Fair Finance Watch: Watchdogging & Taking Action from the South Bronx to the UN and now SDNY

Click here for daily global news reports, from the United Nations and elsewhere.

"A ‘Sea Change’ at the Fed Could Open the Door to Bank Mergers," Bloomberg News: “Hudson City Minority Loans Faces Probe as M&T Deal Idles;  Settled - Fight continues Disparities Continued at Citi, Chase, BofA & Wells as Fed Lax on M&T, US Bank & Smaller; "Mercantile and Firstbank merger will likely be delayed, Consumer protection group alleges Mercantile Bank loaned no money to minorities" Ogemaw County Herald Follow us on TWITTER  BloggingHeads.tv Click here for ICP Books

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Fair Finance Watch is a Non-Governmental Organization Focused on the Fairness of the Financial Services Industries - Banking, Insurance and Securities - to Local Communities, Urban and Rural, North and (Global) South, including under Human Rights Laws

FFW researches, documents and advocates around financial firms' activities, and how they affect local communities. FFW files its findings with tribunals, regulatory agencies, and elsewhere, including on this Web site.

From Coinbase Brooks Into OCC Says Will Not Regulate Entities Or Obey SDNY or CRA

By Matthew R. Lee, Patreon
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - CJR - PFT

UN GATE / SDNY COURT, Sept 1, 2020 – Acting U.S. Comptroller of the Currency Brian Brooks, as Coinbase’s chief legal officer,  was paid $1.4 million in salary -- separate from the stock options -- in the year and a half he spent with company, which had weighed seeking a charter through the OCC before making other moves to access the banking system."

  Now Brooks says, "I'm increasingly thinking of this agency as an activities regulator, not an entity regulator." But since the Community Reinvestment Act is enforced with regard to entities, this is an even more egregious attach on CRA than Otting engaged in. Combined with Brooks open contempt for rulings of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, it shows why he should be removed as Comptroller.

 On his conflicts of interest, Inner City Press asked - and then requested under FOIA - what are the "other tech firms" as to which Brooks is acknowledging a conflict.

   The OCC wrote to Inner City Press, faux apologizing for withholding information it has requested about Otting until after he had left the agency. Inner City Press immediately wrote back requesting a copy of Brooks' ethics letter and list of companies as to which even he acknowledges a conflict of interest.

  On June 18, that simple request was denied and so a FOIA request was filed, see below.

  And now more than a month later on July 22 the OCC has provide to Inner City Press under FOIA a copy of the ethics memo that Brooks is recused on: Amazon (minus AWS), Avant, Aventas, Merrill Lynch, CoinBase, EarnUp, Spring Labs, TextIQ - and Citibank N.A. residential mortgage business." We'll have more on this.

July 28, 2020, Hartford Daily Voice, "Ex-Employees Accuse People's United Bank Of Discrimination  Kristin Palpini, "Fair Finance Watch tried to block People’s from acquiring Framington Bank alleging People’s has a record of discriminatory lending," https://dailyvoice.com/connecticut/hartford/business/ex-employees-accuse-peoples-united-bank-of-discrimination/791591/

March 18, 2020, Shelterforce, "Trump Agencies Resist Calls to Suspend Non-Essential Rulemaking," by Miriam Axel-Lute, "'In light of the Coronavirus / COVID-19 crisis, leading to the shutdown of some courts, shelter in place orders and regulatory extensions even by the SEC,' the OCC and FDIC comment period be extended for months, wrote Matthew Lee of Fair Finance Watch in a formal comment to the OCC," https://shelterforce.org/2020/03/18/federal-agencies-resist-calls-suspend-rulemaking/

Barron's, Jan 31, 2018, "A ‘Sea Change’ at the Fed Could Open the Door to Bank Mergers," By Ben Walsh, "Barron’s spoke to one group, Fair Finance Watch, that submitted comments in the Cadence and Synovus transactions. Matthew Lee, the group’s executive director says he believes that the Fed’s approval structure creates makes it necessary for groups like his to file CRA comments to ensure that transactions are given appropriate review," https://www.barrons.com/articles/federal-reserve-is-seen-helping-bank-mergers-51548943990

July 31, 2018, People's United “Bank buyout challenged over lending record,” By Howard French, Journal Inquirer http://www.journalinquirer.com/business/bank-buyout-challenged-over-lending-record/article_7ebbbb20-94d9-11e8-8b75-ef58d76f8c15.html

Jan 18, 2018, Shelterforce, on Wells Fargo branch closings: https://shelterforce.org/2018/01/20/shelter-shorts-week-community-development-jan-19/

May 2, 2017: “Watchdog group opposes Sterling Bancorp, Astoria Financial merger,” Westchester County Business Journal https://westfaironline.com/88802/watchdog-group-opposes-sterling-bancorp-astoria-financial-merger/

Dec 20, 2016, NYCB-Astoria withdrawn: http://www.insidemortgagefinance.com/imfnews/1_1007/daily/nycb-and-astoria-financial-cancel-their-merger-1000039503-1.html

August 15, 2016: "People’s United Bank faces opposition in proposed acquisition of New York bank," Connecticut Post

April 25, 2016: "Fed extends comment period on application by Huntington Bancshares to acquire FirstMerit Corp," Crain's Cleveland Business

April 2, 2016: "Scrutiny, suit delay local bank sale," S.C. Post & Courier

November 17, 2015: "Pending sale of First Niagara generates investigations into shareholder interests," Buffalo Business First

September 15, 2015: “Hudson City Savings Bank agrees to $32.75M mortgage discrimination settlement,” Bergen (NJ) Record

July 17, 2015: "Fed probes RBC role in City National loan, possibly delaying merger deal," Scott Reckard, LA Times

April 15, 2015: “Hudson City Minority Loans Faces Probe as M&T Deal Idles,” Bloomberg News

April 29, 2014: “U.S. Bank closing 13 branches in Charter One buyout,” Crain's Chicago Business

April 5, 2104: In 2013 Disparities Continued at Citi, Chase, BofA & Wells as Fed Lax on M&T, US Bank & Smaller

November 29, 2013: "Mercantile and Firstbank merger will likely be delayed, Consumer protection group alleges Mercantile Bank loaned no money to minorities in 2012," by Eric Young, Ogemaw County Herald

November 29, 2013, "Mercantile, Alma bank merger is under protest," Grand Rapids Business Journal

November 25, 2103, "Federal Reserve holds up merger of Mercantile Bank Corp. and FirstBank Corp. over minority lending practices," by Jim Harger, MLive/Grand Rapids Press

4/1/13 -- CRA: In 2012 Disparities Continued at Citi, Chase, BofA & Wells as Fed Lax, ICP Studies & Challenges.

Back on the bank beat, October 2012: "M&T deal is challenged over inner-city lending," by Jonathan Epstein, Buffalo News, Oct. 10, 2012

"Fair lending advocate challenging Hudson City-M&T merger," by Richard Newman, NJ Record, Oct. 12, 2012

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press -- then there was some push back, documents here

4/3/11 -- In 2010 Subprime Lending Grew More Disparate at Citi, Chase, Wells & BofA

3/13/11 - “Flag raised on merger of Hancock, Whitney banks,” New Orleans Times Picayune

2/17/10 -- FFW in The Guardian (UK), Feb. 16, 2010, on Wells Fargo's subprime

4/2/09 -- Subprime Survivors Wells, BofA and JPM Chase Were More Disparate By Race in 2008 than Wachovia or Countrywide, Study Finds

7, 2008 -- First Study of 2007 lending data, disparities at Chase, Citigroup, WaMu, Wachovia, Bank of America and Countrywide, in run-up to Federal Reserve public hearings. Bank Beat: Disparities at targets National City and KeyCorp, US Bancorp's HOEPA loans

Housing group challenges Fed's Bear Stearns deal (Reuters of March 16, 2008)

Campaign advisers tied to lending crisis
(USA Today of April 2, 2008, re subprime Delta)

July 4, 2007 - 1st challenge to ABN Amro's proposes sale of LaSalle to Bank of America

April 10, 2007 - Subprime Racial Disparities By Banks in New York State Worse than at Countrywide, Which Settled Predatory Lending Charges in NYS in 2006

April 4, 2007 - First study of 2006 HMDA data and see, "Banks Prone to Sell Minorities Pricy Loans," Reuters / Washington Post

2006 - FFW study of mortgage lending in Detroit: Ameriquest, Citigroup

Some coverage (click here for more): HSBC Faces Bid Challenge,” by Conal Walsh, The Observer, September 18, 2005

2005 -- FFW's Campaign against Riggs Bank’s cheap settlement for money laundering for human rights abusers, and the sale of Riggs to PNC - click here.

Also, on this site, FFW's analysis of Equatorial Guinea - click here

Navigate using the map below, on which the area names are links:

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 United States          FFW Campaigns    In Other Media      Non-USA/Global

         FFW researches, documents and advocates around financial firms' activities, and how they affect local communities. FFW files its findings with tribunals, regulatory agencies, and elsewhere, including on this Web site . Click here to view analyses of several multinational financial institutions' effects on consumers and the environment, worldwide: for two examples, Citigroup and HSBC. Click here for some initial brainstorming on the application of human rights and international law to the global financial services companies, and for citations (where possible, links) to resource material.  Click here for some September 2004 campaigns -- PNC/Riggs (Finance Watch Reports of August 16, 2004, onwards), J.P. Morgan Chase, etc..  Click here for an ongoing report on the campaign to reform anti-money laundering, tax haven, and bank secrecy laws.   Click here for the Human Rights Enforcement project, including its new (9/04) criminal justice and local human rights project.

2/05 -- FFW's Campaign against Riggs Bank’s cheap settlement for money laundering for human rights abusers, and the sale of Riggs to PNC - click here

Money Laundering Alert named Fair Finance Watch its “Hero” for November 2004 - click here to view

Beginnings of a FFW initiative:

Human Rights & Finance: Predatory Lending in a Deregulated Network Economy

    If the biggest names in finance -- Citigroup, HSBC, General Electric and AIG -- have been engaged in predatory lending in the United States, there's a need for an inquiry into their behavior in less regulated economies internationally.

    An inescapable trend in this new millennium is the export of subprime lending models beyond the United States. Citigroup, following its acquisition of Associates First Capital Corporation in late 2000, began offering subprime loans to lower-income consumers in countries from Brazil and Mexico to India and Korea. The Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) bought Household International a mere month after Household settled predatory lending charges with attorneys general in 42 states for half a billion dollars. In making the deal, HSBC chairman Sir John Bond said that the profits would come from exporting Household's model to the 81 other countries in which HSBC does business; a month later, HSBC announced it would compete in subprime with Citigroup in Brazil.

    From Australia through North America and back to Eastern Europe, General Electric, through its GE Capital unit, has developed a subprime lending capacity on which the sun never sets. The insurance company AIG has more quietly taken the subprime lending model of American General, which AIG bought in 2001, to the other countries in which AIG goes business.

    This consensus around high-rate lending in emerging markets by the world's largest bank (Citigroup), insurer (AIG) and corporation (GE) is indicative of the way in which corporate interests are currently out-stripping (or out-racing) regulation and the public interest. The lenders and their strategies are global, but the laws are at most national, and in some cases state-, county- or merely citywide. In the absence of meaningful regulation, lenders like Citigroup and Household view settlement agreements as a cost of doing business. Both have announced unilateral "best practices" commitments that are applicable by their terms only in the United States (or only in the geographic footprint of the consumers organizations with which they make the announcements). In the short term, there is a need to combat this race to the bottom, similar to anti-sweatshop campaigns and environmental advocacy. In the longer term, there is a need for meaningful global regulation, from a consumer and community point of view, of these emerging global lenders.

     Related to this inquiry is the view that predatory lending is not only a consumer protection and financial soundness issue -- it is also a human rights issue. This argument holds that various nations' signing of, for example, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) require them to inquire into and act on the predatory lending that exists in, and is being exported into, their countries. Article 2(1)(d) of the ICERD, for example, requires that "[e]ach state party shall prohibit and bring to an end by all appropriate means, including legislation as required by the circumstances, racial discrimination by any person, group or organization." As explored below, and elsewhere, this may be one avenue to pursue accountability in global high-rate subprime lending.

    It is important to inquire into how -- and where, and at what interest rates -- global lenders exported predatory lending in the initial years of the 21st century: for example (for now), Citigroup, HSBC, AIG, Wells Fargo and GE.

A Sketched Historical Overview

     While the top end of the financial services industry has for many years been transnational, the second half of the 1990s saw a quickening of "globalization," of the expansion, via acquisitions, of financial firms based in what, from the 1950s through the 1980s, was known as the "First World: the United States, Europe, and Japan.

     Simultaneously, the financial services industries in these countries were being deregulated, best exemplified by the U.S. Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, which allows the convergence of the banking, insurance and securities industry, and eliminated most requirements for prior regulatory approval for "overseas" acquisitions.

   From whence, then, will much-needed consumer, environmental and social protections come?  Existing supra-national institutions -- the World Trade Organization and the Bank for International Settlements, for example -- appear to have little interest in social regulation. These institutions perceive their mandate as being to "open," deregulated and standardize such things as accounting guidelines and capital adequacy standards in the Second and "Third" Worlds -- which, not unrelatedly, makes further penetration by the First World firms possible, even, inevitable. The United Nations, to date, has not been able to assert meaningful jurisdiction over multinational corporations, at least not in the financial industry.

     It is at this crossroads that the Fair Finance Watch works.   Click here for Overview Part 2: Lender Liability. For or with more information, contact us.

Some pages on this site are low / no graphics, for our dial-up friends in the developing world(s).

Also for More information, see:
Human Rights & Finance: Predatory Lending in a Deregulated Network Economy

Copyright 2005-2007 Fair Finance Watch
Phone: (718) 716-3540. E-mail: Lee [at] FairFinanceWatch.org