News Release: Groups Demand Open, Transparent Process for Capital One-Discover Merger Review


March 21, 2024

Carter Dougherty, Americans for Financial Reform,
Alan Pyke, National Community Reinvestment Coalition,
Jimmy Wyderko, American Economic Liberties Project,
Bartlett Naylor, Public Citizen, 

Groups Demand Open, Transparent Process for Capital One-Discover Merger Review

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A coalition of 30 community, consumer, civil rights, and public interest groups has called on federal bank and antitrust regulators to follow several critical procedural safeguards that will help ensure proper review of the proposed takeover of Discover by Capital One. The coalition includes Americans for Financial Reform, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, the American Economic Liberties Project and Public Citizen.

“The proposed merger presents multiple, significant concerns under federal antitrust and banking statutes that justify a careful and thorough review by banking and antitrust agencies,” the groups wrote in the March 21 letter, available here. “These procedural recommendations are consistent with existing statutes and regulations and would enhance transparency and public accountability for the consideration of this proposed merger.”

Specifically, the groups made four demands:

  • The two key banking regulators, the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) should prohibit a streamlined application or expedited review for the proposed merger,
  • The Fed and the OCC should extend the public comment period to at least sixty days, 
  • The Fed and the OCC should hold public hearings on the proposed merger, 
  • The Fed and the OCC should disclose the content of any pre-filing meetings with the merging parties to the public,
  • The Department of Justice should fully evaluate the proposed merger under the 2023 merger guidelines, not the outdated 1995 bank merger guidelines, and
  • The Department of Justice should make its competitive factors report, a legally required review of the merger, available to the public.

“There is not a reason in the world to rubber-stamp or accelerate approvals of this merger – quite the opposite,” said Patrick Woodall, senior fellow at Americans for Financial Reform. “If the authorities are serious about examining the impacts of this merger on depositors, customers, merchants, and communities, they need to move swiftly and assure the public that they will thoroughly review the proposed transaction.”

“Public, in-person hearings are vital to ensuring that banking regulators hear directly from the people who would lose the most if this dangerous proposed deal were approved,” said Jesse Van Tol, president and CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. “Although the quantifiable competitive harms from the deal are disqualifying on their own, we know that industry staff and lobbyists enjoy ready access to regulatory staff at all times. Community voices can have a harder time breaking through – which is why it’s so important for the hearings process to help the millions of lower-income people from whom Capital One extracts its profits to be represented in this conversation.”

“Capital One’s proposed acquisition of Discover demands a rigorous review under federal bank merger and antitrust laws. The OCC, Federal Reserve, and Justice Department must hew to 2023 Merger Guidelines, which reflect today’s complex banking landscape far beyond the outdated 1995 criteria,” said Shahid Naeem, senior policy analyst at the American Economic Liberties Project. “This merger, situated in increasingly concentrated markets, not only risks short-circuiting competition but also potentially manipulates regulatory exemptions to the detriment of consumers and economic resiliency. It is imperative that bank regulators and antitrust enforcers urgently address this consequential transaction.”

“At a time when we’re already bailing out regional banks, it’s not time to create another mega-bank, especially one specializing in subprime lending, a horror movie we’ve seen before, said Bartlett Naylor, economist with Public Citizen