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Morning news brief

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Some of this country's biggest banks are sending money to a bank in trouble.

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

First Republic Bank is headquartered in San Francisco. That's not far from the headquarters of Silicon Valley Bank, which failed a week ago. And although First Republic appears healthier, it's been facing some of the same pressures and a lot of anxiety. So other banks passed the hat, and it's a fairly large hat - $30 billion.

INSKEEP: NPR's David Gura joins us now. David, good morning.

DAVID GURA, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: How did their fellow bankers come to rescue First Republic?

GURA: Well, this is a pretty extraordinary deal, and it came together over just 48 hours as a result of the incredible volatility that we've seen on Wall Street in shares of some of America's small and midsized lenders after regulators closed Silicon Valley Bank and also Signature Bank.

INSKEEP: Yeah.

GURA: First Republic Bank has been caught up in that. It faced an exodus of customers as they moved their money to other larger banks. And while that happened, the lender's stock got hammered. Driving this, Steve was worried that first Republic could find itself in the same boat as those two failed lenders, that it could also face a bank run.

The way this is going to work is four of the big banks, including Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase, are each going to put up $5 billion, and the seven other lenders are going to put up the rest. And effectively what they're doing here is opening up a bank account or bank accounts at First Republic, and they're putting their money in just like you might or I might, Steve, except it's $30 billion. And that money is going to replenish those coffers that have been emptied out over the last week. And the hope is it'll both shore up confidence in First Republic, and it will bolster confidence in banking more broadly.

INSKEEP: Just so I know, David, if they open a new account and deposit $30 billion, do they get free checking with that?

GURA: (Laughter) I think that could be arranged.

INSKEEP: Hopefully that can be arranged. OK. So you said some customers were taking money out and that was part of the pressure here. Why would they be panicking?

GURA: Yeah. This is a lender that in some ways does have a similar profile to Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. It has a lot of wealthy individuals as customers and businesses as clients. What's quite remarkable here, Steve, is, like many lenders that have come under pressure this week, it was not known to have any big underlying problems yet it was caught up in the selloff. Tim Coffey is a bank analyst with the brokerage Janney.

TIM COFFEY: From a credit perspective, it's a very safe institution. They don't do a lot of risky loans. Majority of the portfolio is single-family residential mortgage loans, and those loans are the high-net-worth individuals who deposit large sums.

GURA: What First Republic does have, Steve, is a lot of deposits that are large, too big to be insured by the FDIC. And like many other banks, it's invested in government bonds that are now less valuable because the Federal Reserve has been raising interest rates aggressively over the last year. First Republic is facing potential losses because of that.

INSKEEP: OK. So their investments lose money. They've got less resources. Depositors say I'm not fully insured, so they start taking out money, and suddenly, I guess, it would be like that scene in "It's A Wonderful Life." You have to pay every depositor every dollar they ask for, or you close.

GURA: And also, these two bank failures have made Wall Street very nervous. There is widespread worry that regardless of a bank's profile, how healthy its balance sheet is, another bank could suffer a similar implosion. And that Janney analyst, Tim Coffey, says a lot of this fear is being driven by emotion, not by data.

COFFEY: What we have right now in the banking industry is a crisis of confidence.

GURA: And this new deal, Steve, is designed to tackle that head-on.

INSKEEP: So is it going to succeed then?

GURA: Well, the hope is that, but things are so volatile right now, we don't know for sure. We don't know how many customers left First Republic over the last week or how much money they took with them when they left. Tim Coffey told me he thinks that $30 Billion is going to be, as he put it, an adequate amount. The regulators certainly say they appreciate the deal. In a joint statement that's just two sentences long, the Treasury secretary and the Federal Reserve chair, the heads of some other agencies said the bank show of support is, as they put it, most welcome, Steve, and that it, quote, "demonstrates the resilience of the banking system."

INSKEEP: NPR's David Gura. Thanks so much.

GURA: Thanks, Steve.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: How much can French lawmakers really do now that their president has bypassed them?

PFEIFFER: Emmanuel Macron forced a change in his country's retirement system yesterday. He'd been facing a tough vote in parliament, one that led to the street protests we've been describing on this program. So Macron invoked a provision that let him raise France's retirement age on his own with no vote. Lawmakers protested by singing the national anthem.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED LAWMAKERS: (Singing in French).

PFEIFFER: Soon they hope to go from singing to voting no confidence in their government.

INSKEEP: Reporter Lisa Bryant is covering this in Paris. Hey there, Lisa.

LISA BRYANT: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: OK, so the president has faced weeks of protests. Polls showing his move is unpopular. Why would he act without parliament to do it?

BRYANT: Well, for Macron, it's about the numbers. The pension system is paid for by employment taxes, the demographic changes, in other words, people living longer, and a shrinking workforce threaten insolvency. He says the system can't afford retirement at 62. Most people here are opposed to the reform, and Macron didn't appear to have the votes in the lower house of Parliament, especially from the center-right Republican Party. So rather than risk a vote, he used a rarely used constitutional lever, Article 49.3, which allows him to enact the reform without a vote of Parliament.

INSKEEP: Wow. What was it like when lawmakers realized they'd been cut out of the action?

BRYANT: Well, the scene yesterday in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, was chaotic - deputies yelling, banging on desks. Take a listen here.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED LAWMAKERS: (Chanting in French).

BRYANT: They're yelling at Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, who has just announced the government will enact the pension reform without a vote of the assembly. Outside, thousands gathered in Paris to condemn the reform. There were also protests in cities like Marseille. Unions have called for more strikes and protests in the coming days. Opposition parties have called for a vote of no confidence, probably on Monday. And if it succeeds, Macron's prime minister and cabinet are ousted, and the pension reform measure is defeated. The government says this will effectively be the vote, the pension on the pension plan it denied parliament.

INSKEEP: Well, let's try to get some perspective here. Sixty-two years old as a retirement age - that's on the low side for the United States, where there's a sliding scale. You might retire at 62. You might retire at 70. But how does it compare to other European countries, essentially France's peers?

BRYANT: Well, France is an outlier with such an early retirement age. In much of the rest of Europe, it's 65 and up. The French are fiercely protective of their universal health care and generous pensions. And it's a choice society has made - work hard, pay high taxes, but also retire at a relatively young age, with a high standard of living. So the past two months, there have been hundreds of thousands of people marching against the reform, also a series of nationwide strikes, including public transport, refinery workers, teachers, garbage collectors. And in many parts of Paris, the trash hasn't been collected in more than a week. And there are huge piles of garbage in much of the city.

INSKEEP: If I may ask, how is your neighborhood smelling these days?

BRYANT: (Laughter) I am actually lucky. I've got - we have a private collector. It's a poor neighborhood of Paris, and it's gotten a private collection. Some of the richer parts of Paris - there's a lot of garbage out there.

INSKEEP: Wow. Wow. Interesting contrast - the opposite of what you'd think. Lisa, thanks so much.

BRYANT: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's reporter Lisa Bryant.

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INSKEEP: Authorities in Richmond, Va., have accused police and hospital workers of murder.

PFEIFFER: Seven sheriff's deputies took a man into custody and then to a mental hospital. He died in the process. The man was Irvo Otieno, and he was Black. The seven officers are of a variety of races. And we want to note there will be detailed accounts of violence in this next conversation.

INSKEEP: Whittney Evans of our member station VPM in Richmond has been following this. Good morning.

WHITTNEY EVANS, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: Would you talk us through the facts, at least as far as they're known?

EVANS: Yeah. So this all began March 3, when a neighbor called the police to report a potential burglary. The suspect was 28-year-old Irvo Otieno. Officers and mental health crisis workers on the scene recognized this was a mental health situation. And so they took Otieno to a local hospital. But sometime during that visit, the officers say Otieno started acting out and assaulting them. So he was taken to jail and charged with vandalism, assault and disorderly conduct. His mother said he did not have access to his medication while in jail. And after three days, deputies transferred him over to the state hospital, where he died soon after arriving.

INSKEEP: Just so I understand, someone called police because they felt there was maybe a burglary. And I guess his attorney or his family's attorney would say he was just behaving in an unusual manner. Is that right?

EVANS: That's right, yes. His attorney said that - something along the lines of, quote, "he was rearranging solar panels" (ph) in his neighbor's yard.

INSKEEP: What do we know about the cause of death?

EVANS: Just a reminder for listeners, this may be hard to hear...

INSKEEP: Right.

EVANS: ...Graphic details. The medical examiner hasn't ruled on the cause of death yet, but there's surveillance footage, and it hasn't been released to the public. The family and their lawyers were able to view the footage yesterday, however. They described Otieno as being carried lifelessly, handcuffed, wearing leg irons, slumping over and even nude in parts of the video. And they say he was not posing a threat or being violent. His mother, Caroline Ouko, brought her son to the United States from Kenya when he was 4. She told reporters he'd been managing his mental illness for years and had been previously hospitalized.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CAROLINE OUKO: What I saw today was heartbreaking, America. It was disturbing. It was traumatic. My son was tortured.

EVANS: And they say there was a knee on his neck and the weight of multiple people on his body while he was facedown on the floor.

INSKEEP: I guess we should emphasize we're hearing a description of the video. We have not seen the video, but this is a very familiar-sounding description when you hear about a knee on the neck.

EVANS: Right. Attorney Ben Crump thinks so, too. He's representing the family in this case. And you may remember that he also represented the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. He says officers and hospital employees had Otieno pinned down for several minutes.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BEN CRUMP: Why would any law enforcement officer put a knee on the neck of a person who is facedown, handcuffed and restrained? Why would anybody not have enough common sense to say, we've seen this movie before?

INSKEEP: So how are local officials responding then?

EVANS: Well, seven deputies involved have been placed on administrative leave. They, along with three state hospital workers, have all been charged with second-degree murder.

INSKEEP: Whittney, thanks so much.

EVANS: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: Whittney Evans of our member station VPM in Richmond, Va. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sacha Pfeiffer is a correspondent for NPR's Investigations team and an occasional guest host for some of NPR's national shows.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.