WASHINGTON - Several community and minority activist groups have sent letters to the Federal Reserve Board to protest First Union Corp.'s planned purchase of Wachovia Corp., claiming that the two institutions have not done enough to supply credit to low-income people.

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now sent a letter last week accusing First Union of not fulfilling obligations made when it bought Money Store several years ago and of discontinuing many first-time homebuyer programs that targeted lower-income borrowers.

Acorn urged the central bank to hold hearings on the deal and block it until First Union makes a "strong, specific commitment to improved lending in lower-income and minority communities."

In similar complaints, the National Black Farmers Association and Inner City Press/Community on the Move said that both First Union and Wachovia had done insufficient lending to minority business owners.

The farmers group also said that Wachovia's other potential merger partner, SunTrust Banks Inc., had also engaged in similar practices and did not offer enough access to credit in rural areas.

A First Union spokeswoman denied that it is not fulfilling its obligations. First Union and Wachovia have outstanding Community Reinvestment Act records, the spokeswoman said. "We continue to offer many products that meet the needs of this market," she said. "In fact, over 40% of our mortgage volume in 2001 has been to low- and moderate-income families."

Calls Monday to Wachovia seeking comment were not returned before deadline.

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