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In 2013 Disparities at Citi, Chase, BofA & Wells as Fed Lax on M&T, US Bank

By Matthew R. Lee

SOUTH BRONX NY, April 5, 2014 -- In the first study of the just-released 2013 mortgage lending data, Inner City Press and Bronx-based Fair Finance Watch have found that high cost loans and disparities by race and ethnicity in denials and higher-cost lending continued at the Big Four banking behemoths Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo - and spread to US Bank, M&T and Capital One.

  2013 is the tenth year in which the data distinguishes which loans are higher cost, over a federally-defined rate spread of 1.5 percent over Treasury bill yields.

  The just released data show that Wells Fargo confined African Americans to higher-cost loans above this rate spread 2.01 times more frequently than whites in 2013, Fair Finance Watch has found. Bank of America also had a 2.01 disparity between African Americans and whites; Citi was 1.83 and Chase 1.64.

  Wells was even more disparate to Latinos, confined them to higher-cost loans above the rate spread 2.12 times more frequently than whites in 2013, the data show.

  Chase, too, was more disparate to Latinos then whites, confined them to higher-cost loans above the rate spread 1.81 times more frequently than whites in 2013, versus a 1.64 disparate for African Americans. Citi had a higher denial rate for Latinos (17.3%) than for African American (17.1%).

  "Even after the bailouts, lending disparities grew worse and not better," said Fair Finance Watch. "Regulatory laxity, at least on fair lending, has continued despite the financial meltdown caused by predatory lending. Given the proposed changes to the housing finance system, these disparities must be addressed."

  At Capital One, now the fifth largest bank, African Americans got denied for HMDA-reported loans 61.5% of the time, and Latinos 63.4% of the time.

  At M&T, whose application to acquire Hudson City Savings Bank Fair Finance Watch and NCRC have opposed since October 2012, African American were confirmed to high cost loans 1.81 times more frequently than whites in 2013, and were denied 1.97 times more frequently than whites.

  "The Federal Reserve is becoming more and more bank-friendly, including recently saying it will not re-open its comment period on M&T - Hudson despite this new data," Fair Finance Watch said.

  Another bank FFW has challenged, Mercantile in Michigan, cynically provided its data only in paper form so that it could not be analyzed. "It remains unclear if the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will get to this problem," Fair Finance Watch continued. "The disparities in the 2013 mortgage data of these banks further militate for aggressively watchdogging and breaking up the big banks."

  And so Fair Finance Watch and Inner City Press have re-doubled watchdogging. Challenged by the groups in 2014 and still pending, with FOIA issues, are applications by BancorpSouth, Old National and US Bank to acquire over 90 branches from Royal Bank of Scotland.

On that, Inner City Press has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for the entirety of a largely redacted / black-out response by US Bank, showing that several RBS products would be dropped.

  Now that US Bank has admitted to the Federal Reserve that it would eliminate Charter One's Credit Builder and energy efficiency loan programs, and make it more difficult for the customers it would acquire to avoid fees, the Fed should schedule public hearings. So far, the comment period was re-opened and extended to April 25, when more analysis will be submitted.

  The Home Mortgage Disclosure Act required that the 2013 data be provided by March 31, following March 1 joint requests by Fair Finance Watch and Inner City Press. Some banks did not provide their data by the deadline, despite confirming receipt of the request. Further studies will follow: watch this site.


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