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Otting Foreclosed on Cesar Sayoc Before Targeting Community Reinvestment Act at OCC OneWest Echo

By Matthew R. Lee, Video, story, FOIA docs

SOUTH BRONX, October 26 – The US Treasury Department is in a process to try to weaken and take the community out of the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act. Docket file here. The protagonist, akin to Scott Pruitt when he was at the US Environmental Protection Agency, is Comptroller of the Current Joseph Otting. Notably, it was Otting's bank OneWest whose predecessor / alter ego IndyMac foreclosed on the accused mass bomber Cesar Sayoc. Some are focused only on Steve Mnuchin, who asked had a OneWest role. But it was Otting who ran it day to day, and who is leading the charge to mangle the CRA. We'll have more on this. On September 12 Fair Finance Watch (and on FOIA, Inner City Press) commented to the OCC, here. Now on October 17, yet more on Otting's assault on the CRA has become known. He has taken to devaluing or lumping together and not putting in the docket or online the comments of community groups, calling them mass comments or form letters - when he himself not only solicited mass comments for the OneWest - CIT merger from which he personally profited, but even got some fraudulent comments. Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch submitted the documents obtained under FOIA into the record before the OCC. Now, on a ten day delay, the OCC has put into the file a cursory memo of its October 12 meeting with bankers ranging from Citigroup (Lloyd Brown and Devika Murray Bacchus), Capital One (James Matthews), TIAA and Regions to Wells Fargo, Fifth Third, Huntington and PNC, among others. This has the trappings of transparency, but none of the substance. Topics of discussion are purportedly listed - but what was said, particularly by the OCC participants: Grovetta Gardineer, Senior Deputy Comptroller
for Compliance and Community Affairs
Beverly Cole, Deputy Comptroller for
Compliance Supervision
Donna Murphy, Deputy Comptroller for
Compliance Risk Policy
Allison Hester-Haddad, Counsel, Chief
Counsel’s Office
Daniel Sufranski, Law Clerk, Chief Counsel’s
Office. Listed but without further detail is, for example, "Logistical issues, including the interrelated nature of the issues raised by the ANPR, the timing of the rulemaking process, participation by the other federal banking
agencies, and whether concepts not discussed in the ANPR would remain under a new rule." So what was said? And where is the OCC's response to Inner City Press' previous FOIA request?
We will have more on this.
Inner City Press has previously commented that "These documents, which must be considered as part of this ANPR and any subsequent formal rulemaking, show that fraudulent comments supporting Otting's OneWest were submitted to the OCC - presumptively attributable to Otting.
The documents show that the OCC sought an explanation from Otting's / OneWest's outside counsel - and the OCC's and Justice Department's response to date reflect that no such explanation was ever provided. The OCC nevertheless approved the merger and even gave weight to the fraudulent comments.  But via the OCC and websites, we are told "This count refers to the total comment / submissions received on this document, as of 11:59 PM yesterday. Note: Agencies review all submissions, however some agencies may choose to redact, or withhold, certain submissions (or portions thereof) such as those containing private or proprietary information, inappropriate language, or duplicate/near duplicate examples of a mass-mail campaign. This can result in discrepancies between this count and those displayed when conducting searches on the Public Submission document type." At least ten comments, all under the name Ceiba, were bundled as one. Otting is trying to have it both ways, or worse.
Under him, the OCC has ignored the rare racial redlining settlement by Klein Bank, rubber stamping Old National's acquisition of the bank over the timely and detailed objection and public hearing request of Fair Finance Watch. Otting doesn't like public hearings.  In April 2018 his OCC approved an application by E-Trade Saving Bank which Fair Finance Watch had challenged based on the bank having no fewer than six states rare "Needs to Improve" CRA ratings. FFW noted rare Needs to Improve ratings for the entire states of Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Oregon, and an undeserved “Satisfactory” for New York. Otting's OCC, after the approval, helpfully contacted E-Trade Bank to tell it that upon (Otting's) reflection, it was no longer even subject to the Community Reinvestment Act. Another institution was similarly contacted - the OCC under Otting is going through its roster of banks seeing which ones it can "free" from CRA even if they hadn't requested in. In one case, some in the bank still didn't want Otting's freedom and move more business into the bank to get a second reversal of Otting's orders. But it shows where Otting is coming from, beyond the unexplained comment-fraud for which he should be recused. Inner City Press on October 11 raised the E-Trade (and another bank) issue into the record on the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. But, Otting being Otting, his OCC denied expedited processing for Inner City Press' Freedom of Information Act request bout his deregulation move, ruling that "You requested all records in the OCC's possession concerning the applicability of the Community Reinvestment Act to - or exemption there from - any affiliate of E-Trade or Bank of America California NA for the time period of October 11, 2016 to October 11, 2018. You also requested expedited processing of your request on the basis that the ANPR on CRA is open through November 19, 2018. Your request for expedited processing does not meet the criteria provided for in 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(6)(E) and Treasury disclosure regulations at 31 C.F.R. 1.5(e)." And that regulation... requires a formal certification. So Inner City Press has appealed: "As a  a person primarily engaged in disseminating information, I am appealing the denial of expedited processing of my FOIA request, summarized by the OCC as for all records in the OCC's possession concerning the applicability of the Community Reinvestment Act to - or exemption there from - any affiliate of E-Trade or Bank of America California NA for the time period of October 11, 2016 to October 11, 2018.
...The OCC under Joseph Otting's actions to try to find banks to exempt from CRA outrageous and something on which there is an  urgency to inform the public concerning actual or alleged Federal Government activity. As noted in my request, this is particularly the case given the OCC's unilateral moves regarding the CRA. I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief. Executed on October 16, 2018." Watch this site. 


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