varo Money, Inc. 222 Kearny Street, 9th Floor San Francisco, California 94108 RE: Varo Money, Inc., San Francisco, California (“Bancorp”), to become a bank holding company (“BHC”) through the acquisition of 100 percent of the voting shares of Varo Bank, N.A. (In Organization), Draper, Utah, pursuant to Section 3(a)(1) of the Bank Holding Company Act (“BHC Act”) Dear Mr. Walsh: The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (“Reserve Bank”), acting under authority delegated by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (“Board”), and having considered the relevant statutory factors, hereby approves the subject application. In consideration of this filing, reliance was placed upon all the representations and the commitments made by or on behalf of Bancorp. No significant changes in the transaction should be made prior to consummation without our approval. Approval of the application is subject to the Board’s authority to require reports by and make inspections and examinations of BHCs and their subsidiaries, and to require such modification or termination of activities of a holding company or any of its subsidiaries as the Board finds necessary to ensure compliance with the BHC Act. Approval of the application is also subject to receipt of all other required regulatory approvals, non-objections, or consents with this transaction. The proposed transaction may be consummated upon approval. 1 Please notify the undersigned in writing when the transaction is consummated."

  Corrupt. With fintechs pushing to get into banking, through now ex-Comptroller Joseph Otting who after trashing the Community Reinvestment Act left and immediately joined fintech Black Knight, and through the PPP, on June 10 Fair Finance Watch with Inner City Press on FOIA submitted timely comments to the Federal Reserve opposing Varo's application, pointing for example at Varo's service interruption in October 2019, including declined debit card transactions, which they tried to blame on their processor Galileo. See here. 

  Now on June 15 Varo's CEO Colin Walsh, as submitted by outside counsel Mitchell S. Eitel at Sullivan & Cromwell has passed the buck again on its service disruption, and sought to hide behind the OCC of Otting and Brooks, which has no credibility: "Varo Money, Inc. (“Varo”) hereby responds to the comment letter submitted by Mr. Matthew Lee of Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch (the “Commenter”) on June 10, 2020... We strongly disagree with the Commenter’s suggestion that Varo itself was the cause of a “service interruption in October 2019, which [Varo] tried to blame on [Varo’s] processor Galileo.” On October 16, 2019, Galileo Processing experienced an impact to their systems, and it was reported that the customers of Chime, another Galileo client principally discussed in the article cited by the Commenter, were prevented “from making purchases and accessing cash"... we note that as it transitions to a bank, Varo Bank will use Visa DPS, not Galileo, as its processor after a brief transition period.... Varo has filed its Strategic Plan with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and believes that it will be approved in the near future. Varo respectfully submits that the OCC process is the ap- propriate forum for his comments.   Finally, with respect to the Commenter’s request that “all comment periods” for applications before the Federal Reserve be extended until “at least Phase Two of the Coronavirus restrictions in New York”, Section 262.25(b)(2) of the Federal Reserve’s Rules of Procedure state that the Secretary of the Federal Re- serve may grant a brief extension of the comment period in cases where a commenter for good cause is una- ble to send its comment within the specified comment period upon “clear demonstration of hardship or other meritorious reason for seeking additional time” to comment. In general and as it relates to Varo’s Application, we believe that the Commenter’s request is overly broad and that there is no basis to extend the com- ment period. The Comment Letter vaguely references the “COVID-19 pandemic” and “Coronavirus restrictions” without providing any clear or definite demonstration as to how such pandemic or restrictions have interfered with the Commenter’s ability to meet the specified comment period or given rise to any hardship to Commenter or other meritorious reason to extend the comment period, or how the arbitrarily chosen “Phase Two” of such restrictions would alleviate any such unsubstantiated causes for delay. To the contrary, by virtue of the scope and content of the Comment Letter itself, the Commenter has clearly demonstrated his ability to comment within the specified comment period."

   What arrogance - commenting amid lockdowns is fine, the OCC is the place to comment, and blockage from account information is fine. The evidentiary hearings and application denial are necessary.

        Fair Finance Watch has timely asked the Federal Reserve for a hearing on weakened CRA duties, and disproportionate exclusion: low and moderate consumers disproportionately have prepaid or limited data plans and face disconnections of their mobile service. And just because consumers have email addresses does not mean that they have regular internet access, and if they close or move their accounts, they may lose access to their financial records.    

Despite or perhaps because of these and the service interruptions, using OCC deregulation, "Varo Money has raised an additional $241 million in Series D funding, the company announced today. The investment was co-led by new investor Gallatin Point Capital and existing investor The Rise Fund, co-founded by TPG. Also participating in the round were Bono (yes, that one, also trying to get Ireland onto the UN Security Council in a June 17 virtual election), along with entrepreneur, impact investor and movie producer Jeff Skoll; plus HarbourVest Partners and Progressive Insurance.  To date, Varo has raised $419.4 million in funding."      

See also, for the record on which Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch are timely requesting evidentiary hearings on this application, " NEWS Technology Finance  Unregulated Fintech Could be the Source of the Next Market Crash Posted to TechnologyFinance."   

     At to the Fed itself, currently the FRB's H2A states "The H.2A is released each Friday and will be updated at least every three days.  June 8, 2020 - Updates to current release May 29, 2020 - Current release."

June 8 and May 29 are more than three - more than ten - days apart.  As previously raised to the Board, without any response, as of December 28, 2019 the most recent application on the FRB's online H2A had a comment period ending December 20 - that is, already closed.

      Meanwhile the Fed is processing and moving to rubber stamp bank expansion applications during the COVID-19 pandemic. The comment periods must be re-opened and other remedies. Watch this site.


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