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Fed Met M&T 10 Days Before Hudson Deal, FOIA Shows, Appeal & Protest

By Matthew R. Lee, Exclusive

SOUTH BRONX, November 9 -- When M&T on August 27 announced biggest bank merger deal of the year, a $3.81 billion proposal to buy Hudson City Savings Bank, it was not the first time the Federal Reserve had heard about.

  Inner City Press, which has challenged M&T's application under the Community Reinvestment Act, on November 9 got a belated Freedom of Information Act response from the Federal Reserve Board, less than two hours before the Fed said the extended comment period would close.

  The documents released to Inner City Press show that on August 17, a full ten days before the public announcement, Federal Reserve Bank of New York official John Ricketti wrote to five others within the Fed:

"Wilmers called me this afternoon to inform me that M&T is looking to acquire M&T. [sic] He will be talking to his board about the acquisition at next Tuesday's board meeting and asked to come in Wednesday to talk to us (we're setting something up for late Wednesday afternoon). I'll be up in Buffalo for the board meeting to discuss the [REDACTED] and expect to learn more from him Monday night (I have a one-on-one meeting with him)."

  After that, much is redacted. Click here to view.

   The Fed advised M&T that its application to buy Hudson would probably be protested -- accurately, given that Hudson City in 2011, for conventional home purchase loans in the New York City Metropolitan Statistical Area, to make 765 such loans to whites and only FIVE to African Americans.

  Of this, a Fed memo of August 24 said "this will require review of any issues that are raised and [REDACTED].

 To view, click on cover email, and talking points One and Two.

  After the August 17 contact but before the proposal was announced, the Fed met on August 22 from 4:30 to 5:30 with "Wilmers" and Rene Jones, Michael Pinto and outside council Rodgin Cohen.

  A slide presentation was made, much of which including on Due Diligence and Complexity has been withheld.

  After the meeting, the New York Fed's Ivan Hurwitz sent a memo to the Fed in Washington, most of which has been blacked out.

  On August 24, the Fed's John Ricketti wrote another memo, with talking points, about his meeting with Rodgin Cohen and Rene Jones, much of its redacted.

Then on August 27, Cohen [Rodge] called the Fed's Tom Baxter, and Wilmer called "Dudley," both summaries redacted.

After the deal was announced, M&T had more meetings with the Fed on September 7. Only after they submitted an application did Inner City Press submitted a FOIA request on October 2, and an initial protest, on October 7.

Now Inner City Press has timely requested a further extension of the comment period, to review the documents so belatedly released, and to appeal what is being withheld.

Withheld is the substantive part of "Confidential" Exhibit O, what M&T will actually PAY to Merger Sub, and nearly all of the anti-money laundering program, material changes and due diligence findings. The Board Resolutions and Agreement and Plan of Merger are all blacked out, which is ridiculous.

  Since the announcement, Super Storm Sandy hit, and SNL Financial reported the Hudson City "said it was still too early to determine how many of its mortgage loans were located in tidal flood zones."

  Regulators had allowed Hudson City in 2011, for conventional home purchase loans in the New York City Metropolitan Statistical Area, to make 765 such loans to whites and only FIVE to African Americans (and only 44 to Latinos). Meanwhile, Hudson City denied the applications of African Americans 3.21 times more frequently then those of whites.

Picking up on the challenge, the Buffalo News contacted M&T for its comment. M&T spokesman C. Michael Zabel countered that "we support community-based organizations."

But reporting by Inner City Press find this questionable, throughout M&T's footprint down to Virginia. M&T's next move was to reach out to friendlier media and announce that its merger application is proceeding - without mentioning the protest or why it was reaching out.

Similarly, M&T hyped up after the protests it celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month at its Newburg, New York branch, and got it reported without any mention of its lending record, much less the challenge.

But at least on M&T, the word got out in New York and New Jersey, where Hudson is based. Watch this site.

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