Donning fake shark snouts, North Carolina community activists last week marched outside a NationsBank Corp. lending office to protest the banking company's planned merger with BankAmerica Corp.
Calling NationsBank officials "legalized loan sharks," activists said the Charlotte, N.C., company engages in unfair lending practices, misleads consumers about home equity and other financial products, and ignores the mortgage needs of many low-income borrowers.
They called for federal hearings on the $60 billion BankAmerica deal and asked for a detailed plan of NationsBank's merger-related $350 billion community reinvestment pledge.
The June 10 march came two days after NationsBank officials met with the community activists to discuss their concerns.
Peter Skillern, director of the Affordable Housing Coalition in Durham, N.C., said that NationsBank has a poor track record on mortgage lending in low-income areas. He said his group fears that the BankAmerica merger would hurt scores of low-income neighborhoods nationwide.
Also at the demonstration, Carlene McNulty, litigation director of the North Carolina Justice and Community Development Center, raised concerns about what she said were "the predatory lending practices" of NationsBank consumer finance subsidiaries.
Scott Screden, a NationsBank spokesman, said the company will not meet a key demand of the protesters-development of a detailed plan for carrying out the $350 billion pledge.
"The money will be loaned and invested based on demand, which will come throughout the country," said Mr. Screden. "That makes a whole lot more sense than going into a state or city and saying, 'We would like to spend X billion.' We want the demand to come from the communities."