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Japanese-Owned Banks Accused of Discriminatory Lending With AM-Japan-Americans Reax, Bjt

January 21, 1992

BOSTON (AP) _ A group that promotes lending in minority communities on Monday accused five Japanese banks of discriminatory lending practices in California through their U.S.-based subsidiaries.

On the eve of a trip to Japan, the Rev. Charles Stith of Boston, president of the National Community Reinvestment Network, said a new study shows Japanese banks made only six home loans to low-income blacks in California during 1990.

The study also found it was four times harder for an Asian-American to get a home loan than a white person, Stith said.

″The track record of lending by these banks is abysmal,″ he said at a news conference after a breakfast celebration of Martin Luther King Day.

The study was conducted by the Greenlining Coalition, a California-based coalition of minority and consumer groups, and by Stith’s network, which has member groups in 30 communities nationwide.

The five banks cited were subsidiaries owned by Sumitomo, Mitsui Taiyo Kobe, Sanwa, Mitsubishi and the Bank of Tokyo. The five have worldwide assets totaling $1.8 trillion.

Nobody answered telephone calls to the banks’ U.S. offices Monday for a response to the study. Monday was a bank holiday to honor the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.

Tom Marsilio, vice president of the Institute for Financial Affairs Inc. of Japan, a Japanese government research group based in New York, disputed the study’s findings.

All five banks are members of the institute. Although he didn’t have statistics of his own and said he wasn’t familiar with the figures in the study, Marsilio said that Japanese banks are aware of community reinvestment issues.

″They’ve seriously addressed these things and I believe they’ve been concerned about them for quite some time,″ Marsilio said.

Out of 3,287 home loans made in California in 1990, the five banks made only 68 loans to blacks - six loans went to low-income blacks - 224 loans to Hispanics, and 513 loans to Asian-Americans. The remainder - 2,482 loans - went to white borrowers.

Of California’s 30 million residents, 2.5 million are blacks, 8.3 million are Hispanic and 3 million are Asian American.

Stith said Japanese attitudes toward minorities may well have influenced the banks’ lending practices.

″I think one can only conclude that a real issue with the kind of lending practices we have seen is racism,″ Stith said.

A number of Japanese leaders have made derogatory remarks about American minorities in recent years.

Former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone in 1986 attributed relatively low literacy rates in the U.S. to blacks and Hispanics, and a former justice minister, Seiroku Kajiyama, likened the presence of prostitutes in Tokyo’s business district to blacks in white neighborhoods in the United States.

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