The Federal Reserve is delaying a vote on Toronto- Dominion Bank's plan to buy a card and consumer loan bank in the New York suburbs until the two submit a detailed three-year community reinvestment plan.
The Fed wants to know "the specific approach" Toronto-Dominion intends to pursue after buying Waterhouse National Bank of White Plains, N.Y., "with time frames for anticipated actions, proposals for monitoring, progress reports, and the like," wrote Glenn E. Loney, associate director for consumer and community affairs.
His letter was sent to the bank Tuesday
Industry lawyers and activists said the Fed's action was highly unusual. Fed officials often ask banks for more details on Community Reinvestment Act initiatives but rarely demand long-range investment plans.
"This is telling you that the Fed thinks Toronto-Dominion's record is satisfactory but they are concerned about items raised by protesters," said Francis X. Grady, a partner at Grady & Associates in Cleveland.
Warren Traiger, a New York lawyer following the case, said the request was the Fed's second attempt to get more information about Toronto- Dominion's plans. Last month the Fed asked for less specific CRA plans, he said.
Toronto-Dominion lawyer Gary Rice did not return calls for comment. A bank spokeswoman also did not return calls.
The bank's plan to buy Waterhouse National has been barraged by protests from Inner City Press/Community on the Move, a Bronx-based activist group. It charges that Waterhouse has not fulfilled the community reinvestment pledge it made to the Fed in 1994 when it got its charter.
The bank, which lends to customers of Waterhouse Investment Service, was supposed to market products in low- and moderate-income communities, hold training seminars, and offer secured credit cards. Instead, it did virtually nothing until Toronto-Dominion made its bid, the group charges.
Inner City Press conceded that Waterhouse had made a $6 million purchase of low-income-housing bonds this summer. But it said the bonds actually funded housing in upper-income census tracks.
"I'd like to believe," said Matthew Lee, the group's executive director, that the latest Fed request is a "near denial, given the fact Waterhouse didn't do what they said they would do."
Mr. Traiger said the merger application could be in trouble because Waterhouse didn't begin addressing its CRA problems until after the merger bid. The Fed has previously said a bank must have its CRA program in place before requesting permission to merge, he said.