Administration Publicly Criticized Groups That Opposed Proposed Changes to Community Reinvestment Act
Top Official Told California Reinvestment Coalition to Alter Public Statements Against New Rules
Freedom of Information Act Request Filed Ahead of FDIC Vote on CRA Rules
Washington, D.C. — Today, Democracy Forward and the California Reinvestment Coalition filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) for records detailing the unusual steps the Trump administration has taken to silence groups that oppose changes to the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). Today’s filing comes on the eve of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s (FDIC) vote to proceed with a rulemaking to change the regulations governing the CRA.
The CRA is a crucial fair lending law designed to combat redlining and encourage banks to meet the credit needs of their communities, particularly low- and moderate-income communities. It requires banks to lend and invest locally. In September 2018, the Trump administration began a rulemaking to weaken the CRA by potentially allowing banks to pick and choose which communities to serve at the expense of communities of color and low- and moderate-income communities.
In response to its proposed rulemaking, the OCC received over 1,500 public comments. Instead of impartially considering the public feedback, Deputy Comptroller for Community Affairs Barry Wides published an op-ed that criticized opposition to the administration’s CRA reforms as“not contribut[ing] positively to the public discussion.” Wides also sent the California Reinvestment Coalition—an opponent to the proposed CRA changes—letters demanding that the organization alter its stance to favor the administration.
“Silencing and intimidating community members that speak up for working families and people of color is nothing new both to Trump and his top banking regulator, Comptroller Joseph Otting. Ever since his days at One West, Californians have seen Otting manipulate a fair and open process to gather feedback all for his personal gain. As the OCC looks to change the CRA to benefit banks at the expense of communities, it’s vital to ensure that they are absorbing input from underserved communities the law’s intended to benefit. This request is consistent with that aim,” said Paulina Gonzalez-Brito, California Reinvestment Coalition Executive Director.
The groups’ FOIA request seeks records detailing OCC’s stance toward community groups and why the agency attacked those opposed to proposed changes to the CRA regulations.
“It is in fact the Trump administration who is trying to corrupt the public discourse by silencing critics who are concerned about communities harmed by redlining,” said Democracy Forward Press Secretary Charisma Troiano. “The public deserves to know why the administration has taken the unusual step of trying to shut out the voices of those most immediately affected.”
The FOIA request was submitted on December 11, 2019.
The California Reinvestment Coalition builds an inclusive and fair economy that meets the needs of communities of color and low-income communities by ensuring that banks and other corporations invest and conduct business in our communities in a just and equitable manner. We envision a future in which people of color and low-income people live and participate fully and equally in financially healthy and stable communities without fear of displacement, and have the tools necessary to build household and community wealth.
Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.