SAN FRANCISCO - Union Bank of California said Thursday that it has taken a 40% stake worth $6 million in a Los Angeles-area check cashing business and will work with a nonprofit in that city to bring banking services to low-income areas.The initiative takes advantage of new flexibility afforded banking companies under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999. Union Bank did not have to get approval from bank regulators to make its investment in Navicert Financial Inc., a closely held company in Carson, Calif., that operates Nix Check Cashing.

Union Bank plans to buy approximately 0.5% of the remaining stock in Navicert each year over the next 10 years and turn it over to Operation HOPE, which facilitates loans to low-income communities.

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