Community activists opposed to the pending merger of Citicorp and Travelers Group say the two companies are going to have to "change the paradigm" with their Community Reinvestment Act commitment, which is expected to be announced today.
Citicorp and Travelers are making the pledge as part of their merger application to the Federal Reserve Board, said Citicorp spokesman John M. Morris.
Mr. Morris would not provide details on the commitment, except to say "it's real."
Community groups said they would not be satisfied with a commitment of less than $200 billion over 10 years. Some activists said they expected to see a pledge of at least $400 billion over a decade.
"We want to see size; we want to see creativity," said Robert Gnaizda, general counsel of the Greenlining Institute, a public policy group in San Francisco. "They need to make a statement that this kind of merger is going to be uniquely beneficial to our communities."
Such a pledge would dwarf the industry's biggest community reinvestment commitment to date - $140 billion over 10 years made by BankAmerica Corp. last September, community leaders said.
In small protests staged this week outside Citicorp and Travelers headquarters in Manhattan, community groups demanded more information about the companies' plans to make loans in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. The groups also want to know what the merger will mean in terms of layoffs and branch closings.
In addition, community advocates said they want to see a large commitment to small-business lending. That record is currently held by BankAmerica, with an $80 billion pledge over 10 years, according to the Greenlining Institute.
Mr. Gnaizda said he wants Citicorp and Travelers to make charitable contributions in amounts "equal to the aggregate compensation packages of their top five executives."
Other advocates said a commitment to sell insurance products in poor neighborhoods would also be beneficial.
"If they could extend CRA to insurance and make an underwriting commitment, that would be a very progressive stand," said Matthew Lee, executive director of Bronx, N.Y.-based Inner City Press/Community on the Move.
Though not technically a requirement of the Fed approval process, community reinvestment commitments have become common as banks seek to satisfy disgruntled community groups while showing regulators their merger plans serve the public good, Mr. Lee said.
Many hotly contested bank mergers in recent years have been accompanied by large lending commitments. Chase Manhattan Corp., as part of its 1996 merger with Chemical Banking Corp., pledged $18 billion over five years.
More recently First Union Corp. pledged $13 billion over 10 years to communities in Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania as part of its $16.6 billion acquisition of CoreStates Financial Corp. in Philadelphia.