California Reinvestment Coalition comments on CITNA Bank Community Reinvestment

Editor’s note: Earlier this month, CRC submitted the following letter as part of CITNA Bank’s Community Reinvestment Act exam.  For more information on CRC’s concerns with OneWest’s and CIT Bank’s reinvestment histories, visit www.badbankmerger.com.

November 16, 2015

Assistant Deputy Comptroller Robert Phelps
Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
Chicago Midsize Office
1 South Wacker Drive Suite 2000
Chicago, IL 60606

Cindy Tran
CRA Officer
CITBNA, N.A.
888 East Walnut Street
Pasadena, CA 91101

Re:       CRC comments regarding CITBNA CRA and Fair Lending Examination

Dear Mr. Phelps and Ms. Tran,

The California Reinvestment Coalition submits these comments on CIT Bank’s (CITBNA) CRA performance in California. We request that these comments be considered as part of the OCC’s current CRA and fair lending examination of CITBNA. We further request that these comments be placed in CITBNA’s Public CRA File.

The California Reinvestment Coalition (CRC), based in San Francisco, is a nonprofit membership organization of nonprofit organizations and public agencies across the state of California. We work with community-based organizations to promote the economic revitalization of California’s low-income communities and communities of color through access to financial institutions. CRC promotes increased access to credit for affordable housing and economic development for these communities.

On the heels of a contentious bank merger process that revealed multiple CRA and fair lending concerns raised by a large number of organizations and individuals, we urge the OCC to:

Consider the Extensive Record from the Merger Process

We opposed the Bank’s recent merger in what was one of the most protested bank mergers in recent history. Over 21,000 individuals and over 100 organizations registered concerns. The OCC and the Federal Reserve held a rare public hearing at which a large number of organizations and consumers testified to certain CRA weaknesses and consumer protection failures of the Bank, while also raising a number of fair housing and fair lending concerns.

There were a number of compelling stories of abuse recounted by OneWest and Financial Freedom customers and their families, and a number of compelling stories offered by community development practitioners in the Bank’s assessment area, documenting and lamenting the Bank’s poor CRA performance. We understand that all of relevant information, testimony, comment letters and other evidence presented during the merger process will be considered as part of this exam.

CRC hereby resubmits our eighth comment letter on the merger, attached, which calls for a fair lending investigation into evidence of disparities in the Bank’s foreclosure, lending, branch, REO property maintenance, and reverse mortgage servicing practices. Prior letters raised numerous concerns about the Bank’s poor reinvestment record, its weak reinvestment commitments, and its problematic compliance with consumer protection laws and regulations. We appreciate that the OCC will consider all of these comments, and those of all commenters, during this examination process.

In fact, the OCC conditional approval order suggested that a number of issues raised during the merger were better addressed during the CRA and fair lending examinations of the Bank. In discussing concerns about OneWest Bank’s foreclosure and REO property maintenance practices, the OCC notes it will “continue to assess potential discrimination as part of its supervisory process.”[1] Pursuant to 12 CFR 25.28(c), the results of the OCC’s evaluation of a bank’s CRA performance may be adversely affected by evidence of discriminatory or other illegal credit practices. In that regard, we note the most recently published CRA Evaluation of Bank of America which resulted in a lower CRA Rating for Bank of America in light of fair lending and credit practices concerns and settlements.[2]

Scrutinize and Investigate Questionable Letters of “Support”

While we certainly agree that the OCC should consider all public comments submitted during the merger process, including those of bank supporters and positive comments about the Bank’s performance, we urge the OCC to scrutinize those emails resulting from the Bank’s solicitation of support letters for the merger via its website, which resulted in several form letters being submitted. The OCC on the 2nd page of its merger approval order notes, “Approximately 1,700 of the letters resulted from an email campaign initiated by CITG and OWB seeking support for the merger.”[3]

Yet, as CRC has noted previously, we have come to understand that a number of these alleged “supporters” may not have supported the merger at all, and we are very much concerned about the prospect that the public comment process was manipulated and that certain “letters of support” were fraudulent.

Early on, CRC did notice certain irregularities in the email addresses expressing support for the Bank. Then CRC received a disturbing email on September 21, 2015. An individual, apparently under the misunderstanding that CRC supported this merger, expressed dismay that a letter of support for the OneWest CIT Bank merger was sent to the regulators in his name. He decried the “bogus email” support letter, and noted it “is not mine and I did not authorize or send this email, and I did not authorize for you to use my name and address to be used for any support of One West and CIT Merger, I have no affiliation or whatsoever to this companies and would like you to stop using my name, address or email address…”

Most troubling, the individual indicates that somebody created a yahoo email address using his full name, without his knowledge. It appears that this same email was also sent to the OCC and the Federal Reserve Board. It is unclear what steps if any the OCC and the Federal Reserve plan to take in response to this email.

This email is shocking and suggests that one or more people may have manipulated the public comment process and committed a fraud on the federal regulatory agencies which rely on public input to inform their deliberations.  In follow up “spot checks” of about 150 email addresses attributed to the petition organized by OneWest’s CEO, at least 25 of the email addresses appear to be non-existent.

In an attachment of 593 petitions in support of OneWest’s call to not hold a public hearing, posted on the Federal Reserve’s website, 100% of the petition signers had Yahoo email accounts- an oddity that adds to our concerns (Yahoo has, approximately, a 3% market share for email accounts).  We further understand that when an email was sent to these individual email addresses, 30%, or 180 of the 593 emails, bounced back, and for the handful of people who replied to the email, some may have indicated that they actually had not supported the merger as their “petitions” purportedly suggested.

Moreover, if the “time stamps” on the emails are accurate, there was an extremely large number of people who cared enough about this merger to sign onto their computers in the middle of the night- with a large number of emails being sent to the Federal Reserve and OCC around 2am on the night of February 13, 2015.

It occurs to us that it is only happenstance that the individual noted above discovered that his name was used improperly and fraudulently, and that it is not to be expected that this information would have ever found its way to us or to the regulators. In other words, if other people had their names used without their authorization, and if unauthorized Yahoo email accounts were created on their behalf, this fraud may have gone undetected. There is no reasonable explanation for all of these oddities occurring relating to “support” letters sent via the Bank’s website.

We accuse no specific person or organization of wrongdoing. But at the same time we are greatly disturbed at the possibility that the OCC and the Federal Reserve community input process may have been compromised. The CRA is a law that allows for and encourages community participation and in so doing, allows for a community perspective to be considered by regulators as they determine how best to supervise, regulate and oversee financial institutions.

We urge the OCC and the Federal Reserve to investigate this matter further, and we would hope that CITBNA would likewise be interested in helping regulators get to the bottom of this. How many letters of support were submitted to the regulators without the knowledge of the purported author? Who is responsible? And what are the regulators going to do about it in order to send the message that manipulating a public process is a serious offense, and to ensure this does not happen again?

Do the Federal Reserve and OCC public comment email systems (and OWB website) have safeguards to “catch” such oddities?  A similar issue occurred in the recent “net neutrality” debate, and the system used to process Congress’ email was able to catch fraudulent emails.

Consider New CRA Performance Data for CITBNA Which Shows Continuing Problems

New data made public and analyzed after the conditional merger approval order further demonstrate that CITBNA (CIT and OWB) has not been meeting community credit needs.

Philanthropy. As one example, according to the OCC’s conditional approval order, the level of OWB CRA qualifying contributions in its assessment areas since its last Performance Evaluation appears to have gone done for each of the last 4 years:

  • $1,675,500 in 2012;
  • $1,127,900 in 2013;
  • $1,054,000 in 2014; and
  • $302,000 as of May 2015.[4]

CITBNA apparently commits to increase the size of annual contributions to $5 million per year, which is positive. Yet, given the Bank’s presence and size in California and data received from 17 California banks, we estimate that 12 or 13 other banks devote a higher percentage of their deposits for CRA purposes than will CITBNA under its new CRA commitment. Again, CITBNA lags its peers.

CRC urges all banks to devote at least .025% of California deposits towards philanthropy in California, and that 50% of all contributions should support critical housing and economic development activities. OWB’s past performance and CITBNA’s most recent commitments do not suggest it will meet these benchmarks.

Affordable Housing. CITBNA has identified affordable housing as a priority need in its assessment area. Yet the Bank notes that “mortgage lending will not be the primary focus of CITBNA,” that Low Income Housing Tax Credits “will not be appropriate investments for CITBNA,” and that “multifamily lending historically has not been a key part of its loan origination strategy.”[5] Which leads one to wonder how CITBNA plans to address the critical community need it has identified. The Bank noted that it originated $89 million in CRA-qualifying multifamily loans in LMI census tracts since its inception, but it does not specify whether these loans would qualify as Community Development loans for CRA purposes, and whether these loans financed the development or preservation of deed restricted affordable housing (see below for a further illustration of how multifamily lending does not allows help, and can actually harm, low income communities).[6] We trust this information will be forthcoming in the bank’s CRA exam results.

Community Development. We urge the OCC to continue to scrutinize activities for which the Bank seeks community development credit. We note again that one of the Bank’s Responses to an Additional Information Request during the merger process revealed that OneWest overstated its community development loan activity by a whopping $75 million in an October 30, 2014 letter and had to revise and reduce its projections based on feedback from its regulator. The record should be clear as to what kinds of lending OneWest improperly sought to classify as community development lending, and more information should be provided on what kinds of loans OneWest still counts as “community development lending.”

Relatedly, CRC recently became aware that certain other banks (not necessarily OWB or CITBNA) were seeking CRA community development credit for loans made to investors to purchase small, Rent Controlled buildings in LMI tracts, without the regulator (or perhaps the lenders) knowing that the investor purchasers plans were to evict all of the tenants (mostly seniors, low income, long term, and often, of color) and to convert the low cost rental housing into expensive homeownership Tenancies in Common. Regulators must scrutinize purported community development lending and investments to ensure that these activities actually benefit communities.

Additionally, the Bank in its Draft CIT Bank, NA Community Benefits Plan sets an investment goal that is opaque, in that it targets investments to 8% of Tier 1 Deployed Capital. CRC urges all institutions to devote at least .25% of California deposits for community development investments each year. Additionally, CITBNA should not rely on Mortgage Backed Securities to meet its community development investment targets, as MBS are generally not impactful or value added for community development activities.

Home Lending. In 2014, OneWest appears to have originated only 102 first lien, home purchase or refinance loans in California. Of these 102 loans:

  • Only 1 was originated to an African American borrower
  • Only 6 were originated to Asian borrowers
  • Only 7 were originated to Latino borrowers
  • Only 14 loans were originated to LMI borrowers, compared to 77 to upper income borrowers
  • Only 38 loans were originated in neighborhoods of color, which is not impressive for a bank with an assessment area focused around Los Angeles
  • Only 6 loans were originated in LMI neighborhoods.

These home lending numbers are very low in terms of overall home lending originated to California homeowners and homebuyers, and also well below the proportional lending by the industry as a whole in California. For all HMDA reporters in 2014 in California, lending to:

  • African American borrowers comprised 2.8% of all loans, compared to 1% for OWB
  • Asian borrowers comprised 13.5%, compared to 6% for OWB
  • Latino borrowers comprised 16.8%, compared to 7% for OWB
  • Neighborhoods of color comprised 47%, compared to 38% for OWB
  • LMI neighborhoods comprised 16%, compared to 6% for OWB.

The Bank only approximated the industry benchmark for lending to LMI borrowers, at 14% of all loans. Yet the industry as a whole doubled CITBNA’s proportional lending to African American, Asian American, and Latino borrowers, as well as to Low and Moderate Income neighborhoods, raising both fair lending and CRA concerns.

Small Business Lending. For small business lending, OneWest appears to have originated only 70 CRA reportable loans in 2014 in California, down from 88 loans in 2013:

  • Only 1 of these loans was in an amount less than $100,000
  • Only 10 of these loans were in amounts of $100,000 to $250,000
  • Fully 59 of these loans were in amounts over $250,000
  • Only 26 loans, or 37% of “small business” loans, were made to smaller businesses with less than $1 million in revenue.

For CIT small business lending in 2014, the Bank originated 448 small business loans in California, offering loans in lower loan sizes (this is positive), but not to smaller businesses (this is not positive):

  • 291 of these loans were in amounts less than $100,000
  • 126 loans were in amounts between $100,000 and $250,000
  • 31 loans were in amounts over $250,000
  • Yet zero of these “small business” loans were to small businesses with under $1 million in gross revenue.

Of 518 CRA reportable small business loans in 2014 from OWB and CIT, only 26 loans, or a paltry 5%, were to smaller businesses, those with less than $1 million in revenue. CRC urges all institutions to strive for fully 50% of all small business lending to be for businesses with under $1 million in revenue.

Branches and deposits. According to publicly available branch and deposit data analyzed via the CRA Wiz program for 2014:

  • Of 74 CITBNA California branches, only 8, or 10.8% of branches were in LMI neighborhoods. This is even less than the low percentages discussed during the merger. Perhaps this reflects a lag in data reporting, and the actual proportion of branches in LMI neighborhoods is slightly higher. Regardless, the industry in California has roughly twice the proportion of branches in LMI communities than does CITBNA.
  • Of 74 CITBNA California branches, only 31, or 42% of branches are in neighborhoods of color, even though 57% of deposits derive from neighborhoods of color.

Taken together, the data do not reflect the performance of a Bank that is helping to meet community credit needs: almost no home lending to LMI borrowers and neighborhoods, miniscule small business lending to smaller businesses, no multifamily loan products, plans to reduce investments in Low Income Housing Tax Credits which help finance affordable housing development, decreasing philanthropy through May of 2015, low branch presence in LMI communities (even compared to peers), but continuing foreclosures and fair lending concerns.

Consider the Large Number of Consumer Complaints That Have Been Filed Against CITBNA

One important measure of how well a Bank is meeting community credit needs can be found in consumer complaint data. The CFPB Consumer Complaint Database represents a primary, accessible, uniform way in which consumers can express their concerns about bank performance.

A review of the CFPB database reveals that nearly 1,400 complaints have been filed by consumers with the CFPB against CITBNA (CIT and OWB) since December 2011. Most of these complaints (90%, or 1,270 complaints) are related to CITBNA’s “Mortgage” products; of which 209 are related to “reverse mortgages.”  It appears that over 50 reverse mortgage complaints have been filed with the CFPB against OWB and CITBNA in 2015, since the CFPB’s initial data reporting of complaints through 2014.

CRC has filed a lawsuit challenging HUD’s denial of our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) fee waiver request in which we are seeking additional information about the number of complaints filed with HUD against OneWest relating to its reverse mortgage servicing performance, and we will be happy to share this data if we prevail in obtaining this information.

During the merger process, the FRB, via an Additional Information Request, sought data from the Bank about complaints it had received directly from consumers. The Bank reported receiving directly an astonishing 812 complaints, even though the Bank chose to report on complaints received only AFTER it sold most of its servicing rights. The OCC should determine the number of complaints received directly by the Bank during the time frame covered by this exam, and make that information part of the record and its deliberations as to whether the Bank has been meeting community credit needs.

The large number of complaints filed with the CFPB, as well as the number of complaints filed with the OCC and CITBNA directly, should be reflected in the Bank’s CRA Performance Evaluation. As we have urged with PEs of other banks, the OCC should confirm in CITBNA’s Performance Evaluation the number, nature and disposition of OCC complaints.

Further, the OCC, through this examination process and its other supervisory powers, must ensure that CITBNA and its affiliates are complying with fair housing, fair lending, and consumer protection laws, including the California Homeowner Bill of Rights and HUD HECM regulations such as Mortgagee Letter 2015-15 regarding Non Borrowing Spouses.

Consider the Harm Imposed on Communities by CITBNA

Past foreclosures. During the merger process, CRC and many other commenters pointed to the harm imposed by OWB on California communities as a result of 36,000 foreclosures, including 2,000 on reverse mortgage seniors, widows and their families.

Future foreclosures. And yet we know that CITBNA will be foreclosing on numerous additional families. A Freedom of Information Act request to the FDIC by CRC yielded the astonishing confirmation that the FDIC has paid over $1 billion to OWB under the loss share agreement to reimburse OWB for the costs of foreclosure, consistent with the agreement. But we also learned that the FDIC estimates another $1.4 billion in additional loss share payments will yet be made to CITBNA, presumably to reimburse the Bank for the costs of more than 36,000 additional foreclosures in California and untold numbers nationally.

Failure to repay $2.3 Billion in TARP. Additionally, we note once again the harm caused to U.S. Taxpayers by CIT Group in taking $2.3 billion in TARP funds, before declaring bankruptcy and wiping out its obligation to repay this money.

Reducing federal tax liability. Adding insult to injury, comments by CIT Group executives to investors suggest that the Bank intends to use its Net Operating Losses from the bankruptcy to offset expected profits from the recent merger in order to significantly reduce its federal tax obligations in ensuing years.

Reverse mortgage concerns and Non Borrowing Spouses. And of course, we reiterate concerns about potential servicing violations suffered by reverse mortgage borrowers, Non Borrowing Spouses (widows and widowers), and their families, as testified to and commented on as part of the merger process. We urge the OCC (and HUD) to closely monitor the Bank’s implementation of, and compliance with, HUD Mortgagee Letter 2015-15.

Evading HBOR accountability. We again call on the OCC to clarify that CITBNA should not invoke preemption as a way to evade accountability for alleged violations of California’s Homeowner Bill of Rights which is meant to protect residents of the Bank’s CRA assessment area from unlawful and unnecessary foreclosures. Avoiding responsibility and accountability in this way harms LMI communities and borrowers and leads to lost assets.

Confirm That the Bank Needs to Develop a Stronger CRA Plan

The Bank submitted a DRAFT CRA Plan in advance of the February 26 merger hearing. Indications from the Bank’s Community Needs Survey and the Community Day event held on October 6, 2015, suggest the Bank is NOT increasing its overall commitment of $5 billion in CRA activity over 4 years.

Under the conditional approval order, the Bank was supposed to have submitted its revised CRA Plan to the OCC on October 19, 2015. This plan has not been made public, though at the Community Day event the Bank indicated it would share with the public the revised CRA Plan, as well as that day’s power point presentation, if advised to do so by its newly formed Community Advisory Board. Presumably, either the Bank did not seek input from the CAB, the Bank did not heed the counsel of the CAB, or the CAB did not urge the Bank to be transparent with its CRA Plan.

If it is true that the Bank’s revised Plan is substantially the same as its draft Plan in terms of overall commitment, the Bank’s CRA Plan will be roughly ¼ the size of the CRA commitment of a much smaller (and younger) Banc of California, and roughly ½ the size of the CRA commitment of CITBNA’s peer, City National Bank, which despite having fewer deposits in California, committed to $11 billion in CRA activity over 5 years.

In any event, CITBNA’s performance in 2014 and going forward would leave it amongst the worst performing CRA banks in California, based on data received and analyzed by CRC. CRC and its members utilize a set of benchmarks to determine how well a bank is meeting community credit needs. Banks can demonstrate their performance in two ways: by 1) entering into a Community Benefits and Reinvestment Plan that specifies in a clear and transparent manner the bank’s CRA goals over a multi-year period; and 2) providing clear data on the bank’s CRA performance.

Of seventeen (17) California banks which 2014 data, information and reinvestment commitments we reviewed and analyzed, CITBNA would rank BELOW 12 of these institutions in terms of annual percentage of deposits committed to CRA purposes, using estimates from CITBNA’s draft CRA commitment. Of the 5 banks which currently appear to devote less of their proportional deposits for community reinvestment on an annual basis, 3 have not yet provided all of their data and could very well leapfrog CITBNA, moving CITBNA further down the list of reinvestment banks in California.

And this analysis considers 2014 actual performance by the other banks compared to future commitments by CITBNA. So, the few banks who did less in 2014 than CITBNA proposes to do in 2016, may yet exceed CITBNA’s actual CRA performance in 2016 and beyond. CITBNA did not provide data to CRC this year (for 2014 performance) or last year (for 2013 performance).

Conclusion

CITBNA’s overall performance in California Needs to Improve, and that is the CRA rating the Bank deserves. Given the size and reach of CITBNA, and the harm it has caused to communities via thousands of foreclosures and weak reinvestment, CITBNA has not met community credit needs. CITBNA now has an opportunity to turn the page, enhance its CRA Plan and be a constructive force for positive neighborhood revitalization and wealth accumulation for Southern California’s LMI communities and communities of color. But it should not be rewarded for poorly serving and failing to adequately commit to these communities. The Banks’ CRA Rating should reflect poor CRA performance, as well as any fair lending or fair housing violations established.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment. If you have any questions, you can reach me at (415) 864-3980.

Very Truly Yours,

Kevin Stein

Associate Director

Encl:    CRC’s 8th Comment Letter in Opposition to CIT/OWB merger

Cc:       Thomas J. Curry, Comptroller, OCC

Janet Yellen, Chair, Federal Reserve Board of Governors

Richard Cordray, Director, CFPB

Patrice Ficklin, CFPB

Barry Wides, Deputy Comptroller, OCC

Beth Castro, OCC Community Affairs

[1] Stephen A. Lybarger, OCC Conditional Approval, Letter to Joseph M. Otting Re: Application to Merge CIT Bank, Salt Lake City, UT with and into OneWest Bank, N.A., Pasadena, CA and Request for Waiver of Residency Requirement; OCC Control Numbers: 2014-WE-Combination-139872 and 2015-WE-DirectorWaiver-141909, July 21, 2015, p. 36, footnote 1, p. 37, footnote 73.

[2] Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, PUBLIC DISCLOSURE COMMUNITY REINVESTMENT ACT PERFORMANCE EVALUATION Bank of America, N.A., Charter Number:  13044, 100 North Tryon Street, Charlotte, NC 28202m December 31, 2011, available at: http://www.occ.gov/static/cra/craeval/oct14/13044.pdf (see page 14, Fair Lending or Other Illegal Credit Practices Review).

[3] Stephen A. Lybarger, OCC Conditional Approval, Letter to Joseph M. Otting Re: Application to Merge CIT Bank, Salt Lake City, UT with and into OneWest Bank, N.A., Pasadena, CA and Request for Waiver of Residency Requirement; OCC Control Numbers: 2014-WE-Combination-139872 and 2015-WE-DirectorWaiver-141909, July 21, 2015, p. 2.

[4] Stephen A. Lybarger, OCC Conditional Approval, Letter to Joseph M. Otting Re: Application to Merge CIT Bank, Salt Lake City, UT with and into OneWest Bank, N.A., Pasadena, CA and Request for Waiver of Residency Requirement; OCC Control Numbers: 2014-WE-Combination-139872 and 2015-WE-DirectorWaiver-141909, July 21, 2015, pp. 12, 13.

[5] Stephen A. Lybarger, OCC Conditional Approval, Letter to Joseph M. Otting Re: Application to Merge CIT Bank, Salt Lake City, UT with and into OneWest Bank, N.A., Pasadena, CA and Request for Waiver of Residency Requirement; OCC Control Numbers: 2014-WE-Combination-139872 and 2015-WE-DirectorWaiver-141909, July 21, 2015, pp. 20, 17, 21.

[6] Id. at 22.

Los Angeles Community Leaders Speak Out Against OneWest Bank Merger

The testimony of  Renee M. G. Chavez, Operations Manager of Montebello Housing Development Corporation (MHDC), about the proposed OneWest and CIT Group merger, is featured in its entirety below.

If you were unable to attend the hearing, CRC live-blogged it here and you may also find our CIT Group/OneWest Merger resource page help.  It outlines why 21,000 people are opposing this merger along with 100 California and national organizations. Pictures of the rally against the merger are available here.

Testimony of Renee Chavez

Thank you for taking the time to take our responses.  I hope that you are serious and committed to doing what is right and that we are all not wasting our time today.

My name is Renee M. G. Chavez, I am the Operations Manager of Montebello Housing Development Corporation (MHDC) a 501 (c)(3) non-profit community based housing agency with offices in Montebello, CA that serves low to moderate income families in Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties via education and counseling.  MHDC was established in 1992 to meet the affordable housing needs of Los Angeles County residents.  MHDC’s mission to educate and assist in the delivery of safe, sanitary, quality and affordable housing to individuals and families of modest financial means has been the driving force of the organization.  We believe in creating financial wealth through home ownership.

All who have responded today and you are aware that Indy Mac was one of the subprime lenders whose bad lending practices preyed on our communities of color and seniors.

During the foreclosure crisis families lost homes and their wealth because of the lack of assistance to modify underwater homeowners. Because of the loss of assets and wealth, communities of color are now struggling to rebuild.  The dream of homeownership was stolen from many families.

The OneWest investors received not only a bargain basement price to purchase Indymac, they also obtained a favorable loss share agreement with the FDIC that provided for the FDIC to cover a significant amount of the losses on loans made by Indymac.

In other words, OneWest investors paid little for a bank that came with limited risks to the investors while forever impacting communities.

15% of OneWest’s branches are located in low and moderate-income census tracts, as compared to a statewide average of 30% of bank branches being located in LMI tracts.  35,000 Californians have lost their homes due to foreclosures by OneWest and its subsidiary, Financial Freedom

All in this room and you know that CIT Group received $2.3 billion from the US taxpayers, via TARP Troubled Asset Recovery Program.  A little while later, CIT Group filed bankruptcy, and eliminated its obligation to repay the government.

How many homeowners might have been able to keep their homes if that money had gone to modifications instead?

Remember those who are still suffering.  In 2014 in LA County there were 21,538 families that faced foreclosure.  In January there were 1631 notice of defaults.  Remember, these people paid the taxes that bailed out CIT.

We hope that the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is serious about their consideration of another Too Big to Fail Bank.  Our communities have already paid too high a price while both banks were separate entities.  Stop this insult to the taxpayers, that include those people who lost their homes, by rejecting the merger.

Too Big to Fail is too big to approve.

However, since this merger will probably go through it is imperative that protections for our communities be put in place prior to the approval.  These protections should include, at a minimum:

  • Prior to approval, CIT Group and OneWest Banks should be required to make strong public community reinvestment commitment based on the new size of their bank with benchmarks clearly established. These CRA commitments need to made public with input with a cross section of those agencies testifying today.  MHDC, with these other agencies, are interested in safeguarding our communities.  The CIT Group and OneWest Banks are interested in their investors.  Together, there would be a compromise on CRA requirements that could be fair.
  • As both banks have demonstrated that they cannot be trusted to work in good faith, when merged should they be in violation they should be fined $2.3 billion. Those funds could be used to assist communities in low and moderate-income census tracts that continue to be severely underserved.
  • Should the banks be allowed to merge, they should not receive any loss share agreement with the FDIC.
  • If merged, the banks should not be able to participate in any bailout should their business practices, that include obscene salaries to only a few, prove them unfit to continue. The bank should be allowed to fail.  As you know, businesses fail every day.

Thank again for taking time to hear our comments.  I look forward to your response and participating in future discussions to put accountability back into the banking industry.

LA City Council Member Gil Cedillo Speaks Against Proposed OneWest Bank Merger

Last Thursday, the Federal Reserve and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency held a public hearing about the proposed merger of OneWest Bank with CIT Group.  During a lunch-time rally, LA City leaders, including Council Member Gil Cedillo, spoke about the need for the banks to create a much stronger Community Reinvestment plan, that reflects the bank’s nearly $70 billion in assets.

The current plan offered by OneWest Bank and CIT Group is a fraction of what both its peer banks and even smaller banks have committed to. If you were unable to attend the hearing, CRC live-blogged it here and you may also find our CIT Group/OneWest Merger resource page helpful as well. Pictures are available here.

Below is the video of Council Member Cedillo speaking about the merger.

Kevin Stein Testimony at OneWest and CIT Group Proposer Merger Hearing in Los Angeles

The testimony of Kevin Stein, associate director of the California Reinvestment Coalition, about the proposed OneWest and CIT Group merger is featured in its entirety below. If you were unable to attend the hearing, CRC live-blogged it here and you may also find our CIT Group/OneWest Merger resource page helpful as well. Pictures are available here.

Kevin Stein Testimony

Thank you to the Federal Reserve and the OCC for holding this hearing and for the opportunity to testify.  My name is Kevin Stein, I work at the California Reinvestment Coalition  (CRC). I have been at CRC for 15 years, and I have seen many mergers, but this is the most problematic and outrageous merger I have seen

The last time we were here for a merger was in 2008 when Bank of America purchased Countrywide. We opposed that merger and argued that Bank of America would be left processing numerous foreclosures and harming families without any meaningful commitment to the community.

The regulators approved that merger with no significant conditions. Nothing changed. Bank of America kept foreclosing on Countrywide loans, and inadequate reinvestment failed to mitigate harms.  Six years from now, people will look back on this hearing and this merger to see if the regulators got it right this time.

Here, there is much private gain, much public subsidy, but no public benefit.

Based on the limited data provided by OneWest, our analysis finds they are towards the bottom of the pack, and below their peers, in meeting community credit needs and reinvesting in neighborhoods.

The Bank’s CRA performance has been poor, and its promises not much better.

As one example, according to the Bank’s own CRA strategic plan, which the bank sought to keep confidential, affordable housing is identified as a critical need.

But what has the Bank done to address this need? It has devoted little of its already small pool of contributions for affordable housing, its home lending record is weak and disparate, it does not offer a multi-family loan product, and it may participate only in a limited way in the Low Income Housing Tax Credits program

With such strong nonprofit capacity in its assessment area, the bank’s performance is shameful, and represents a wasted opportunity to address critical housing needs.  The Bank appears not to have met all of the goals it set for itself in its secret, Strategic Plan. Without a clear, public and strong CRA Plan, how can communities hold the bank accountable, and why would we expect things to be any different this time?

Foreclosures are also deeply concerning.  It would be bad enough if OneWest Bank (OWB) merely did a poor job meeting community credit needs.

But in fact, OWB helped create community credit needs through mass foreclosures that inflicted great harm on families and communities. We estimate that OWB has processed over 35,000 foreclosures in California alone. In addition, the Bank has foreclosed on 2,000 reverse mortgage borrowing seniors, their widows and heirs in our state, and continues to do so, as you will hear more about later today.

In fact, the main way in which OneWest engages with LMI communities is through foreclosure.

OWB has been a “terrible” servicer. In our surveys of housing counselors over the years, OWB was frequently cited as among the worst:

  • In 2010, OWB was the deemed the worst at offering loan mods
  • In 2011, OWB got the most votes for being a “terrible” servicer
  • In 2012, OWB got the 2nd most votes for worst servicer
  • In addition, there are over 1,000 CFPB consumer complaints against OWB, including 150 complaints about its reverse mortgage servicing, about 12% of all reverse mortgage complaints

In his testimony, Joseph Otting talks as if OneWest foreclosures are a passive endeavor, that OneWest fell into a number of loans that are subject to rules he wishes were different. But this exactly what OneWest signed up for. They bought a foreclosure machine, negotiating a sweetheart loss share agreement with the FDIC. And they have profited handsomely from this foreclosure machine

We are urging the regulators that:

  • OneWest’s foreclosure practices need to be reviewed and improved.
  • OneWest should not be allowed to foreclose on borrowers without 3rd party review,
  • OneWest should stop arguing it need not comply with our state’s Homeowner Bill of Rights
  • OneWest and Financial Freedom should cease all foreclosures on surviving spouses until the law on this issue is settled
  • No decision on this merger should be reached until an audit is done on OneWest’s servicing practices. In fact, we know that the FDIC is conducting a loss share audit of OneWest in May. There should be no decision on this merger until after the results of that audit have been made public.
  • Further, the Fed and the OCC should not approve this merger without substantial conditions imposed requiring the bank to first develop a clear, strong Plan to meet the affordable housing and economic development needs of its communities, with clear benchmarks established, and significant resources devoted to achieve that purpose

The Bank has shown its unwillingness to do this on its own. Without this, the merger provides immense private gain, outrageous amounts of public subsidy, greater systemic risk, but no public benefit, and the merger should be denied.

Thank you

Community Members have 6 Big Problems With OneWest and CIT Group Merger

Have you heard about the proposed bank merger of OneWest (former IndyMac) and CIT Group?

Over fifty organizations OPPOSE the merger, citing a long list of concerns to the regulators who are reviewing the proposed merger.  You can read more about their concerns here: 50 Organizations Oppose Too Big To Fail Bank Merger in California

Here’s what community leaders have said about the CIT/OneWest, Too Big To Fail merger thus far:

1) Harmful foreclosures, including on seniors with reverse mortgages

OneWest, and its subsidiary, Financial Freedom (reverse mortgage servicer) have foreclosed on tens of thousands of foreclosures, hurting homeowners and destabalizing communities.  Worse, it’s highly likely that the bank is being reimbursed by the FDIC as these mortgages go into foreclosure.

Sandy Jolley, a reverse mortgage consumer advocate who has worked with senior homeowners and their families harmed by reverse mortgages, raised the issue of harmful foreclosures on seniors by OneWest at an EGRPRA meeting earlier this week with top regulators, including the Comptroller of the Currency, Thomas J. Curry; Kay Kowitt, the Deputy Comptroller for the Western District, Martin J. Gruenberg, Chairman of the FDIC; Barry Wides, Deputy Comptroller for Community Affairs, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency; and Maryann F. Hunter, Deputy Director, Division of Banking Supervision and Regulations, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and others.

She comments: “I’m interested to see how regulators will address harmful products and practices (like reverse mortgages) in the context of measuring whether or not banks are meeting community credit needs.”

Here’s two recent stories about OneWest foreclosing on three  seniors with reverse mortgages:

From American Banker: HECM Non-Borrowing Spouses Renew Class Certification Attempts:

One, Janice Cooper, is a 73-year-old federal government retiree in Southern California with severe heart disease. She also requires the assistance of a registered service dog. Her only income comes from Social Security and does not know where she will live if the foreclosure goes through, according to the court filing.

The other, Ernestine Harris, is a longstanding plaintiff in AARP Foundation litigation against HUD. She is 65 and legally blind, according to a declaration filed by her attorney, J. Rachel Scott.

From CBS Dallas Fort Worth: 103-Year-Old North Texas Woman Fights To Keep Her House

Now OneWest, which is based in California with a small office in Dallas, is attempting to foreclose on Lewis’ home after she accidentally allowed her insurance to lapse, a violation of the loan agreement.

Daniel Rodriguez, director of the community wealth department at East LA Community Corporation explains: “Regulators missed their opportunity to prevent banks like IndyMac from making predatory mortgages, and communities throughout Los Angeles were destabilized as a result. The regulators have an important opportunity with this merger to protect homeowners from further preventable foreclosures.”

Kevin Stein, associate director of the California Reinvestment Coalition, suggests the regulators take a closer look at OneWest’s foreclosure record as part of the merger approval process: “Thousands of seniors and other homeowners have been hurt by OneWest, and counselors throughout California have rated it as one of the worst servicers in the state. This merger is an opportunity for regulators to review the bank’s record, audit their practices, and ensure that additional homeowners weren’t harmed by practices inconsistent with their loss share commitments.”

2) Bank’s Community Reinvestment Record is Weak 

Kevin Stein associate director at the California Reinvestment Coalition, explains that CIT Bank is a poster child for banks trying to circumvent the requirement to reinvest in their communities. CIT Bank accepts deposits from communities around the US ($14 billion worth in the case of CIT Bank), but only reinvests the money in Salt Lake City, Utah, near its headquarters:  “CIT Bank accepts $14 billion in deposits from around the US (via the Internet), but gets away with only reinvesting that money into communities near its Salt Lake City headquarters.”

Michael Banner, Chief Executive Officer, of Los Angeles LDC, comments: “While its peer banks have 30% of their branches in our communities, only 15% of OneWest bank branches are located in low and moderate income census tracts. If OneWest is serious about this merger moving forward, we would suggest it take a reality check and look at what its peers have accomplished as benchmarks for the many areas where it can improve.”

Roberto Barragan, president of Valley Economic Development Corporation, comments: “Here’s two banks that wouldn’t be alive without the support of taxpayers and bank regulators, and yet, they’re not willing to outline a strong plan of reinvesting in the communities where they do business? Until they are willing to come to the table with the community, this is a no-brainer for regulators. No public benefit means no merger approval.”

3) OneWest originates a low number of loans to Asian Homeowners 

Hyepin Im, president and CEO of Korean Churches for Community Development comments: “Our communities are particularly concerned about the low level of mortgage lending by OneWest as compared to its peers. According to 2013 HMDA data, for the industry as a whole, 16% of mortgage loans in California went to Asian borrowers. In comparison, only seven percent of OneWest’s mortgages went to Asian borrowers. Regulators should take a close look at OneWest’s record in light of this proposed merger.”

4) The FDIC is providing ongoing Corporate Welfare to the Billionaire Owners of OneWest Bank

When the billionaire owners of OneWest Bank purchased the bank, they secured a lucrative “shared loss” agreement from the FDIC, meaning the FDIC is help covering the cost of soured loans that were originated by IndyMac Bank.

Paulina Gonzalez, executive director of the California Reinvestment Coalition comments: “Shared loss agreements are meant to protect our entire financial system, not to facilitate the enrichment of a few private investors who stand to gain immensely from this merger, while communities are left behind. Although the Loss Share Agreement may have been appropriate during the time of the financial crisis after IndyMac failed, the transfer of the Shared Loss Agreement to CIT Group as part of this proposed merger serves no public purpose or government interest, and only enriches investors. ”

5) On Creating another Systemically Important Financial Institution (Regulator Speak for Too Big To Fail)

“We don’t need another bank that is too big to fail,” said Michael Banner, Chief Executive Officer, of Los Angeles LDC. “We need to make sure that OUR communities don’t fail, by putting protections in place that insure improved access to capital to Main Street businesses and economic development projects that create much needed jobs and revitalize those communities that were hardest hit by the Wall Street induced financial crisis.”

6) No Clear Public Benefit from this Merger

“We see there are two sets of rules for Wall Street and Main Street,” comments California Reinvestment Coalition Executive Director Paulina Gonzalez. “Bank CEOs and investors will potentially ‘earn’ millions from this merger, despite no clear community benefits from the merger, and despite the fact this merger dramatically increases risks for the US financial system. Americans who are working two or three jobs to keep their head above water will have a hard time understanding how bank regulators would approve a merger that includes a plan for exorbitant executive salaries and planned corporate tax breaks and no guarantees of a clear public benefit.”

Kevin Stein, associate director at the California Reinvestment Coalition, adds: “CIT wants regulatory approval to buy OneWest, which will bring expected corporate profits, billions for investors, and millions for bank executives.

It also wants:

  1. To not to have to pay back $2.3 billion in TARP money it received from the US Government;
  2. To take advantage of merger’s expected profits and use tax gimmicks to lower its IRS bill;
  3. To have the FDIC agree to cover certain future losses; and
  4. To not offer a meaningful plan to serve and reinvest in the community.

Has a merger ever had so much public subsidy, so much private gain, and so little public and community benefit?”

If you’re concerned about this merger, please consider taking a few minutes to send an email to the regulators that will be making the decision about it.  You may receive a response that your “email isn’t timely.”  That’s okay.  It’s still important for regulators to hear from consumers and communities that will be impacted by this merger.  If you’ve had experiences with OneWest or Financial Freedom, please add that information in your message.  Here’s the link to send a message to the bank regulators:

Tell Bank Regulators: We need Public Hearings in LA on the OneWest and CIT Group Bank Merger

 

OneWest Loss Share Agreement with the FDIC: What You Need to Know

Austin Powers

Do you remember the failed IndyMac Bank?  It’s failure cost the FDIC over $10 billion.  The FDIC eventually sold IndyMac bank to a group of billionaire investors, along with a “shared loss” agreement wherein the FDIC agreed to help pick up the tab for the costs associated with shoddy mortgages that IndyMac had originated.  This agreement was made in 2009, and there has been very little information about it made available to the public.

Today, Kevin Stein, associate director at CRC, and Daniel Rodriguez, director of the Community Wealth Department at East LA Community Corporation, have a post on the American Banker blog (BankThink) about this topic.

Check it out:  Is the FDIC Subsidizing a ‘Too Big to Fail’ Merger?

How Much Corporate Welfare Have CIT Group and OneWest Bank Received?

corporate-welfare-piggy-bank

POSSIBLE BANK MERGER BREAKS NEW GROUND IN CORPORATE WELFARE

As part of a five-day public awareness campaign, Californians are asking bank regulators, including the FDIC, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, questions about the possible negative impacts of a Too Big To Fail Bank merger that would combine CIT Group and OneWest Bank.

CIT Group Corporate WelfareThe questions on the fourth day focus on the subsidies both banks have already received from taxpayers in the form of TARP money and tax breaks the newly merged bank plans to use after the merger. These subsidies are in addition to the ongoing support OneWest investors are probably still receiving under the FDIC’s shared loss agreements.  In response, community groups are asking how much government welfare one bank can receive.

CIT Group unpaid TARP $2.3 billionDespite these government handouts, the bank plans big payouts to investors, executives, and shareholders, while only offering a meager community benefit and reinvestment plan as part of the merger, and zero plans to repay the $2.3 billion it received from taxpayers under TARP. Ironially, the LA Times reports that OneWest bank has paid out $2.3 billion in dividends as of June 30- the exact same amount of money that CIT Group never repaid to the US Government.

“Once again, we see there are two sets of rules for Wall Street and Main Street,” commented California Reinvestment Coalition Executive Director Paulina Gonzalez. “Bank CEOs and investors will potentially ‘earn’ millions from this merger, despite no clear community benefits from the merger, and despite the fact this merger dramatically increases risks for the US financial system. Americans who are working two or three jobs to keep their head above water will have a hard time understanding how bank regulators would approve a merger that includes a plan for exorbitant executive salaries and planned corporate tax breaks and no guarantees of a clear public benefit.”

Leadership of CIT Group and OneWest Bank refused to tell CRC members how much money they have received from the FDIC (via the Shared Loss agreement), so CRC submitted a FOIA request to the FDIC. Thus far, the FDIC has denied CRC’s FOIA fee waiver request, informing CRC that “The subject matter of your request is not now of interest to the general public.”

FOIA fee waiver denial for OneWest BankThis shocking response from the FDIC flies in the face of intense public interest in the recent This American Life/Propublica story about bank regulators coddling Goldman Sachs and the considerable interest generated by the recent AIG trial about the government bailout of AIG.

Kevin Stein, associate director at the California Reinvestment Coalition, comments: “CIT wants regulatory approval to buy OneWest, which will bring expected corporate profits, billions for investors, and millions for bank executives. It also wants: to not to have to pay back $2.3 billion in TARP money it received from the US Government; to take advantage of merger’s expected profits and use tax gimmicks to lower its IRS bill; to have the FDIC agree to cover certain future losses; and to not offer a meaningful plan to serve and reinvest in the community. Has a merger ever had so much public subsidy, so much private gain, and so little public and community benefit?”

Under the merger application, the CEO of the newly merged bank will receive a $4.5 million annual salary plus over $12 million in stock options, for a potential total of $26 million over the course of three years. Meanwhile, the chair of the merged institution may earn $4.5 million annually working for the bank, though his offer letter allows him to retain his other job of running a private equity fund at the same time.

CRC’s questions for regulators include:

1) Is there a contradiction between a bank arguing that its strong enough to become the first SIFI created, while at the same time holding out its hand for subsidies from the FDIC via the Shared Loss Agreement?

2) Are regulators concerned about the outsized compensation for bank executives under this merger, especially in light of the miserly goals the bank’s leadership has created in regards to community reinvestment activities?

Today is the fourth of five days of questions for regulators about this merger, to review previous questions for regulators, visit these links:

Day 1: Bank Merger Would Benefit Investors, But What About Communities?

Day 2: Advocates Question If FDIC Loss-Share Agreements Should Continue As Part of Bank Merger

Day 3: Community Groups Question OneWest’s Foreclosure Record

Tomorrow’s release will focus on Community Benefit and Reinvestment Plans and how CIT Group and OneWest can improve their current plan.

CRC’s detailed letter to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York includes an analysis of the merger and a long list of concerns and unanswered questions about the proposed merger.