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Banks Dominate Mergers

Banks Dominate Mergers

Mortgage related mergers, acquisitions and corporate activity

July 18, 2007

By COCO SALAZAR

photo of Coco Salazar
Amid a sea of recent merger agreements and closed deals dominated by banks, a transaction that would combine thrift and banking regulators is being challenged.

But first, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency released a list of 17 enforcement actions it has taken against national banks and their affiliates from April 17 to July 3. Within those actions, Commerce Bank received a cease and desist order; five individuals from Kansas’ The Farmers National Bank of Osborne and another at Surety Bank in Texas were issued civil money penalty orders; an individual at Bank One got a personal cease and desist order; and three individuals from Union Bank of California, Wachovia Bank and Surety Bank received removal/prohibition orders. There was also formal agreements made with The Lancaster National Bank and Fidelity National Bank and existing enforcement actions were terminated against Eagle National Bank of Miami, The First National Bank of Cainesville, KeyBank and The First National Bank of Morgan, according to an announcement.

A proposed merger receiving strong opposition is that of the OCC with the Office of Thrift Supervision. While the merger is intended to improve financial competitiveness, the American Bankers Association and America’s Community Bankers issued a letter to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson urging him to reject the plan, citing it would decrease competitiveness, negatively impact true charter choice and “ultimately fail as it has in the past.” The bankers additionally expressed eagerness to work with Treasury on the review to modernize the financial regulatory structure and on other issues.

“We believe a Treasury focus on greater cooperation and communication among the existing banking agencies, together with a productive effort to streamline regulation to reduce burden, is the best way to enhance the competitiveness of our entire industry,” the trade groups said.

Fitch Ratings announced that it placed Option One Mortgage Corp.’s RPS1 residential primary servicer rating for subprime product and RSS1 residential special servicer on Rating Watch Negative — reflecting the potential impact from decreased loan originations, changes in credit lines, as well as uncertainties regarding the sale of the servicing platform, which is scheduled to be completed next quarter. There are concerns regarding the company’s ability to sustain operational capabilities, considering that other platforms that have been on sale for an extended period of time have shown “a potential for deterioration in operational capabilities due to loss of key employees, limited investment in technology and infrastructure, and reduction in training.”

Allied Home Mortgage Capital Corp., which claims it is the largest privately held U.S. mortgage broker/banker, reported that it added a new branch to its existing network in Virginia Beach that will be led by Sharon Shields.

Wintrust Financial Corp. announced today it would acquire Broadway Premium Funding Corp. from Sumitomo Corporation of America. The deal, for which terms were not disclosed, is expected to close during this quarter.

Regions Financial Corp. announced it completed the first phase of its AmSouth Bancorporation merger integration in Alabama and Florida. With 633 branches successfully converted and re-branded Regions, the first phase represents the single largest planned conversion of the merger, which was completed last November, and reflects nearly one-third of the company’s total branches. This phase also held the conversion of business banking and mortgage servicing systems. Phase II is planned for October, when the company’s branches in Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana will convert systems and re-brand under the new Regions banner. Subsequent integrations will follow in late 2007 or early 2008.

Shareholders of Portland, Ore.-based Town Center Bancorp overwhelmingly approved an acquisition of the company by Tacoma, Wash.-based Columbia Banking System Inc., according to an announcement today. The merger been approved by regulators and is expected to close on July 23.

Merchants & Manufacturers Bancorporation Inc. has agreed to sell Fortress Bank of Cresco to Security Agency Inc. in a deal expected to close next quarter. The deal is separate from the pending sale of Merchants to Harris Bankcorp Inc., according to a news release.

Wells Fargo & Co., which in the second quarter bought Placer Sierra Bancshares in California and the U.S. construction lending business of CIT Group Inc., said it is on track to complete acquiring Greater Bay Bancorp by year end. The $7.4 billion-asset company will be Wells’ third-largest bank acquisition ever and a significant addition to community banking, commercial insurance brokerage, specialty finance and trust. The San Francisco-based banking behemoth additionally said it is on track to open approximately 100 banking stores for the fourth consecutive year and remodel another 200.

Monarch Bank announced that it expanded its mortgage operations and re-branded them as Monarch Mortgage. Previously named Monarch Home Funding, the mortgage unit has new headquarters in Virginia Beach, will continue to operate out of offices in Chesapeake and Norfolk, Va., and will be led by Ted Yoder as president. Monarch anticipates new mortgage offices in Northern Virginia and Maryland this year and offices in North Carolina in future years.

Retail and wholesale lender Generation Mortgage Co. recently acquired Connecticut-based Amston Mortgage Co., the 14th largest reverse mortgage provider in the nation, according to a news release. Amston, licensed to fund in 15 states and expected to add several states by yearend, makes Generation a top-10 retail lender of Home Equity Conversion Mortgages.


Coco Salazar is an associate editor and staff writer for MortgageDaily.com.e-mail: MortgageWriter@aol.com


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