WASHINGTON -- A civil rights group will release a study today showing that lenders in the nation's capital reject minority mortgage applicants more often than white ones with comparable incomes or credit histories.

NationsBank Mortgage Co. holds the worst record, the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs found. It was 12.34 times more likely to reject a black applicant than a white one, after accounting for income and credit history.

Citibank F.S.B. and Great Western came in second and third, respectively, rejecting black applicants 4.66 and 4.37 times more often.

NationsBank vice president Cathy Bessant, who had not seen the report, said her institution has vastly increased its education and outreach programs since acquiring two banks here late last year.

"We have been aggressive in the District [of Columbia] in terms of pursuing mortgage business," Ms. Bessant said. "Our numbers show that we are making substantial progress."

The Lawyers Committee previewed the study Monday before a U.S. Civil Rights Commission advisory committee. It relies on Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data from 1991 to 1993.

"The numbers are really quite stunning," said John P. Relman, the director of the Lawyers Committee's fair housing project.

While the study does not prove discrimination, it does identify which institutions civil rights groups and the government should target for further investigation, he said.

Other institutions the reports names are: Prudential Home Mortgage Co., GE Capital Mortgage Co., Maryland National Mortgage Co., Columbia First Bank, Margaretten & Co., Signet Mortgage Co., NVR Mortgage Co., Mellon Bank, Maryland Federal Savings & Loan, and Ahmanson Mortgage Co.

The group presented a series of color maps indicating that almost all lenders concentrate their activities in predominately white areas. Atlantic Coast Mortgage Co., Chevy Chase Savings Bank/B.F. Saul Mortgage Co., and Melon Bank were among those institutions, said Richard Ritter, a former Justice Department fair-lending prosecutor who lead the investigation.

"You could probably cover over the name of the institution and the pattern would be the same," Mr. Ritter said.

Andrew Sandler, a lawyer who represented Chevy Chase in that case, said he couldn't comment directly on the report because he hasn't seen it. "[But,] we've seen that mapping exercises employed by those with an agenda often can show problems that on a closer inspection do not exist," Mr. Sandler said.

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