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On OCC Attack on CRA Even Bankers Say More Analysis Needed As Gramm Chimes In

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
The Source - The Root - etc

Bronx / DC, Jan 15 –  With US Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting on December 12 formally moving along with the FDIC to undermine the  Community Reinvestment Act, now with comment period to March 9, on January 14 a hearing was held in the House Financial Services Committee - about but without Otting, a regulator not only rogue but also reclusive. He will appear, it is said, later in the month.

 And in advance of that, even the bankers' trade group Consumer Bankers Association has written to the House that "More analysis must be undertaken by  stakeholders to better understand the impact the new metrics that will be used to measure  CRA activity for individual institutions and the communities they can serve.     It is crucial that the OCC and FDIC engage with  stakeholders to carefully analyze the real impact of the proposed changes on CRA deserts and  hot spots, to make sure that sufficient incentives are provided to induce banks to serve the  hard-to-reach areas that are most in need of investment."

  Perhaps that's why OCC has taken to contacting some groups outside of the too-short formal commenting process. Will such contacts - some say intimidation - be subject to FOIA, unless Otting undermines it by imposing outrageous fees?

  Former Senator Phil Gramm has chimed in in the Wall Street Journal, linking Otting's proposal to a movement to free banks to lend to payday lenders. Indeed.

  At the January 14 hearing, Rep. Pressley of Massachusetts, for example, pointed out that under Otting's and the FDIC's proposal, a bank could get CRA credit for funding a stadium and jumbotron in low or moderate income area, and other forms of gentrification.

  Too little, however, was said of Otting's attacks since he took office on the enforcement mechanism of CRA: the public comment process on proposed mergers. Otting has denied access to merger application by imposing unheard of fees, and has refused to consider timely comments. We'll have more on this - including in connection with merger comments just filed, see, below.

  The January 14 session was entitled "The Community Reinvestment Act: Reviewing Who Wins and Who Loses with Comptroller Otting's Proposal;" it was held in the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions. See Periscope video here (including Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch live comments.)

On January 11 Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch filed a CRA protest with the OCC to Community Bank NA's application to acquire Steuben Trust Company:

"Dear Deputy Comptroller Kiefer, Ms. Cummings and others in the OCC, including Barry Weides (and Otting) --      This is a timely first comment opposing and requesting an extension of the OCC's public comment period on the Application by Community Bank NA to acquire Steuben Trust Company.       This comment is timely. Community Bank N.A. is getting worse and worse. Even as reflected by the too-limited 2018 HMDA data available on the CFPB's website, in New York State in 2018 Community Bank NA made 3636 loans to whites - and only FIFTEEN to African Americans, out of proportion to the demographics of its service area and of other lenders' activities in it.       

Significantly, while Community Bank NA in NYS in 2020 originated six loans to whites for each of its denials to whites, for African Americans it made only 1.66 loans to every denial. See attached, for hte records. CBNA is 3.6 times more disparate to African Americans than whites, denying then 3.6 times more frequently than whites, worse than its peers       This application should be denied. And for the record, the CFPB's elimination of the HMDA informaiton that has been available on the FFIEC's and even its own website for 2017 data is part of the destruction of CRA and HMDA of which the OCC is a part.      

Also for the record, CBNA is bragging about closing branches, to investment analysts:     "During Community Bank's earnings conference call, CEO Mark Tryniski provided some commentary on the pending deal:  [W]e're thrilled to be partnering with Steuben Trust Corporation, a $570 million asset bank in Western New York. This is a high-value, lower-risk transaction of a solid performing in-market institution. We have considerable close proximity branch overlap and so also have consolidation opportunities."      

Each branch closing plan must be disclosed before the comment period closes, and public hearings should be held.          In this context, the comment period should be extended so that public evidentiary hearings can be held, and the application should be denied." Watch this site.


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