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The Color of Money

Follow-ups and reaction

Reports of biased lending unfair, black bankers told

By W. Morgan Mallard, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published June 17, 1988, Page A20

Copyright 1988, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The chairman of Trust Company Bank's parent company told hundreds of black bankers Thursday that allegations of racially unequal lending by major Atlanta banks were inaccurate and unfair.

Robert M. Strickland, chairman and chief executive of SunTrust Banks Inc., said there might have been "oversights" in the past, but he added they are being addressed now.

The banker's remarks were an apparent response to a May series of articles in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that showed a paucity of mortgage lending by Atlanta banks and savings and loans in predominantly black parts of town.

Strickland did not dispute the numbers used in the articles, which were based on lenders' reports to the federal government. But he said any disparities were unintentional.

"I'm here this morning to tell you it's not an accurate or fair picture," Strickland told about 300 members of the National Association of Urban Bankers (NAUB) at a Thursday breakfast meeting.

"Please don't write us off as a bunch of bad guys," said Strickland, honorary chairman of the organization's annual convention. The convention of the 1,500-member minority bankers organization is being held through today at the Westin Peachtree Plaza.

The newspaper series, "The Color of Money," reported that whites received five times as many home loans from Atlanta's banks and savings and loans as blacks of the same income, according to the lenders' data for 1981-86.

Only two institutions -- both black-owned -- made more loans in black areas than white areas, the study found.

Of the other banks and savings and loans, Trust Company ranked fifth, with three times as many loans per structure in white areas as in black ones.

"The color of our money is green," Strickland said. "Credit is readily available . . . to anybody who has a reasonable banking transaction and a reasonable chance of repayment."

Federal law says deposit-gathering organizations have an "affirmative obligation" to seek borrowers and depositors throughout their communities. Trust Company was unsuccessfully challenged under the law last year by a coalition of community groups.

"There may have been some oversights in terms of developing some markets," but the major banks are taking steps to correct past mistakes, Strickland said.


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