WASHINGTON - Rep. John LaFalce, D-N.Y., joined other predatory-lending hawks Wednesday in questioning Citigroup Inc.'s deal to buy Associates First Capital Corp.

In a letter to letter to Sanford I. Weill, Citigroup chairman and chief executive, and Robert E. Rubin, chairman of the board's executive committee, the ranking Democrat on the House Banking Committee urged the company to stop Associates' "abusive practices" and to "set standards of fair dealing" in the subprime market.

"I am concerned that Citi is acquiring a lender that community advocates have for some time placed among the worst predatory lenders in the country," he wrote. "Citigroup runs a serious reputational risk through its affiliation with Associates and the predatory practices that are universally linked to that company."

Also on Wednesday, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., petitioned federal regulators to prohibit the merger unless concerns about Associates' lending practices are addressed.

In a letter to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Rep. Schakowsky, who serves on House Banking, said there is evidence that "Citigroup may be engaging in a pattern or practice of steering minorities towards high cost and abusive loans."

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