The Rev. Jesse Jackson was in New York on Wednesday to kick off the third annual conference sponsored by his Wall Street Project, a high-profile attempt to get financial services companies involved in social change.

Flanked by Citigroup Inc. chairman and co-chief executive officer Sanford I. Weill and AT&T Corp. chairman C. Michael Armstrong, Mr. Jackson said this year's conference would focus on "expanding access to capital" to working-class people and the poor under the new financial modernization law.

Despite much criticism of the law by community reinvestment activists around the country, he said the legislation did in fact expand CRA protections, specifically to ensure that insurance companies comply.

But he said there is more work to be done. "We have seen redlining in banking, insurance, housing, construction, public education, and health care. We must … expand the economic playing field for all Americans," Mr. Jackson told a group of reporters and local political leaders at a press conference in an AT&T office building in downtown Manhattan. "It is profitable and morally right."

Mr. Weill said Mr. Jackson had been crucial in helping to pass HR 10, the recent legislation that eliminated Glass-Steagall restrictions in the merger of banking, insurance, and brokerage firms. This fall Mr. Jackson provided one of the more suspenseful moments of the bill's final run through Congress when he paid a surprise visit to the finance committee and pulled Republican Sen. Phil Gramm into a nearby closet for an impromptu discussion of CRA.

The Wall Street Project so far claims credit for pushing AT&T to use a minority-owned firm to co-manage an $8 billion bond offering. The company went on to tap minority- and women-owned firms to manage a $465 million secondary offering and plans to "have 10% minimum minority participation" in the management of an upcoming issue of a new tracking stock, Mr. Armstrong said.

This year's conference, which is scheduled to run Jan. 12-14 at New York's Sheraton Towers hotel, will feature addresses by President Clinton, Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Arthur Levitt.

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