New Jersey Department
|For Immediate Release: January 16, 2004||
For Further Information:: Ellen Lovejoy - (609) 292-5064
New Jersey bank regulators wary of Fleet takeover
TRENTON - The Department of Banking and Insurance, as part of its ongoing efforts to protect consumers in the marketplace, issued a letter today cautioning federal bank regulators about Bank of America's pending acquisition of Fleet Boston Financial Corporation. If approved, Bank of America would become one of the largest players in the New Jersey consumer banking market.
"We are pleased that Bank of America has indicated a willingness to invest sizable dollars on a national level," Commissioner Holly C. Bakke and Banking Director H. Robert Tillman wrote in the letter to the Federal Reserve Bank, which is conducting hearings on the proposed acquisition. "Despite its potential size, there has been no commitment made to investing any dollars in New Jersey."
Since Fleet's takeover of Summit Bank in 2001, Fleet has made a substantial commitment to New Jersey, committing $1.22 billion in community reinvestment dollars through March 2005. Fleet also operates 430 bank branches and employs thousands of New Jersey residents. Fleet operates 47 branches in the state's major urban areas, representing 18 percent of the branches in those areas.
"These branches represent a considerable investment in New Jersey," Commissioner Bakke and Director Tillman said in the letter. "It is this level of commitment that we would encourage Bank of America to continue should the Board approve this transaction. Indeed, we would respectfully request that as a condition of approval of the acquisition that the Board require Bank of America to honor and extend all existing Fleet Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) agreements."
The Department is also concerned about reports of consolidations. It has been reported that Bank of America plans to save $1.1 billion through consolidations, and New Jersey regulators are concerned that because Bank of America has no current attachment to the state's consumer banking community, it may look to New Jersey first to consolidate, resulting in a loss of jobs and an exodus of money critical to the survival of the state's under-served communities.
"We would hope that New Jersey consumers do not receive the brunt of these consolidations, whether it be job loss, the closing of branches or other negative actions, but that Bank of America expand its investment in New Jersey through the opening of additional branches, particularly in our under-served areas," Commissioner Bakke and Director Tillman said in the letter.
The financial services industry has played an important role in New Jersey's recent economic turnaround and creation of more than 41,000 jobs this past year alone. The Department feels that a continued commitment by the financial services industry is necessary to continue this economic growth and further meet Governor James E. McGreevey's goal of creating 200,000 new jobs and investing $6 billion of new private and public monies into the state's economy over the next five years.