A roar of protest at a Federal Reserve hearing Wednesday on the proposed merger of Fleet Financial Group and BankBoston Corp. may have convinced the two companies to increase a pledge to lend in poor neighborhoods.

Speaking outside the hearing room, where Boston's mayor and New York activist Rev. Al Sharpton registered opposition to the deal, Fleet chairman Terrence Murray admitted that he and BankBoston chief Charles Gifford were "flexible" about a five-year plan to make $14.6 billion in loans to small businesses and low-income neighborhoods.

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