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Citigroup's Subprime Settlement on the Cheap A New Predatory Stage

By Matthew R. Lee

NEW YORK, July 14 -- As Citigroup settles charges for its subprime lending for $7 billion dollars, the amount and the how the settlement is divided is but a new predatory stage.

  Less than 40% of the settlement even arguably goes to consumers who were wronged. The US government itself takes more than half of the money, an even higher percentage than in JPMorgan Chase's $13 billion settlement (in which the $4 million for consumer relief was double the $2 billion the Justice Department took).

  As Inner City Press and Fair Finance Watch repeatedly showed, including to the Federal Reserve, the moment Citicorp and Travelers merged, Citi became a predator. CitiFinancial based compensation on how badly consumers could be gouged, including selling credit insurance of no possible value to the purchaser.

  The Federal Reserve, based on this, imposed a $75 million fine which did nothing to stop Citi's behavior. After the meltdown and bailout, now this is a scam settlement meant to give the impression of a government crack-down. It is not.

   Even while the mega-banks take a pause from acquisitions, needed watchdog work continues on mid-sized banks like Valley National, whose attempt to buy into affluent Florida markets through 1st United Bank is subject to a Community Reinvestment Act challenge and pending Freedom of Information Act appeal by Inner City Press.

  Why were and are communities of color susceptible to predatory lending? Because they are redlined by FDIC-insured banks like Valley National Bank.

  In the New York City Metropolitan Statistical Area in 2012, the most recent year for which Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data is publicly available, for refinance loans, Valley National made 2152 such loans to whites and only 38 to African Americans -- entirely of keeping with the demographics and demographics of home ownership in the New York City MSA. Valley National denied 67% of such applications from African Americans, versus only 34.5% of such application from white.

   Valley National Bank's branch pattern in New York City is indicative of redlining: in Manhattan, nothing 88th Street, no branches in Harlem, Washington Heights or The Bronx, predominantly African American and Latinos, low and moderate income areas. In Queens, it's Middle Village and Kew Gardens. In Brooklyn, Valley National's branches are along Ocean Parkway and in Bay Ridge. What about East New York, Brownsville, Bushwick and Bedford Stuyvesant?

  Along with groups in NCRC, Fair Finance Watch has shown a similar pattern in New Jersey, where in the Newark MSA for refinance loans in 2012, Valley National Bank made 2338 such loans to whites and only 44 to African Americans.

  But these patterns are not acted on -- rather, longstanding predatory lending like Citigroup's is laundered into a smoke and mirror settlement that is, in context, impunity. Watch this site.


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