WASHINGTON -- The consumer group Inner City Press/Community on the Move has filed a protest with the Federal Reserve Board opposing the proposed acquisition by Fifth Third Bancorp of Old Kent Financial Corp.

The ten-page protest, filed Monday, claims that Cincinnati-based Fifth Third disproportionately denies normal-rate credit to minority borrowers and that Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Old Kent targets high-interest loans at "the same communities and groups excluded by Fifth Third."

Matthew Lee, executive director of Inner City Press, said that the merger proposal "violates numerous antitrust precedents, and would raise prices for consumers. On the current record, the application should be denied."

Stacie Yee, a spokeswoman for Fifth Third, said the company would "stand behind our lending record in all of the communities we serve. We are working closely with regulators in regard to the anti-competition issue and we will have a solution that is beneficial to all parties involved."

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