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Lakeland Bank DOJ Deal Left Disparities So Protest Now Fed Rubber Stamps Provident

by Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Book Substack

SOUTH BRONX, NY, April 11– When the US Department of Justice sued and immediately settled with Lakeland Bank for fair lending violations, it announced a proposed merger with Provident Bank.

As if to sweep it under the carpet.

And when Fair Finance Watch looked into it, it found that the DOJ settlement did not address in any way the banks' disparities in New York. So on December 1, the FDIC's comment deadline, it filed a protest, with Inner City Press on the FOIA.

Jump cut to March 15, 2023, when Provident's Deputy General Counsel filed a letter with the New York Fed, cc-ing Rodgin Cohen - only on New Jersey, nothing on the disparities in New York.

On January 18 Provident asked two Board questions - by withholding the entire answers. Inner City Press immediately FOIAed: "The entire response is withheld, about fair lending compliance, including public commitments that are unfulfilled. This cannot stand; the information must be provided before the Board acts in any way on the application (other than denial.)"

Jump cut to mid-February: while still not providing the withheld past answer, the Fed asked more questions. Letter here.

On February 27 Provident provided spin, including that "under the consent order that it entered into with the U.S. Department of Justice.  These obligations require Lakeland Bank to, among other things, establish a $12  million loan subsidy fund to increase credit for consumers applying for loans in  majority-Black and Hispanic census tracts in a five-county area in and around  Newark, New Jersey" - but nothing where other disparities. Letter here.

On April 11, 2024, the Fed hauled off and approved, noting Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch "objected to the proposal, alleging that in 2021, Provident Bank and Lakeland Bank made no home loans to African American individuals in New York State.30 30  The data cited by the commenter corresponds to publicly available 2021 data by Provident Bank and Lakeland Bank under HMDA. Following consummation of the proposed transaction, the combined organization will add to its assessment area Bronx and Kings counties, each of which includes a significant number of majority-minority and LMI communities... The Board also has considered the DOJ Consent Order, including Lakeland Bank’s efforts towards meeting its obligations under the DOJ Consent Order, and that the DOJ Consent Order binds Provident without further action by the Board." We'll see.

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