Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Bank Deal Ok'd, with Conditions

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Bank Deal Ok'd, with Conditions

Article excerpt

The Federal Reserve said Tuesday that it approved fast-growing Investors Bancorp Inc.'s long-pending purchase of Roma Financial Corp. in Mercer County while requiring that the Short Hills-based acquirer take steps to address concerns about discriminatory lending and consumer protections.

The deal to buy Roma was first announced almost a year ago, on Dec. 19, and was supposed to be completed by the end of June but has been delayed by the Fed's review of the bank's compliance with community reinvestment, and anti-discrimination laws, which were the main focus of the regulator's review.

The banks' mortgage-lending data showed disparities in lending to African-Americans and Hispanics as compared with whites, but the data did not prove for sure that the banks excluded or denied credit to minorities, the Fed said.

However, as a condition of approving the deal, Investors -- which has about 100 branches, including four in Bergen and Passaic counties -- must "enhance its consumer compliance program and policies to account for the size, complexity and diversification of the business lines that would result from the acquisition," the Fed said.

Minority lending disparities cited in the report by the Fed were pointed out in a challenge to the merger submitted in March to the regulator by Matthew Lee, executive director of Inner City Press/ Fair Finance Watch, which is based in the South Bronx.

"We are kind of vindicated," Lee said Tuesday in response to the Fed's decision.

"It is very rare for the Fed to explicitly condition approval on an improvement of fair lending and consumer compliance programs," said Lee, who has used government data, collected under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, to protest against dozens of mergers around the country, including the pending acquisition of Paramus-based Hudson City Bancorp by M&T Corp. …

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