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March 1, 2011 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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Fed Governor Was Lobbied by Chinese Gov't on Bank Deal, FOIA Documents Show, Insiders' Game Faced with Challenge

By Matthew R. Lee, Exclusive

NEW YORK, August 2 -- When the US Federal Reserve Board decided to allow a company owned by the People's Republic of China to buy an American bank without requiring any application by the Chinese government, it had been lobbied at the level of Fed Governor Warsh, by a lawyer who was previously the General Counsel of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, documents show.

  Earlier this year Inner City Press filed a challenge and Freedom of Information Act request with the Fed about the proposed acquisition of US-based Bank of East Asia by the China Investment Corporation, and Central Huijin Investment Limited and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), owned by the Chinese government.

  While the US Bank Holding Company Act says that US government entities do not need to seek Fed approval to buy banks, there is no exemption for foreign governments. But the Fed has read in such an exemption.

  More than three months after its FOIA request, Inner City Press has received a set of heavily redacted documents from the Fed, some of which are now being put online, here.

The documents reflect multiple inquiries by ICBC's lawyer Ernest Patrikis, previously the General Counsel of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, now at the law firm of White & Case.

  In August 2010, the Fed's Ann Misback wrote to Kathleen O'Day and four others, "Ernie called with two questions, one on China and one on India. What would be the Fed's reaction if one of the largest Chinese banks entered an agreement to purchase a small U.S. bank (likely serving an ethnic Chinese community) [REDACTION] I told him I would get back to him on this question."

  While the Fed blacked out "Ernie's" question about India, the e-mail still shows how lawyers for the Chinese government and banks can essentially seek pre-approval from the Federal Reserve, before any public comment period is announced.

  Even after protests, the Fed continued "ex parte" communications with "Ernie." But these communications and pre-approvals went to the top level of the Federal Reserve.

  On November 12, 2011 Patrikis e-mailed the Fed's Ann Misback about a meeting the chairman of government-owned ICBC had with then Fed Governor Kevin Warsh, on October 20, saying that ICBC's chairman had complained to Governor Warsh "about the inability to buy a bank in the U.S.. The governor said the bank could file an application now."

  The applications, when they came in 2011, did not include any application by the Chinese government, ICBC's owner.

Fed board, Warsh at Bernanke's right, Ernie & PRC not shown

  That the Fed is not only outside the law but also unwise in inventing an exemption from the Bank Holding Company At for foreign government has been made more clear by issues surrounding the assets of the Gaddafi regime's Libyan government. Exemptions lead to instability, apparenlty the Fed's main concern. (FOIA and the Community Reinvestment Act do not appear to be concerns of the Fed.)

  While the Fed gives exemptions to the Chinese government, other branches of the US government are now investigating Dutch-based ING for violating sanctions in Iran, Cuba and Sudan. ING is trying to sell its US bank ING Direct to consumer-challenged Capital One. Can the Fed be expected to fairly review the application?

  Likewise, global bank HSBC is trying to ditch 180 upstate New York branches to Buffalo-based First Niagara, which now says it would divest (sell or close) fully 100 of the branches. Perhaps the Fed doesn't really care for stability, either, at least not the stability of moderate income US communities.

  The documents reflect an insider's game at the Fed that is not only distasteful but we believe illegal. A Freedom of Information Act appeal has been filed with all the withheld information, and more steps will follow: watch this site.

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As Federal Reserve Fines Wells Fargo, It's Too Little, Too Late, Focus Turns to Just-Filed Capital One - ING Application

By Matthew R. Lee

SOUTH BRONX, July 21 -- After being presented with evidence of Wells Fargo's predatory lending for years, but nevertheless approving all of Wells Fargo's merger applications, the Federal Reserve this week belatedly imposed a $85 million fine for abuses by Wells Fargo Financial.

  The response by Bronx-based Fair Finance Watch, which provided the Fed with testimony for whistleblowing employees of Wells Fargo Financial, was too little, too late.

  At Wells, subprime lending has already been shifted into other of the bank's units.

  In 2010, the sixth year in which the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data distinguishes which loans are higher cost, over a federally-defined rate spread of 1.5 percent over Treasury bill yields, the data show that the largest of Wells Fargo's many HMDA data reporters confined African Americans to higher-cost loans 2.56 times more frequently than whites.

   Predatory lending already triggered the global financial meltdown. The Fed, it seems, is merely saving face.

  But what can be learned for the future? Also this week, the Fed published notice of the proposal by another much-maligned lender, Capital One, to acquire the Internet bank ING Direct, stating that the public has only until August 18 to comment on the application. It is the middle of summer; the deal would create the nation's fifth largest bank.

  One can imagine the Fed trying to haul off and approve Capital One's application, and then some years later impose some sort of fine. That makes no sense, particularly after the Fed's implicit recognition that it miss the boat for years with Wells Fargo. So let it be different this time.

  Here is a complaint from inside Wells Fargo Financial that Inner City Press published in 2008.  And here the New York Times.

March 1, 2011 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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