A New York financial watch dog organization claims the merger of Whitney Bank with Mississippi-based Hancock Bank is a bad deal for minorities.

The Times-Picayune reports that Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch of New York, in a letter of opposition sent to the Federal Reserve March 6, lists gaps between the loan approval rates for whites and blacks who applied for home loans through Hancock Bank. Fair Finance executive director Matthew Lee says Hancock’s record of home loans for minorities is worse than Whitney’s, but did not say what Whitney’s record is.

A Hancock spokesman responded in a statement and said the information the group based its complaint on “provides a very limited view of covered loans or conditions such as factors related to creditworthiness:”

In checking out the merger, Lee’s group looked at data that Hancock reported under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, a 1975 law that requires banks to report loan data so that the Federal Reserve can monitor whether banks are serving their communities’ housing needs and whether they’re discriminating.

The protest highlights six Gulf Coast markets where there are racial gaps in Hancock’s lending.
In Hancock’s hometown of Gulfport, Miss., for example, the bank denied conventional home loans to African-American and Hispanic applicants twice as often as those of white applicants, Fair Finance Watch said.

The complaint could further slow the timeline for the Whitney-Hancock merger to close, a timeline The Times-Pic says is already moving slower than Hancock had planned.

Read more on the Fair Finance complaint here.

For more on the Whitney-Hancock merger, check out The Independent Weekly’s Feb. 16 story “Don’t Bank On It.”

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