Longtime activist Matthew Lee does not favor bank mergers, and he uses the public comment required by regulators to express his views. Lee, leader of Bronx-based Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch, has opposed every bank merger in the past two decades. His latest target is the M&T purchase of Hudson CityBancorp in New Jersey. Lee says the banks have poor records for lending to minorities. M&T strongly disagrees and points to its top scores on the Community Reinvestment Act exams since 1982.
M&T has a strong record, and the bank's integrity is lauded throughout the industry. But numbers that Lee included in his complaint filed with the Federal Reserve Bank are shocking. Hudson City granted 784 mortgages in 2011, with 97.5% going to whites, 1.7% to hispanics and 0.6% to blacks. In Washington, D.C., M&T granted 40 mortgages with 85% going ot whites and 15% to blacks. Both banks rejected black borrowers about 3 times more than whites.
Anyone who has ever qualified for a mortgage knows it is not easy. Banks are lending their depositors' money, so they want to make darn sure they're going to get it back. And lending standards have gotten much more strict in recent years.
But those numbers are alarming.