WASHINGTON - Federal Reserve Governor Lawrence B. Lindsey Tuesday questioned the community reinvestment record of First interstate Bancorp, Los Angeles, in dissenting from a Fed approval of the lender's plan to buy another bank.
Five other board members, including Chairman Alan Greenspan, voted for the bank's application to acquire California Republic Bank, Bakersfield. Vice Chairman David W. Mullins was absent and did not vote.
Mr. Lindsey said in a statement that First Interstate's record on mortgage lending and community outreach was not strong enough for him to support the application.
"In my view, both banks have deficient records of performance ... especially in Bakersfield," he wrote.
First Interstate declined to comment for this article. All of its subsidiary banks have "satisfactory" or "outstanding" community reinvestment ratings. California Republic was rated "needs to improve" in April.
The vote will let First Interstate merge with Cal Rep Bankcorp, Bakersfield, and thereby acquire the subsidiary bank.
The five governors who approved the acquisition did so only after First Interstate agreed to specific steps to improve its mortgage lending in Bakersfield.
These include expanding availability of low-income mortgage products, moving its district headquarters to the city, assigning three mortgage loan officers to improve community outreach, and aggressively marketing programs.
In addition, the company committed itself to run 20 homebuyer workshops in the next year and initiate a "community forum" to increase its presence in the area. It also agreed to submit semiannual reports to the Fed on its progress in mortgage lending.
But even those commitments did not persuade Mr. Lindsey to support the application, he said.
Only 4 Mortgages to Blacks
In explaining his dissent, Mr. Lindsey said that First Interstate had made only four mortgage loans in 1992 to Bakersfield blacks. The loans were worth $174,000.
And he said the company did not show sufficient evidence of other types of lending - such as credits to minority-owned small businesses - to compensate for its low level of mortgage lending to minority group members.
By law, regulators must consider lenders' performance under the Community Reinvestment Act before they approve or deny expansion applications. In practice, though, regulators rarely deny applications on CRA grounds.
This year, according to Business Week, the Comptroller's office targeted First Interstate for a specialized fair-lending examination to determine whether it was illegally discriminating.