Banc One Corp.'s merger with First Chicago NBD Corp. could damage community reinvestment programs run by activists in Chicago and Detroit.

First Chicago has pledged about $10 billion to housing and development over the next three to 10 years in the two cities.

Banc One, however, is not expected to renew these pledges because the institution avoids deals with activists.

"We're philosophically opposed to it," said Julia Johnson, Banc One's senior vice president and community reinvestment officer.

Mary Decker, First Chicago's top community reinvestment officer, said she could not commit her company on how long its deals would continue after the deal closes.

That is "a decision the bank will have to make a long way down the road," she said.

Ms. Johnson said Banc One tried to make deals with community groups in the early 1980s, but each spawned requests for agreements from other parties.

"You can't manage them," she said.

That kind of talk sends shudders through activists, who have pressed the company for a national Community Reinvestment Act pledge.

"Imagine if she said that about all their corporate customers," said Malcolm Bush, president of Woodstock Institute, a Chicago group that recently signed a six-year, $4.1 billion community reinvestment deal with First Chicago.

Mr. Bush said it is "unfortunate" that Banc One shuns pacts with community groups.

"First Chicago has been very willing to sit down with us," he said.

After failing to negotiate a national agreement with Banc One, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, known as Acorn, protested the deal.

An Acorn official said last week that if Ms. Johnson is put in charge of CRA at the post-merger Bank One (see article at bottom of page), relationships with community groups would deteriorate.

Ms. Johnson "has no relationships with any community groups," said Michael Shea of Acorn's Illinois chapter.

Activists said Ms. Decker, by contrast, has good rapport with Chicago- area community groups, and some said they fear she may lose out to Ms. Johnson.

The Clinton administration reportedly is considering Ms. Decker for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board.

Activists, however, do not have to worry that Banc One will pull the plug on existing programs.

Banc One chairman and chief executive officer John B. McCoy has said the merged company, to be named Bank One, will honor any agreement made by First Chicago.

Activists fear that future deals with First Chicago may be in jeopardy.

In testimony at a Fed hearing on the deal last week, First Chicago chairman Verne G. Istock said:

"I know that when companies merge, communities always fear loss of support.

"We heard that concern when First Chicago and NBD merged three years ago.

"But as the earnings of the combined (company) have grown, so have our contributions."

Neither company wanted the Fed hearing, but Banc One officials seemed particularly put off by it.

"This whole thing is done for Acorn," one Banc One executive grumbled.

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