Latest Update May 21, 2020

Community Orgs to Trump Administration on CRA Rule: “We’ll See You In Court”

With NCRC and CRC, we intend to challenge the Trump administration for unlawfully weakening the anti-redlining protections of the Community Reinvestment Act.

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The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has repeatedly kept the public in the dark as it moved forward to weaken regulations implementing the Community Reinvestment Act. The CRA is a fair lending law crucial to combating redlining and ensuring the flow of credit to low- and moderate-income communities by requiring banks to lend and invest locally.

OCC not only publicly criticized opposition to the proposed changes but also withheld key data and analysis about its decisions. When we requested Comptroller Otting’s off-the-record calls with bank executives be made public, the OCC did not even make a token attempt to comply until the very last possible day of the comment period, releasing a call log that revealed the existence of backchanneling to bank CEOs.

These changes to the CRA regulations are an affront to fair rulemaking and fundamentally undermine the CRA’s central purposes to facilitate retail lending, economic development, affordable housing, and support for small businesses in local communities. Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting rushed to release the CRA rule on May 20, 2020 – in the midst of a pandemic – without a sign on by the Federal Reserve or the FDIC ahead of his suddenly announced plan to step down from the OCC.

On behalf of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition and the California Reinvestment Coalition, we have sent 2 FOIA requests and filed 2 lawsuits to compel the OCC and soon-to-be-former Comptroller Otting to release information the public deserves to know. We demand to see the following:

September 2018

The Trump administration began a rulemaking to weaken the CRA

The proposed rule has been criticized for potentially allowing banks to pick and choose which communities to serve, reducing development and preservation of affordable housing, and decreasing consumer access to affordable banking products.

December 11, 2019

We filed a FOIA request for records detailing the unusual steps taken to silence groups that opposed proposed changes to the CRA

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.

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March 17, 2020

We sent a letter to the OCC demanding Comptroller Otting’s off-the-record call logs

Democracy Forward, the NCRC, and the CRC demanded that the administration disclose Comptroller Otting’s ex parte communications with nongovernmental stakeholders.

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April 8, 2020

On behalf of NCRC, we sued when OCC and FDIC failed to release data and analysis cited as the basis for proposed revisions in the CRA

OCC and FDIC’s January 2020 publication of the potential CRA changes failed to include the data and analysis that the agencies cited as the basis for the proposed rule.

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April 14, 2020

We filed a FOIA request to get full records of Comptroller Otting’s call logs with CRC and NCRC

In the summary posted to the rulemaking docket, OCC waited until the close of the comment period and revealed virtually nothing about the information and views conveyed by the CEOs of 17 major banks, including Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citi, and JPMorgan Chase. So we submitted another FOIA request for the full call logs.

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May 15, 2020

On behalf of CRC, we sued OCC for continuing to withhold all requested records

In a Senate oversight hearing held that week, Senator Sherrod Brown noted that the “proposal will undermine access to credit for those who are already underserved” and asked Chairman Otting why the agency is “plowing ahead” in the midst of the coronavirus crisis when communities need access to credit most.

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Jeffrey Dubner

Deputy Legal Director

Litigating challenges to unlawful actions, abuses of power, and threats to democracy on behalf of those who are harmed.

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