A community group has succeeded in forcing additional scrutiny of Banc of California's (BANC) expansion plans.
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has asked the Irvine, Calif., company to file a second public notice of its plans to buy 20 Southern California branches from Banco Popular (BPOP). The regulator has also established an additional 30-day comment period on the proposed transaction, which was agreed to in April.
The extension of the review period is a victory for the California Reinvestment Coalition, or CRC, a group that advocates for better banking services in poor and minority neighborhoods. The CRC asked regulators to reopen comments on the deal last week, arguing that extra review is necessary because the $4 billion-asset bank lacks Banco Popular's history of serving minority and immigrant communities. The CRC also said Banc of California should also be forced to publicly disclose its Community Reinvestment Act plan, a demand the bank objects to.
The extended review period "is a good sign that the OCC is taking this issues we raised related to underserved communities very seriously," Paulina Gonzalez, the CRC's executive director, wrote in an email Friday.
In a statement, Banc of California Chief Executive Steven Sugarman said he "agree[s] that broader publication of our acquisition is a good idea and are always happy to take good ideas from all sources."
"We believe that our openness to good ideas is why 35 diverse community organizations have joined in support of our application, and we continue to dialogue with all community leaders to find ways to enhance our programs and innovate," read the statement.
The new comment period will run from July 21 to August 19, an OCC spokesman said. The notices will be placed in the the Los Angeles Times and the Spanish-language paper La Opinion on Monday. The CRC had argued that the original notices were placed in two papers the New York Times and the Orange County Register that are not widely read by Banco Popular's customers.
The dispute between the CRC and Banc of California began last year, and centers on the lender's refusal to make its CRA plan public or share it with the advocacy group. Banks are not required to disclose their CRA plans, and Banc of California says it won't doing so because the plan contains proprietary information. The lender received a "satisfactory" on its last CRA exam, in 2012.