Washington Mutual Inc. Thursday touted a community reinvestment pledge $5 billion larger than the $70 billion promised by its rival in the battle for Great Western Financial Corp., but community groups weren't buying it.
"This is an historic commitment," said Kerry Killinger, chief executive of Washington Mutual, at a press conference in the Watts section of Los Angeles. He estimated it could lead to the creation of 257,000 jobs in the state.
But the Greenlining Institute and the California Reinvestment Committee, which count more than 200 community groups in their coalitions, reiterated their support for the H.F. Ahmanson & Co. pledge made three weeks earlier. "These are big figures, but so what?" asked Alan Fisher, executive director of the reinvestment committee. "They have failed to make specific commitments to community needs. We are extremely disappointed."
Robert Gnaizda, general counsel of the Greenlining Institute, said that, if Washington Mutual refuses to budge on its plan, the group would consider filing a protest with regulators and requesting a public hearing.
Such a development could delay regulatory approval of Washington Mutual's offer, giving Ahmanson a time advantage, analysts said.
"CRA objections can hold companies hostage," said Jay Tejera, analyst at Dain Bosworth Inc., Minneapolis. "Time is money, so it is a business issue for investors and for management. The quicker you can clear this up the better."
Unlike Ahmanson, Washington Mutual refused to earmark a percentage of its proposed $50 billion for affordable-housing loans to go to minority group members and refused to commit itself to a standard of diversity in its senior management and board.
Also, Mr. Gnaizda said, Mr. Killinger would meet only once a year with the community groups, while Ahmanson chairman Charles Rinehart has agreed to monthly meetings.