As I noted last week, the OCC’s proposed bank-merger policy fails to reckon with the strong supervisory and regulatory powers federal banking agencies already have to quash problematic consolidations and concentrations. Here, I turn to one reason why the OCC may not trust these rules: it doesn’t trust itself. A bit of recent history shows all too well why this self-doubt is warranted even though it’s also inexcusable.
I owe my historical recall to the authoritative Bank Reg Blog, which last week looked at the latest on NYCB. This included a troubling reminder of the troubled bank’s merger with Flagstar before it thought it snapped up another great deal from the FDIC via acquiring what was left of Signature Bank.
NYCB first sought approval for the Flagstar acquisition in 2021 when its primary federal regulator was the FDIC. As is often the case with merger applications, this one appeared to go into a dark hole. Unlike many other acquisitions, the banking companies had a go-to Plan B: charter conversion.
NYCB went to the OCC and got rapid approval not just for converting its charter to a national bank, but also then for acquiring Flagstar via a reverse flip that also involved a Flagstar conversion to a national charter. The OCC then readily approved the merger in 2022, just in time for some of the super-rapid growth via the Signature deal both the OCC and FDIC approved even though they should have been well aware that rapid-fire mergers almost always …