News Column

Coalition of Community Groups Challenges Valley National Bank Merger Based on Lending Concerns

July 16, 2014



WASHINGTON, July 16 -- The National Community Reinvestment Coalition issued the following news release:

Today, a coalition of community groups led by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) came together to oppose the proposed merger between New Jersey-based Valley National Bank and Florida-based 1st United Bank. In a letter to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), which is evaluating the proposed merger, the groups asserted that the merger would not create clear public benefits in the form of responsible lending and investment in the community, as required by the law. The merger would create a bank with over $18 billion in assets and more than 230 branches in three states: New Jersey, New York and Florida.

The groups argued that the merger would be detrimental to the areas served by 1st United because Valley National's previous Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) exams and publicly available data show that the bank is not meeting the needs of low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities, communities of color, or small businesses in those communities. For example, according to publicly available Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data, in 2012 the bank made just 4.5 percent of its home loans in New York City and Northern New Jersey to LMI borrowers even though 41.5 percent of households in New York City and Northern New Jersey are LMI. Furthermore, in 2012 only 1.5 percent of all of their home loans in New York City and Northern New Jersey went to African-American borrowers even though African-Americans make up 20.5 percent of the population in New York City and Northern New Jersey. Additionally, bank examiners used the words "poor" or "very poor" to describe the bank's lending performance 47 times on their 2013 CRA exam.

"We have serious concerns about Valley National's commitment to community investment and lending," said NCRC President and CEO John Taylor. "Based on their past lending and CRA performance and their failure to demonstrate a true public benefit to the merger, this merger has the potential to cause real harm to Florida's working-class communities and communities of color. Valley National needs to put its house in order rather than expand its questionable practices to other states."

"Valley National is not currently meeting the needs of low- and moderate-income communities of color in New Jersey," said New Jersey Citizen Action Executive Director Phyllis Salowe-Kaye. "The fact that in 2012 the bank was only able to identify two African-Americans and one Latino to approve for a home purchase loan in the entire Newark Metropolitan Division is outrageous. This merger does not benefit consumers in New Jersey and must be stopped. If banks get bigger they must get better, and Valley has not shown any inclination to do so."

"Valley National has 31 branches with over $1.6 billion in deposits in New York City, yet has demonstrated little interest in meeting its CRA obligations here in a meaningful way," said Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development, Inc. Advocacy Associate Jaime Weisberg. "In 2011 and 2012, not one of their home purchase loans went to an African American or Latino borrower and, similar to what was found by the OCC in their recent CRA exam, very few of their loans overall went to LMI borrowers and neighborhoods. The bank made no new CRA-qualified investments or grants in NYC in the past three years. Valley National must improve its record locally and outline a real public benefit plan moving forward before being granted the privilege of expanding into new areas."

The groups called on the OCC to deny the merger application and hold public hearings on the proposal in New Jersey, New York, and Florida, the three states served by Valley National and 1st United.

See here for the letter sent to the OCC today. See here (http://www.ncrc.org/images/PDFs/june13commentletter.pdf) for the June 13 comment letter from the groups to the OCC.

[Category: Financial Services]

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