Citicorp and Travelers Group pledged Monday to lend or invest $115 billion over 10 years in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods after completing their merger to form Citigroup.
The commitment fell far short of the expectations of community reinvestment advocates, who vowed to press their fight to block the $70 billion deal.
"It is a very modest, if not insulting, commitment in the context of what others have done," said Robert Gnaizda, general counsel of the Greenlining Institute in San Francisco.
"It's worse than what I expected," said Matthew Lee, executive director of Inner City Press/Community on the Move, Bronx, N.Y. "This doesn't do it at all. The deal should be denied."
Mr. Lee said he was preparing to file his second comment on the merger with regulators.
Citicorp and Travelers made the pledge concurrently with their merger application to the Federal Reserve Board. (See page 3.)
Their commitment included $30 billion in small-business loans, $20 billion in mortgages within low- and moderate-income census tracts, and $59 billion in student loans, credit cards, and other consumer loans.
Another $6 billion would be used to set up a system of centers for community development enterprise, providing investments and grants for local projects.
"It is a symbol of our increased commitment to nonprofit organizations," said Pamela Flaherty, Citicorp's senior vice president for global community relations.
The companies said they plan to expand the availability of Travelers' property and casualty insurance products, discounts on insurance for low- income customers, and educational programs on finance, insurance, and technology to small businesses and those in poor neighborhoods.
Travelers launched this three-pronged program, "Urban Availability of Insurance," in 1994 in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, and Washington. It would be expanded to an unspecified six more cities over the next three years, Travelers said.
The insurance company also said it would augment a diversity program in its national 50,000-agent work force.
But community activists described the pledge as lacking in substance. Many had been expecting $200 billion to $400 billion in commitments, along with a pledge that the new company would boost insurance underwriting in low-income neighborhoods.
Mr. Lee, among others, said the inclusion of credit card loans in the program was unusual.
"It's a new breed of pledge," Mr. Lee said. "It is in the nature of a trial balloon, but I think the balloon should be sunk."
Despite the blast of criticism, Citicorp's Ms. Flaherty said, "We think it's dynamite, and we are extraordinarily proud of it."
Citicorp said the commitment was developed with input from community organizations and reflects their concerns. Small-business lending would increase 8% annually with the pledge. Last year the bank lent $1.9 billion to small businesses, said Susan Weeks, a Citicorp spokeswoman.
"Affordable" mortgages would be increased 9% annually. Last year Citicorp made $1.2 billion in such loans.
The community development commitment of $6 billion would result in a 12% jump in the bank's annual lending to nonprofits. Last year that figure was $297 million.
The additional consumer lending would amount to a 2.5% increase. Last year that figure was $5.1 billion, Ms. Weeks said.
Such pledges have become a familiar part of the bank merger scene. Washington Mutual Inc. in Seattle vowed last year to commit $75 billion over 10 years after acquiring Great Western Financial Corp.
BankAmerica Corp., San Francisco, made the biggest pledge on record-$140 billion over 10 years. It was not tied to a specific merger. NationsBank Corp. of Charlotte, N.C., has vowed to honor that commitment as part of its planned merger with BankAmerica.
Citicorp officials contended that their $115 billion is larger relative to deposits than BankAmerica's, but critics said it is more valid to measure the proportion of assets, and Citicorp has more.
Ms. Flaherty, who reports to Citicorp chairman John Reed, said he and Travelers chairman Sanford I. Weill have "had good, close coordination" about the loan pledge over the last month.