CRC Hosts CFPB Mission District Tour on Small Business Displacement

Cover Picture

Liana Molina discusses displacement of local small businesses at the corner of 16th and Valencia in the Mission District, San Francisco

Yesterday, CRC hosted a visit and tour by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in the Mission District in San Francisco.  CFPB Director Richard Cordray and Assistant Director Grady Hedgespeth met with local small business owners and leaders from CRC member organizations including MEDA, Opportunity Fund, and Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center who support small businesses with capital and technical assistance.

Displacement in the Mission

In the past few years, growth in the tech sector has created enormous pressure not just on housing rents in the Bay Area, but on commercial rents as well.

The displacement of neighborhood serving small businesses in the Mission is especially troubling, given the critical role they play in supporting, serving and employing longtime residents of the Mission.  Small business owners have also complained about difficulty they face in obtaining bank loans, and research by CRC confirms that small business lending by the five largest banks has dropped dramatically since the recession.

Under the Dodd-Frank financial reform, the CFPB is charged with collecting data about small business lending.  In February this year, the CFPB announced that writing these rules is considered a near term priority goal. Similar to the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, these new rules are expected to increase transparency (and accountability) about who is getting small business loans- and who isn’t.

Small business owners share their experiences and challenges

Director Cordray and Assistant Director Hedgespeth met with several of these small business owners during the CFPB’s visit.  The first stop on the tour was Venga Empanadas, where co-owner Pablo Romano shared his experience in obtaining financing to open his restaurant.  Denied financing by a bank, Mr. Romano connected with Opportunity Fund, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) who provided him with a $45,000 loan, enabling him to sustain and grow his business which now has eight employees.

D'Maize

Luisa Estrada, owner of D’Maize Restaurant and Catering speaks with Director Cordray.

Next, Zenaida Merlin and Luis Estrada, owners of D’Maize Restaurant and Catering, shared how a small business loan of $80,000 from Mission Economic Development Agency’s (MEDA) new CDFI Adelante loan fund meant that D’Maize was recently able to expand their business to a full-service restaurant.  They now employ 22 people from the local community.

Elsa Valdez, the owner of El Salvador Restaurant, explained how she benefitted from working with MEDA, who helped her to get a loan from KIVA to help pay for improvements to her restaurant, which has been family owned for over 20 years.  Ms. Valdez wants to continue improvements to the restaurant and growing her business.

Paula

Paula Tejada, owner of Chile Lindo Delicatessen and Coffee Shop

Paula Tejada, known as “The Girl from Empanada” is the owner of Chile Lindo Delicatessen and Coffee Shop, a business she first purchased in 1995.  Working with Renaissance Entrepreneur Center, she received technical assistance on running her business, including their 14 week business planning class focused on marketing, management, operations and finance.

Lunch at San Jalisco

The tour concluded with lunch at San Jalisco, owned by Dolores “Josie” Padilla-Reyes.  She took over the restaurant from her parents in the 1970s, but after rent was increased threefold, she had to close the café and reopen the eatery in its current location.  Concerned about being displaced again, she worked with the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) to secure a loan to purchase her building, preventing further displacement.

Len Rogers, the owner of the Electric Bicycle Superstore, also joined the lunch.  He launched his small business in 2008 and it has grown steadily since then.  Len was denied by multiple banks for credit, making him a perfect target for expensive merchant cash advance companies. After struggling with unsustainable payments required by multiple predatory finance companies, he connected with Opportunity Fund, who refinanced him into an affordable, responsible small business loan.  Len was also a client of Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center, who helped him get a KIVA loan and provided consulting services through their Bayview Office.

cake2

The lunch concluded with a “Happy Birthday” cake presented to the CFPB staff, since yesterday was the Bureau’s fifth birthday. In that short time, the agency has secured over $11 billion in relief for over 27 million consumers and handled nearly 1 million complaints.

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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.

OneWest Bank Small Business Lending Track Record: Testimony by Robert Villareal at Fed Hearing

Robert Villarreal’s testimony 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.

Thank you for allowing my statement to be read into the record. My name is Robert Villarreal and I am the Senior Vice President of Community Development for CDC Small Business Finance. CDC is the largest SBA 504 and 7(a) Community Advantage lender in the country and it recognizes its responsibility to economic development and its communities. To that end, over the last 25 years CDC has created a number of small business lending products to serve small businesses located in low-moderate income communities and those owned by minority entrepreneurs. All of the lending through these programs is under $250,000

The small businesses that we serve with our programs were devastated by the Great Recession. Banks which eagerly, and sometimes recklessly, provided capital through 2007, suddenly went silent. Loans under $100,000, which have been proven to be effective in reaching minority businesses and those located in LMI neighborhoods, fell dramatically. In fact through 2013, loans under $100,000 have yet to reach one-third of their 2007 level. Here in Los Angeles, for example, loans under $100,000 from regulated financial institutions fell 68% between 2007 and 2013. But at least they are doing better than the Inland Empire, where similar lending dropped 72%.

While we believe that the large banks have failed the State’s small business community, at least some have made efforts to improve access to capital. However, one player absent in those efforts has been OneWest. In 2013 OneWest made zero loans; that is Zero loans for under $100,000 in California (FFIEC website). In that same year here in Los Angeles, only 8 loans were made under $250,000 and less than half the dollars funded were made to businesses located in LMI neighborhoods. In San Diego, where CDC is headquartered, no loans at all were made under $250,000 in 2013.

While it has failed to directly serve the small businesses discussed here, it has also done little to nothing in reaching out to mission-based lenders across its assessment area to support lending programs, technical assistance or referral initiatives; all programs which much smaller institutions readily participate.

OneWest and CIT have not demonstrated the integrity and commitment to the communities it is required to serve, yet it has benefited from the largesse of the US taxpayer. Therefore, I implore the Federal  Reserve to require that CIT and OneWest develop a comprehensive and publicly written CRA plan with commitments applicable to the size of the new bank and that also take into consideration the errors of their past and the benefits they have received from the public trust.

Thank you.

Pictures from OneWest and CIT Group Rally in Los Angeles February 26, 2015

Yesterday, LA community leaders, affected homeowners, and reinvestment advocates spoke at a public hearing about the proposed merger of CIT Group and OneWest Bank.  The California Reinvestment Coalition, along with about 100 California and national organizations, as well as over 21,000 individuals who signed Daily Kos and National People’s Action petitions, are all opposing the merger.  To learn more about why these groups are opposing the merger, please visit the OneWest CIT Merger Resource page. 

To view a summary of the day, click here: Impacted Homeowners, LA Community Leaders Speak out

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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

 

Community Coalition Urges Regulator Transparency with CIT and OneWest Bank Merger

CRC Suggests CIT/OneWest Bank Merger is Seen as First Test Case for Regulators after Release of Secret Federal Reserve Tapes

San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) October 03, 2014  In light of the recent, disturbing This American Life episode (The Secret Recordings of Carmen Segarra) that suggests bank regulators are rubber-stamping bank deals, the California Reinvestment Coalition (CRC), a coalition of community organizations located throughout California, is calling for federal regulators to do their job in reviewing a proposal by CIT Group to purchase OneWest Bank. The proposed deal would create the newest Too Big To Fail Bank, with nearly $70 billion in assets, forcing regulators to consider it a “Systemically Important Financial Institution,” or SIFI, the designation given financial institutions that are above $50 Billion in assets and whose possible failure could create another financial crisis.

Given the recent concerns about bank regulators deferring to the banks they are supposed to be supervising, the size of this mega- merger, and concerns that private gains may be prioritized over public benefit from the merger, CRC is calling for:

    • Increased Transparency of Investor Gains Through FDIC’s Loss Share Agreement: CRC is filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the FDIC so the public can see how much money has been paid to OneWest under the Shared Loss Agreement and what conversations CIT has had with the FDIC about the possibility of obtaining the lucrative agreement as part of the merger with OneWest.
    • Independent Audit of OneWest’s Loan Modification Policies: CRC is calling on bank regulators to conduct an independent audit of OneWest’s loan modification program to test compliance with Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) policies and other loss mitigation programs meant to keep homeowners from losing their homes, including reverse mortgages serviced by a OneWest subsidiary, Freedom Financial. Data from Realtytrac suggests OneWest has foreclosed on approximately 45,000 homes in California.
    • A public analysis by banking regulators of the community benefits of the merger (or lack thereof) as compared to the money that private investors may have already received under the loss-share agreement and the pay-out to wealthy investors if the merger is approved. CIT Group obtained $2.3 billion in TARP funds in 2008. Soon thereafter, CIT filed one of the biggest Chapter 11 bankruptcies in history, and never repaid the $2.3 billion to the U.S. taxpayers.

Paulina Gonzalez, executive director of the California Reinvestment Coalition explains the importance of transparency and accountability to the public in the merger process: “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. 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.”

“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.”

The banks require regulatory approval and consent for the merger from the Federal Reserve Board of New York, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Fannie Mae, and the FDIC. The Federal Reserve is accepting comments on the proposed merger until October 10, 2014.

Additional Background

California Reinvestment Coalition’s FOIA request can be seen here

A letter sent by 45 community organizations to CIT Group and OneWest leadership can be seen here

A petition by the California Reinvestment Coalition to the regulators can be seen here.

A copy of the FDIC’s loss-share agreement with OneWest investors is available here

An Op-Ed by the executive directors of the California Reinvestment Coalition and the Greenlining Institute, entitled “Shouldn’t communities be considered ‘too big to fail’?” can be seen here.

 

California Advocates Attend National Community Reinvestment Conference in Washington, DC

Representatives from member organizations of the California Reinvestment Coalition traveled to Washington DC last week to attend the National Community Reinvestment Coalition conference.  The theme of the conference was “A Just Economy: Ideas, Action, Impact.”

The conference is a gathering of NCRC’s diverse membership base from around the US, including CDFI’s, fair housing organizations, housing counseling organizations, consumer advocates, credit counselors, small business lenders, community organizing and civil rights groups, and more.

Speakers at the conference included Shaun Donovan, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD),Thomas Curry, Comptroller of the Currency, Steven Antonakes from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Martin Gruenberg, Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and more.

Shaun Donovan

Secretary Donovan spoke about potential reforms to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and recognized the conference participants for their work to help people during the foreclosure crisis and to also help with rebuilding afterwards.  He also spoke about the ongoing crisis of a lack of affordable housing in communities across America and cited NCRC’s work to ensure that reforms to Fannie and Freddie don’t leave low-income communities behind.

Fleeced

Wednesday night included a screening of “Fleeced”, a documentary about elder financial abuse which was a big draw with a packed room. A panel discussion included Kim Jacobs, the producer of the film, Anita Gardner, a consumer in the film who faced an uphill battle with her bank when she sought assistance with her mortgage after health problems, as well as Robert Zdenek, the Director of National Neighbors Silver at NCRC, and Dory Rand, president of the Woodstock Institute. The film was commissioned by NCRC, with support from the Atlantic Philanthropies.  A screening will also be held in Sacramento on April 15th at 5:30pm, as part of the Housing California conference and Annette Smith, a consumer featured in the film will also be one of the panelists who speaks after the screening.

California delegates flew into Washington DC early to meet with our elected officials as well as banking and housing regulators.

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On Thursday, as part of NCRC’s Hill Day, CRC Members headed to Capitol Hill to meet with their senators and representatives.  There were a number of topics to discuss, a few of the topics the California delegation discussed included:

  • Payday lending and the upcoming rule-making by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
  • The need for more investment in affordable housing in California, especially since the dissolution of redevelopment agencies that funded affordable housing
  • GSE reforms (and ensuring that low-income communities aren’t left behind)
  • A recent proposal for the USPS to offer financial services through a prepaid card
  • Effects of private equity firms and other investors buying up homes
  • The Permanently Protect Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2013
  • Extension of the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act
  • Transparency around foreclosure reporting (to see if mortgage modifications and other assistance is getting to communities equally- a topic recently addressed in a February 2014 GAO report (read more here)
  • Small business lending (especially to minority business owners- read our December report about this issue here)
  • Future mortgage settlements, and concerns about transparency of who is receiving modifications, and whether modifications are getting to communities hit hardest
  • Bank mergers and the impact on rural California- For more on why this is such a pressing matter, see CRC’s “Down in the Valley” 2013 report, or our recent protest against the proposed acquisition of Sterling Bank by Umpqua Bank.
  • Issues faced by widowed homeowners who are facing foreclosure instead of receiving assistance from their bank or mortgage servicer. See this December 2013 article that explains why improvements, monitoring, and enforcement are still needed: “Bank might foreclose on home because late husband isn’t residing there

After meeting with their senators and representatives, attendees were especially excited by the lunchtime speaker: Senator Elizabeth Warren, (D-MA), an outspoken advocate who was paved the way for improvements in policies and programs affecting the same communities and people that NCRC’s members serve.

On Friday afternoon, CRC’s new Executive Director, Paulina Gonzalez spoke at a session: Winning Public Benefits for Your Community, with other advocates including Ernest Hogan, Executive Director of Pittsburgh Reinvestment Group, and Mitria Wilson, from NCRC.

Friday night closed with a bang!  The Rev. Dr. William Barber II was awarded the Senator William Proxmire award, which recognizes the individual whose life’s work exemplifies the spirit and work of Senator Proxmire’s contributions to economic mobility.  Dr. Barber gave a rousing speech about the need for organizations to work together to stop disinvestment in communities.  Senator Proxmire was the author and lead sponsor of the Community Reinvestment Act.

Kevin Stein, Associate Director at CRC, was also confirmed to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition board of directors.

A big thank you to our CRC members who joined the meetings, including:

It was another excellent conference put on by NCRC- See you next year!