Order Approving Formation of a Bank Holding Company and Notice to Engage in Nonbanking Activities
Frierson, Robert Dev., Federal Reserve Bulletin
Travelers Group Inc. ("Travelers"), a holding company for securities, insurance and other financial services firms, has requested the Board's approval under section 3 of the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956 (12 U.S.C. [sections] 1842) ("BHC Act") to become a bank holding company by acquiring all the voting shares of Citicorp, a bank holding company within the meaning of the BHC Act, and all of Citicorp's subsidiary banks, including its lead subsidiary bank, Citibank, N.A., New York, New York ("Citibank").(1) Travelers also has requested the Board's approval under section 4(c)(8) of the BHC Act and section 225.24 of the Board's Regulation Y (12 C.F.R. 225.24) to acquire various domestic nonbank subsidiaries and investments of Citicorp, including Citibank, Federal Savings Bank, San Francisco, California, and Citicorp Securities Inc., New York, New York, and to retain certain nonbanking subsidiaries of Travelers, including Travelers Bank & Trust, fsb, Newark, Delaware, and Salomon Smith Barney Inc., New York, New York. Travelers proposes to own and operate these companies and to conduct the proposed activities in accordance with the requirements of the BHC Act, Regulation Y and relevant Board orders governing these activities and subsidiaries. In addition, Travelers has filed applications and notices under section 4(c)(13) of the BHC Act (12 U.S.C. [sections] 1843(c)(13)) and the Board's Regulation K (12 C.F.R. 211) to acquire the foreign operations of Citicorp and to retain certain foreign investments and continue certain foreign activities of Travelers.(2) Finally, Travelers has requested an exemption from the quantitative requirements of section 23A of the FRA to permit Citicorp to transfer its existing mortgage subsidiary, Citicorp Mortgage, Inc. ("CMI"), to Citibank to facilitate financing for CMI's business using liquidity available to Citibank.(3)
Travelers, with total consolidated assets of approximately $420 billion, is a diversified financial services firm engaged in a variety of securities, insurance, lending, financial advisory, and other financial activities in the United States and overseas.(4) More than 70 percent of Travelers's total assets and more than 60 percent of its total revenues are associated with activities that are permissible for bank holding companies under the BHC Act, including securities underwriting, dealing, brokerage, and advisory activities; mortgage lending and consumer finance activities; consumer advisory activities; and credit-related insurance activities.(5)
Travelers also engages domestically and internationally in a number of nonbanking activities that are not permissible for bank holding companies, which Travelers proposes to conform to the requirements of the BHC Act or divest. These activities include underwriting property and casualty, life and commercial insurance and annuities; general insurance agency activities; investing in more than 5 percent of the voting shares of commercial companies; controlling and distributing shares of open-end investment companies registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940 ("mutual funds"); real estate management and investing activities; proprietary trading in physical commodities; oil and gas exploration and investments; and certain other impermissible activities and investments. Travelers has committed to conform all impermissible activities to the requirements of the BHC Act by restructuring the activity or subsidiary, by terminating the activity, or by selling or divesting the subsidiary, as necessary, within the period provided in the BHC Act for new bank holding companies to conform impermissible investments and activities.
In addition, Travelers controls several domestic subsidiaries that cannot be affiliated with a bank under section 20 of the Glass-Steagall Act (12 U.S.C. [sections] 377). These companies engage in securities underwriting and dealing activities, distributing shares of open-end mutual funds, and controlling open-end mutual funds. Travelers has committed to conform the activities of these companies to the requirements of the Glass-Steagall Act and the Board's orders and interpretations thereunder, including the limitations on the amount of revenue derived from securities underwriting and dealing activities, on consummation of the proposed transaction in accordance with the requirements of this order.
Citicorp, with total consolidated assets of approximately $331 billion, is the third largest commercial banking organization in the United States and the 22d largest commercial banking organization in the world.(6) Citicorp's subsidiary banks and savings associations operate in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands. Citicorp operates approximately 1100 branches and offices in the United States and almost 100 foreign countries, and engages in a number of permissible nonbanking activities.
The proposed transaction would create the largest commercial banking organization in the United States and the world, initially with total consolidated assets of approximately $751 billion. Travelers's subsidiary depository institutions operate in Delaware. Travelers has indicated that after the proposed acquisition the combined organization would operate under the name Citigroup Inc.
Public Comment on the Proposal
To give interested members of the public an opportunity to submit comments to the Board on the statutory factors that it is charged with reviewing, the Board published notice of the proposal and provided a period for public comment.(7) The Board extended the initial public comment period to accommodate the broad public interest in the proposal. The extended public comment period provided interested persons 48 days to submit written comments on the proposal.
Because of the public interest in the proposal, the Board also held a public meeting on June 25 and 26, 1998, in New York, New York, which gave interested persons an opportunity to present oral and written testimony on the various factors that the Board is charged with reviewing under the BHC Act. Approximately 115 people testified at the public meeting; many of the commenters who testified also submitted written comments.
In total, more than 425 organizations and individuals submitted comments on the proposal, either through oral testimony or written comments.(8) Commenters included federal, state and local government officials, community and nonprofit organizations, small business owners, customers of Citicorp, several trade associations, and other-interested organizations and individuals from more than 20 states (including California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, and New York) and Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Washington, D.C.
A substantial number of commenters supported the proposal. These commenters supported Travelers and Citicorp for their commitment to local communities and their leadership in community revitalization, social welfare or educational activities. In addition, these commenters commended Travelers's and Citicorp's records of providing investments, grants and loans in support of economic or community development projects and other community needs and making charitable contributions in local communities. Many commenters also commended the organizations for providing educational seminars or technical assistance to small businesses and nonprofit organizations. A number of these commenters also praised Travelers's and Citicorp's $115 billion, ten-year community pledge ("Citigroup community pledge") and expected that this pledge would increase community and economic development funding and the availability of homeowners insurance in underserved urban areas.
A significant number of other commenters contended that the proposal would violate the BHC Act and the Glass-Steagall Act and urged the Board not to consider the proposal unless and until Congress amends the law to allow unlimited combinations of insurance, banking and securities businesses. A number of commenters also expressed concern about the performance records of Citicorp and Travelers under the Community Reinvestment Act ("CRA") (12 U.S.C. [sections] 2901 et seq.), particularly with respect to Citicorp's record of lending to minority and low-to moderate-income ("LMI") residents, to small businesses and in LMI communities and communities with predominately minority populations ("minority communities"). Many commenters also expressed concern that Citicorp has disproportionately closed branches and downgraded branch services in LMI and minority communities, particularly in New York. Commenters in California expressed concern about Citicorp's record of lending to LMI individuals and minorities, particularly Hispanics, and its banking service fees. Some commenters contended that Travelers's marketing and sales practices for its subprime mortgage loans, personal loans and insurance products adversely affect consumers. These commenters also believed that the proposal would provide incentives for Citigroup to "steer" LMI and minority consumers to its subprime lenders. In addition, many commenters criticized the Citigroup community pledge, contending that the initiative is not enforceable, lacks specific lending or investment commitments for particular products or geographic areas, and relates primarily to consumer credit and to insurance products that are not relevant for purposes of the CRA. Commenters also discussed other potential adverse effects of the proposal, including undue concentration of financial resources, conflicts of interest from the proposed operation of impermissible activities and cross-marketing activities, and concerns regarding the use of confidential customer information.
Impermissible Activities and Investments
The Board is required to review this proposal under the provisions of the BHC Act and the Glass-Steagall Act. In light of the size, scope and type of activities currently conducted by Travelers, the Board has considered, as a threshold matter, whether the proposal by Travelers to become a bank holding company and to conform its existing activities and investments to the requirements of the BHC Act is consistent with the nonbanking limitations in the BHC Act and the purposes of the BHC Act. As part of this consideration, the Board has carefully weighed the views of commenters and the arguments presented by Travelers.(9) The Board has paid particular attention to the terms of the relevant sections of the BHC Act as those sections currently apply and to relevant legislative history and Board precedent. On the basis of this review, the Board concludes that Travelers's proposal to acquire Citicorp is permissible under the express terms of the BHC Act, is contemplated by and consistent with the legislative history and the purposes of that Act, and is consistent with the Board's longstanding precedent and practice.
Section 4 of the BHC Act governs the investments that may be held by bank holding companies and the activities that may be conducted by bank holding companies and their nonbank subsidiaries. In enacting section 4, Congress contemplated that companies that engage in and control subsidiaries that engage in impermissible activities and that hold impermissible investments would seek to become bank holding companies.(10) Consequently, section 4 by its express terms delays the applicability of the nonbanking prohibitions of that section to the existing investments and activities of any company that becomes a bank holding company to give that new bank holding company a period of time to conform existing investments and activities to the requirements of the BHC Act.(11) For any company that becomes a bank holding company, section 4 provides an automatic two-year delay in applying the nonbanking prohibitions to existing investments and activities, beginning from the date the company becomes a bank holding company.(12) The two-year period is provided to bank holding companies as a matter of right and does not require the approval of the Board. Section 4(a)(2) specifically authorizes the Board, on request, to grant up to three one-year extensions of this two-year conformance period, if the Board finds that the extension "would not be detrimental to the public interest."(13)
In granting a new bank holding company a period to conform its existing investments and activities to the requirements of the BHC Act, the Act does not distinguish among different types of activities.(14) In fact, when the BHC Act was enacted in 1956 and it was amended to cover one-bank holding companies in 1970, the legislative history indicates that companies that controlled banks conducted a variety of impermissible activities, including insurance underwriting activities and various types of manufacturing activities. Nonetheless, the BHC Act provided the same conformance period for all types of nonconforming activities and investments.
The Board has consistently interpreted section 4(a)(2) as giving a new banking holding company at least a two-year period to conform to the BHC Act the nonbanking investments held and activities conducted by the company as of the date it became a bank holding company.(15) Several of these cases involved companies with a significant portion of nonconforming assets and activities, including manufacturing activities.(16) In this case, the nonconforming activities currently conducted by Travelers represent approximately 25 percent of its total assets and less than 40 percent of its total revenues prior to the proposed transaction, and would represent less than 15 percent of the combined company's total assets and less than 20 percent of its revenues on a pro forma basis. Thus, it is not necessary for Travelers to change the nature of its business or to divest the very banks it is seeking to acquire in this application in order to conform to the requirements of the BHC Act. In this light, the Board does not believe that this proposal represents an attempt to evade the prohibitions of the BHC Act on the conduct of insurance or other impermissible activities by a bank holding company.
Several commenters have argued that Travelers should not be permitted to merge with Citicorp unless and until Travelers submits a detailed plan for divesting its insurance subsidiaries and conforming its other activities to the requirements of the BHC Act. In its application, Travelers has submitted substantial detail about the scope of its nonconforming activities and the steps available to Travelers to conform those activities and investments to the requirements of the BHC Act.
Travelers has specifically committed to conform all its current activities and investments to the requirements of the BHC Act within two years of the date of consummation of this proposal (or such extended period as the Board, in its discretion, may grant), including by modifying activities to meet the requirements of the Act, divesting impermissible investments, terminating various activities, and divesting subsidiaries as necessary. Travelers also has recognized that all its activities and investments after consummation of this proposal would be subject to the constraints in section 4 of the BHC Act. The Board concludes that, in light of the various alternatives available to Travelers to meet the requirements of the BHC Act, Travelers has provided sufficient detail to allow the Board to act on this proposal.
For the reasons above, the Board finds that the BHC Act does not require denial of this proposal based on the type, scope or amount of nonbanking activities currently conducted by Travelers. The Board's action on this case is subject to the condition that Travelers and Citigroup take all actions necessary to conform the activities and investments of Travelers and all its subsidiaries to the requirements of the BHC Act in a manner acceptable to the Board, including by divestiture as necessary, within two years of the date of consummation of the proposed acquisition of Citicorp.(17) In addition, the Board's action on this proposal is subject to the condition that all investments and activities of Travelers and Citigroup after consummation of the proposed acquisition of Citicorp conform to the requirements of the BHC Act and the Board's regulations and orders thereunder. During the section 4(a)(2) conformance period, Citigroup may not expand its investments and activities by acquiring direct or indirect control of, or all or substantially all the assets of, a company engaged in any activity, whether or not conducted by Travelers or one of its subsidiaries before becoming a bank holding company, unless otherwise authorized by the BHC Act.(18)
Factors Governing Board Review of Transaction
The BHC Act specifically enumerates the factors that the Board must consider when reviewing the formation of a bank holding company and the acquisition of bank holding companies or banks. As the Board explained in testimony before Congress, the Board must consider the proposed transaction that is presented and determine whether the proposal and the particular companies involved meet the statutory factors of the BHC Act. The Board is not granted authority under the BHC Act to disapprove a proposal that meets these statutory factors and complies with other relevant law.(19) The Board, for example, cannot deny the proposal simply because Travelers and Citicorp are large organizations, if the proposal meets the statutory factors under the BHC Act and is consistent with other relevant law.
The factors that the Board must consider under the BHC Act in determining whether a company may become a bank holding company are the financial and managerial resources and future prospects of the companies and banks involved in the transaction; the competitive effects of the proposal in the relevant geographic markets; the convenience and needs of the communities to be served, including the records of performance under the CRA of the insured depository institutions involved in the transaction; and the availability of information needed to determine and enforce compliance with the BHC Act.(20) In addition, the Board must consider whether performance by the applicant and its nondepository institution subsidiaries of the proposed nonbanking activities can reasonably be expected to produce benefits to the public, such as greater convenience, increased competition, or gains in efficiency, that outweigh possible adverse effects, such as undue concentration of resources, decreased or unfair competition, conflicts of interests, or unsound banking practices.
Financial, Managerial and Supervisory Factors
The proposed combination of Travelers and Citicorp would create the largest financial services firm in the United States and the world, in terms of total assets. The companies view their proposed merger as a strategic alliance through which each company would continue to operate its separate businesses and would benefit from the other's strengths. Travelers and Citicorp believe that Citigroup would be financially stronger and more diversified than either organization separately, and that the formation of Citigroup would foster stronger domestic capital markets.
The Board has carefully considered the financial and managerial resources and future prospects of the companies and banks involved in the proposal, the effect the proposed transaction would have on those resources and other supervisory factors in light of all the facts of record, including public comments. A number of commenters expressed concerns about the financial and managerial resources of Travelers, Citicorp and the combined organization.(21) In addition, commenters questioned whether the Board could adequately supervise the combined organization. Some commenters also questioned whether the activities of Citigroup, particularly its insurance activities, would present special risks to the federal deposit insurance funds or the financial system in general.(22)
In considering financial and managerial factors, the Board has reviewed the consolidated financial position of Travelers and Citicorp, the financial position of each of their principal subsidiaries and the financial position of the pro forma organization. The Board also has considered confidential examination and other supervisory information assessing the financial and managerial strength of Citicorp and the insured depository institution subsidiaries of Travelers and Citicorp.(23) In addition, the Board has reviewed public and confidential supervisory reports and information regarding the activities and financial position of the regulated subsidiaries of Travelers. The Board has also consulted with the relevant state and federal supervisors of the principal subsidiaries of Travelers and with the federal supervisory agencies of the insured depository institutions controlled by Citicorp. In addition, the Board has reviewed information submitted by both Travelers and Citicorp regarding the programs that the companies have implemented to prepare their systems for the Year 2000 and confidential examination and supervisory information assessing Citicorp's efforts to ensure Year 2000 readiness.
The Board has consistently considered capital adequacy to be an especially important aspect in analyzing financial factors.(24) Citicorp and all the subsidiaries of Citicorp and Travelers that are subject to regulatory capital requirements currently exceed the relevant requirements. In addition, Citicorp and all of the subsidiary depository institutions of Citicorp and Travelers currently are well capitalized under applicable federal guidelines. Citigroup also would be well capitalized on a pro forma basis on consummation of the transaction. The proposed transaction is structured as a stock-for-stock combination and would not increase the debt service requirements of the combined company. In addition, both companies have reported positive earnings in recent periods. The Board also has reviewed the potential effect on Citigroup of actions that would be required to conform its activities to the requirements of the BHC Act, and concluded that, while the actions include potential divestitures that may be material, they should not raise concerns regarding capital adequacy.
The senior management of Citigroup would be drawn from the senior management of Travelers and Citicorp.(25) Citicorp and its depository institutions are well managed, and the Board has extensive experience with the senior management of the organization. While the Board has not had direct experience with the management of Travelers, the company's senior management has extensive experience in the operations of Travelers's different business lines, and the Board has considered information from other functional supervisors regarding their experience with management of various Travelers subsidiaries. Further, Travelers and Citicorp currently have appropriate risk-management processes in place, and Citigroup is expected to have in place a risk-management structure sufficient to monitor and manage the risks of a diverse organization, including the insurance risks that would exist during the section 4(a)(2) conformance period. Both companies have comprehensive programs designed to ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations, including those pertaining to consumer protections. These programs would be retained after consummation and adapted to create a comprehensive compliance program for Citigroup.
The Board has extensive experience supervising Citicorp, which is a complex worldwide financial institution. Building on this experience, the Board has developed a supervisory plan that, in the Board's view, would permit the Board to monitor and supervise the combined organization effectively on a consolidated basis. The plan involves, among other things, continuous holding company supervision, including both on- and off-site reviews, of the combined organization's material risks on a consolidated basis and across business lines; access to and analyses of the combined organization's internal reports for monitoring and controlling risks on a consolidated basis; and frequent contact with the combined organization's senior management and risk management personnel. The processes implementing the plan would be coordinated with those of the functional regulators for a number of Citigroup's subsidiaries, including regulated securities and insurance activities. The Board expects that management of Citigroup will cooperate fully with this supervisory plan to ensure that the Board has complete access to information on the combined organization's operations, risks, risk management, financial condition, and efforts to ensure Year 2000 compliance. In addition to furnishing copies of certain reports filed with primary insurance and securities regulators, it is the Board's expectation that Citigroup will cooperate fully in providing specialized financial data requested by the Board for the supervision of financial conglomerates.
For these reasons, and based on all the facts of record, including review of the comments, the Board has concluded that considerations relating to the financial and managerial resources and future prospects of Travelers, Citicorp, their respective subsidiaries, and Citigroup and other supervisory factors are consistent with approval of the proposal under the BHC Act.
Competitive Aspects Under Section 3 of the BHC Act
Section 3 of the BHC Act prohibits the Board from approving a proposal to acquire a bank that would result in a monopoly or that would substantially lessen competition in any relevant banking market, if the anticompetitive effects of the proposal are not clearly outweighed in the public interest by the probable effect of the proposal in meeting the convenience and needs of the community to be served.(26)
The proposal involves the acquisition of banks by Travelers, which does not own a commercial bank. Travelers owns a savings association, a limited-purpose credit card bank and a variety of nonbanking companies. Based on all the facts of record, the Board has determined that consummation of the proposal by Travelers to acquire the subsidiary banks of Citicorp would not likely result in a significantly adverse effect on competition or on the concentration of banking resources in any relevant banking market. Accordingly, the Board has determined that competitive factors under section 3 of the BHC Act are consistent with approval of the proposal. The competitive effects of the proposed nonbanking activities are discussed below.
Convenience and Needs Factor
In acting on the proposal, the Board also must consider the convenience and needs of the communities to be served and take into account the records of the relevant depository institutions under the CRA. The CRA requires the federal financial supervisory agencies to encourage financial institutions to help meet the credit needs of local communities in which they operate, consistent with their safe and sound operation, and requires the appropriate federal financial supervisory agency to take into account an institution's record of meeting the credit needs of its entire community, including LMI neighborhoods, in evaluating bank expansion proposals. The Board has carefully considered the convenience and needs factor and the CRA performance records of the subsidiary depository institutions of Citicorp and Travelers in light of all the facts of record, including public comments on the proposal.
A. Summary of Public Comments on Convenience and Needs Factor
The Board provided an extended period for public comment on the proposal and convened a public meeting in New York to collect information on the statutory factors the Board is required to consider, including the effect of the proposal on the convenience and needs of the affected communities and the CRA performance records of the insured depository institutions involved. As noted above, more than 425 interested members of the public either submitted written remarks or testified at the public meeting.
More than 320 commenters supported the proposal or commented favorably on the CRA-related activities or other community-related activities of Citicorp or Travelers. Commenters who expressed support for Citicorp represented a wide variety of entities, including public and private community development and social welfare organizations, educational and artistic nonprofit organizations, religious organizations, and educational entities.(27) A number of these organizations commended Citicorp for providing their organizations with charitable gifts, loans, equity products developed by Citicorp, and tax credit investments.(28) A number of state and local government officials commented favorably on their experiences with Citicorp and praised Citicorp for helping their communities as a significant employer, a leader in community development and a generous benefactor. Some affordable housing and economic development organizations commended Citicorp as a corporate leader that helped mobilize community action on their behalf or created useful products and services, such as tax credits, to assist them. Numerous commenters also noted that Citicorp provided community organizations with grants for their general operational needs and fund raising efforts, technical assistance for their organizational staff, and training or counseling for their constituent communities. In addition, several minority or women business owners commended Citicorp for providing small business loans, technical assistance and educational programs.
Commenters who expressed support for Travelers included organizations involved in microeconomic development, job training, social welfare, medical research, and education, and certain local government agencies. These commenters reported that Travelers has assisted them by providing grants, in-kind donations of equipment and office space, and advisory services. Citicorp and Travelers also were commended for permitting their officers and employees to volunteer or serve on the organizations' boards of directors.
Several small business owners also supported the proposal for Citigroup to cross-market loan, insurance and investment products. These commenters believed that allowing "one-stop shopping" for all types of financial products would increase convenience and efficiencies, particularly for small businesses.
In addition, a number of commenters praised the Citigroup community pledge and asserted that the lending, investment and financial-education components of the pledge would help LMI communities and the economy generally. Several commenters also believed that the urban insurance components of the Citigroup community pledge would increase the availability of homeowners insurance in several urban areas.
More than 105 commenters either opposed the proposal, requested that the Board approve the merger subject to conditions suggested by the commenter, requested delay of Board action or expressed concerns about the CRA performance record of Citicorp or the record of Travelers with regard to Travelers's lending and insurance related activities.(29)
A number of commenters contended that Citicorp has an inadequate record of mortgage lending to LMI and minority individuals and communities, particularly in New York and California. Commenters alleged that Citicorp makes few direct mortgage loans in LMI or minority communities, relying instead on intermediaries to make such loans, and that Citicorp does not offer sufficient mortgage loans for multifamily housing. Citicorp's policies on branch location, outreach efforts and customer service were alleged to discourage minority families from applying for loans, and to result in directing capital away from LMI and minority communities throughout its assessment area. Commenters also maintained that Citibank has an inadequate record of small business lending in LMI and minority communities and that the proposed …
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Publication information: Article title: Order Approving Formation of a Bank Holding Company and Notice to Engage in Nonbanking Activities. Contributors: Frierson, Robert Dev. - Author. Journal title: Federal Reserve Bulletin. Publication date: November 1998. Page number: 985. © 1999 Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. COPYRIGHT 1998 Gale Group.
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