WASHINGTON - The Greenlining Coalition is threatening to protest the merger of two major Japanese banks unless their California subsidiaries make a major Community Reinvestment Act commitment.

Bank of Tokyo and Mitsubishi Bank, which want to merge to create a $840 billion-asset institution with $90 billion in U.S. assets, must exceed other California banks' CRA work to receive the community group's blessing.

"As the largest bank in the world, we believe it is only fair that you match or exceed Bank of America's commitments and achievements as part of your plan," the group said in a March 30 letter to the banks' presidents.

Last year, Bank of America made $5.9 billion in CRA loans.

The coalition of 22 community groups released the letter last week when it asked U.S. banking regulators to review the merger of Union Bank's and Bank of California's parents.

Intense scrutiny is necessary because the new main bank will select top officers, provide capital infusions, and make major policy decisions for the subsidiaries, the group said.

Officials at the two California banks declined to comment.

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