Katie bar the door! The dealmakers were working overtime recently when in the short space of two weeks, a bunch of bank mergers were announced in various markets throughout the country. It could only be coincidence, but given the industry's well-known herd effect, that sounds like the beginnings of a stampede to me.

The merger drum has been beating since the mid-1980s--except that now we're starting to see a concentration of financial power in banking. And that leads me to ask whether this activity is good for the country, or for banking? Conventional wisdom holds that America is over-banked and in great need of consolidation, a position that even many federal bank regulators support. By allowing banks to expand coast-to-coast--or so the argument goes--the system will gain a measure of geographical diversity, which in turn will lead to a greater level of safety and soundness.

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