As large banking companies involved in megadeals announce multibillion- dollar community reinvestment commitments, merger partners Banc One Corp. and First Chicago NBD Corp. may have to make a CRA pledge of their own, activists said.
These activists said they would like to see the two companies set aside as much as $200 billion over 10 years for CRA purposes.
But such an agreement may not be easy to win.
For one thing, Banc One has a history of being very hesitant to make CRA deals.
And a First Chicago official interviewed last week said no CRA announcement is planned in the short term. "The way we're approaching it is, 'Let's talk to the groups in our communities where we operate,'" said spokesman Thomas Kelly. Banc One officials could not be reached to comment.
Community activists are hoping, however, that the pressure to follow the example of other large merging banks may make this time different for Banc One and First Chicago.
Citicorp, which is merging with Travelers Group Inc., and NationsBank Corp., which is absorbing BankAmerica Corp., have recently announced unprecedented pledges of $115 billion and $350 billion in CRA lending, respectively.
Washington Mutual Inc., which had already pledged $75 billion over 10 years in connection with its merger with Great Western Financial Corp., said last week it would increase its pledge to $120 billion as part of a deal to buy H.F. Ahmanson & Co.
These commitments, or "megapledges," make Banc One and First Chicago the only companies involved in a merger with national reach that have not so far announced a CRA pledge.
Banc One and First Chicago are "going to have to do something," said Kenneth Thomas, a consultant and author on fair-lending issues, "and it's going to have to be pretty big."
Community groups expect a minimum pledge of 5% to 7.5% of a merged banking company's combined assets, Mr. Thomas noted. By that measure, Banc One and First Chicago would pledge $115 billion to $175 billion over the next 10 years. An "outstanding" pledge would be up to $200 billion, he added.
The megapledges made by other companies are going to make it more difficult for Banc One and First Chicago not to announce a deal soon, said Robert Gnaizda, general counsel for the San Francisco-based Greenlining Institute. "Bank of America forces their hand; Washington Mutual forces their hand."
But Matthew Lee, executive director of Inner City Press/Community on the Move, Bronx, N.Y., said he is not sure this strategy would work.
Banc One did agree with Cleveland on CRA lending in 1992, he noted, but only after Mayor Michael R. White challenged the company's acquisition of Valley National of Phoenix.
That agreement was not reached without a fight, and community activists have generally perceived Banc One as hostile to such commitments, Mr. Lee said.
Meanwhile, First Chicago has had generally positive relationships with community groups in its headquarters city. But it is unclear which company's CRA history will have greater influence on the $230 billion-asset post-merger company that is to bear the Banc One name.