ATLANTA Georgia state Sen. Vincent D. Fort led a demonstration Thursday against First Union Bank Inc., charging that the bank holds hundreds of thousands of abusive loans and should not be allowed to acquire Wachovia Corp.
We think that federal regulators should not approve the merger between First Union and Wachovia until First Union makes right the 500,000 predatory loans that they have from the Money Store, said Sen. Fort, a Democrat, in an interview before the event.
Though he understands that First Union has closed the Money Store, he compared the banks holding the loans of its former subprime subsidiary to a bank robber who has stopped robbing banks but keeps the ill-gotten gains.
The protest targeted First Unions office in Atlanta, and Sen. Fort said he expected up to 150 people to attend.
The legislator, who introduced a predatory-lending bill this year in the Georgia Senate, said he also has concerns about Wachovia. Though his bill passed, Sen. Fort said it was gutted.
First Union and Wachovia should sit down at the table and begin talking about supporting reasonable legislation, similar to what I introduced that would stop predatory lending practices, he said.
Lenny Springs, senior vice president for First Unions community development group, said that the bank has made several offers to Sen. Fort to address any loans that he felt were abusive, and in fact have resolved four loans.
In addition, Mr. Springs said First Union has less than 1,000 loans from the Money Store outstanding in the metro-Atlanta area. He called the comparison to a bank robber unjustified.
Further, he said that First Union and Wachovia officials have met with Sen. Fort on several occasions. We are not predatory lenders, Mr. Springs said. If in fact theres an opportunity to have some further discussions, well do that. But to protest us and then say lets talk, thats going to be difficult for us to do.