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Sumitomo Accused of Promotion Bias

December 24, 1996|DON LEE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Intensifying pressure on Japan's Sumitomo Bank, the Greenlining Institute on Monday said it filed a complaint with the U.S. Labor Department, alleging that Sumitomo's California subsidiary has the "worst record of promotions of women and minorities of any bank in the nation."

The complaint came two months after the San Francisco-based public advocacy group accused the world's second-largest bank of discriminatory lending and hiring practices in a complaint to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

But this time, Sumitomo Bank of California fired back with a lengthy rebuttal. In its first public response to the allegations, Sumitomo executives in San Francisco said Greenlining had built its case on "the basis of inaccurate, misleading and distorted claims."

In the class-action complaint to the Labor Department, Greenlining alleged that the top 4% of Sumitomo's California management are all Japanese male nationals and that none of the top 10% of management is female, African American, Latino or Southeast Asian American.

Greenlining's complaint, which was joined by 33 minority organizations, also claimed that all African American, Latino and Southeast Asians, as well as virtually all women, are "confined largely to low-paying managerial positions with no policy input and little, if any, opportunity for advancement."

Sumitomo Bank of California, which has 47 branches and nearly 1,600 employees, said those claims are not true. Asian Americans, excluding Japanese Americans, comprise 18.8% of the employees who are assistant vice presidents and above, which Sumitomo considers management. Those managers include African Americans, Latinos and non-Japanese Asian Americans, the bank said. It said two women, both minorities, are serving on the bank's board.

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