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Amid Fed & OCC Sterling CRA Scam, Otting & Quarles In Senate July 27, ICP & CRC FOIA

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, July 26 – Amid the scandal of the Federal Reserve and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency covering up Sterling Bank's unreliable Community Reinvestment Act data (see below) by withholding most of 400 pages released to Inner City Press under the Freedom of Information this month, in advance of the July US Senate hearing on the nominations of Joseph Otting, formerly of Bank of America, Union Bank, US Bancorp and OneWest to be Comptroller and of Randal Quarles formerly of the Carlyle Group to head the Fed's Supervision unit, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch and the California Reinvestment Coalition submitted this FOIA request.

While still awaiting any of the responsive documents, on July 26 the Federal Reserve asked Sterling to "Please provide an update on Sterling Bank's CRA activities since its last CRA Performance Evaluation in January 2017 in every banking market in which the bank operates, including any significant CRA initiatives undertaken, particularly with respect to credit and deposit products and retail banking services targeted toward LMI and minority geographies and individuals." What about the unreliable data already submitted?

As to Otting, beyond his gaming of the CRA system, another problem has arisen: Otting misrepresented his resume on education. He listed a degree on his resume from the "School of Credit and Financial Management at Dartmouth College." It's a fraud. "Joseph Otting is not a Dartmouth graduate," Dartmouth spokeswoman Diana Lawrence said. "Dartmouth does not have a school of credit and financial management." In turns out the school is a four-week program spread over two years, which rented space from Dartmouth. It's not only Sterling's CRA data is an unreliable. While at OneWest, as reported by Inner City Press in 2015, Otting was best know for trying to get his own employees, fundees and investors to submit comments to the OCC to support OneWest's purchase by CIT.  Click here. Otting wrote: From: Otting, Joseph M [at]
Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2015 5:00 PM
Cc: Haas, Alesia Jeanne; Tran, Cindy; Kim, Glenn
Subject: Support For OneWest Bank
Dear Friends,
We were excited to announce on July 21, 2014, that IMB HoldCo LLC, the parent company of OneWest Bank entered into a merger agreement with CIT Group Inc. As part of the applications for regulatory approval of the transaction, our regulators are interested in the perspectives of the public. We are writing you to seek your support of the Bank and pending merger. This merger, if approved, would create the largest bank headquartered in Southern California with a full suite of banking products and services, which will allow us to better serve our customers. We would retain and grow jobs and are committed to continuing and expanding our efforts to serve the economic and development needs of our community. I would like to ask you to take a moment to click on the link below and submit a letter of support adding any of your own words or thoughts.
Please submit your letter by clicking here, or by visiting our website at (if the link isn't clickable or part of the link is cut off, please copy and paste the entire URL into your browser's address bar and press Enter)
Thank you for your support.  Best wishes for a successful 2015 and please call on me if I can ever be of assistance.
Joseph M. Otting
President and CEO
OneWest Bank N.A.
888 East Walnut Street
Pasadena, CA 91101

  We and the California Reinvestment Coalition will have more on this.

Sterling Bank, which is applying for approvals to acquire Astoria Bank, is known by its regulators to have filed unreliable Community Reinvestment Act data from at least 2014 through 2016, a document obtained by Inner City Press shows. The story, and outrage, has been picked up by the American Banker newspaper here, by Paul Davis and Allison Prang, crediting Inner City Press - and Sterling Bank had no comment. Instead, Sterling's outside counsel Wachtel Lipton chose to snail-mail its response to the wrong address, and not e-mail it to Fair Finance Watch. Via here, with envelope re-submitted to Fed and OCC. This while the Federal Reserve has granted Inner City Press' request for expedited treatment of its FOIA request for all records, promising the responsive documents by June 1. But now the Fed, in a June 1 letter, unilaterally extended its time to June 22: "Dear Mr. Lee, This correspondence is to provide you with an update on the status of your FOIA request. The search for records is being completed and staff is beginning to review the search results for responsiveness and releasability.  We will continue to process your request as quickly as possible.  Accordingly, the Board hopes to be able to respond to your request, or provide a status update, on or before June 22, 2017.  Very truly yours, Jeanne M. McLaughlin Manager, Freedom of Information Office."

Why expedite and then extend? Why did the OCC rush a cover-up "Satisfactory" rating? We'll have more on this. First Fed letter on Scribd, here.

Regulators Said Sterling's CRA Data Unreliable, Sterling Mis-Sends Response, Fed Expedites ICPs FOIA, Here by Matthew Russell Lee on Scribd

Fair Finance Watch has asked both the Fed and OCC to extend their comment periods past this date. Watch this site. Sterling has issued a press release ("covered" without any analysis by Reuters) that "the Federal Reserve inadvertently made public confidential supervisory information.. Because of the legal constraints relating to disclosure of confidential supervisory information, we are working closely with our regulators to craft a more detailed public response." Sterling is working WITH the regulators - the judges in this case - to spin its inaccurate data? After on its last acquisition, challenged by ICP, having to make a CRA compliance plan? Inner City Press has submitted Freedom of Information Act requests (a response here) and Fair Finance Watch has filed additional comments to the Federal Reserve and OCC, demanding public hearings into the unreliable data AND into how the regulators were dealing with (or covering up) the issue, in stealth. We'll have more on this: the US Federal Reserve denied Fair Finance Watch's request to extend the comment period on Sterling's application, in which even the Fed suspects there is incorrect CRA data.

On May 11, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York along with questions about about branch closures and a CRA plan required after Fair Finance Watch's previous challenge to Sterling asked: "In a letter dated December 23, 2016, from the OCC to Sterling Bank regarding the OCC's data integrity review, the OCC stated that Sterling Bank's 2014-2016 CRA data is not reliable and that Sterling Bank lacks an effective process for collecting, verifying and reporting such data. To the extent that any of the CRA data in the notice is incorrect, submit the corrected data. In addition, describe Sterling Bank's efforts to address its CRA data compliance management deficiencies."

So on April 26 in Sterling's analysts' call, did CEO Jack Kopnisky or Senior EVP Luis Massiani disclose the “unreliable” CRA data to, among others, Dave Bishop – FIG Partners, Casey Haire – Jefferies, Alex Twerdahl – Sandler O'Neill,, Collyn Gilbert – KBW, Matthew Breese – Piper Jaffray and Erik Zwick – Stephens Inc? Questions about this deal (here) and the Fed's commitment to public scrutiny are raised by its simultaneous denial of FFW's request for a hearing and to extend the comment period. There is no indication that the "corrected" CRA data would ever be made available to the public, or that this issue would not have been swept under the US bank regulators' carpet, like so many others. We'll have more on this. 

Regulators Say Sterling Bank's CRA Data Unreliable, Astoria Merger Document Shows, Here by Matthew Russell Lee on Scribd

Background: after Astoria Bank's protested proposal to be acquired by New York Community Bank fell apart in late 2016, it found a new, equally controversial suitor: Sterling Bancorp. Now Fair Finance Watch has submitted a first Community Reinvestment Act challenge to the proposed merger, receipt of which the Federal Reserve has now confirmed, here. Inner City Press' summary of FFW's filing: "Dear Chair Yellen, Secretary Misback and others in the FRS: This is a timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the FRB's public comment period on the Application by Sterling Bancorp, Montebello, New York (“Sterling”) to merge with Astoria Financial Corporation, Lake Success, New York, and indirectly acquire Astoria Bank (“Astoria”).
This would be a combination of banks with disparate and in places highly irregular Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (“HMDA”) data. The proposal is the desperate result of the failure of Astoria's attempted merger with NYCB. That is no reason to approve this mis-conceived combination. The applicant's Sterling National Bank (“Sterling”) in the New York City MSA in 2015 for African Americans for home purchase loans denied the applications of African Americans 3.58 times more frequently than those of whites - much worse than other lenders. Sterling made only 22 such home purchase loans to African Americans, versus 495 to whites (and only 37 to Latinos) - again, much more disparate than other lenders. This bank should not buy Astoria. Remember: in the Nassau Suffolk MSA in 2013, Sterling made 149 home purchase loans to whites – and only one to an African American. For home improvement loans, Sterling made 30 to whites, none to African Americans. Taken together, this is unacceptable. The comment period should be extended to clarify – or refile – the HMDA data; evidentiary hearings should be held; and on the current record, the application should not be approved.
For the record, the CRA plan required after Fair Finance Watch's previous protest, we contend has not been complied with, and request evidentiary and public hearings on that basis.
Also for the record:  'The NYCB-Astoria Financial Merger is Kaput: Consumer advocates were among the groups that opposed NYCB’s acquisition of Astoria…'"

   In January, disparate lender Investor Bancorp, on which Fair Finance Watch previously got a condition imposed saw its proposal with Bank of Princeton fall apart.

  There's also Capital One - Cabela, on which Inner City Press commented: "In the New York City MSA in 2015, the most recent year for which HMDA data is available, for conventional home purchase loans Capital One denied the applications of whites 23% of the time, while denying African Africans fully 45% of the time, and Latinos even more, 46% of the time. This is unacceptable.

  Meanwhile, Capital One is “closing branches in Laurel, Gaithersburg, Frederick and Merrifield.”

   Capital One came back with snark, as has Simmons National -- but then announced including to NCRC that  it will withdrawn its application. Onward.


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