ATLANTA -- The Florida attorney general's office said Tuesday that it was investigating the planned merger of Barnett Banks Inc. and First Florida Banks Inc. to ensure that unfair competition would not result. Jerome Hoffman, chief of the attorney general's antitrust section, said his office was concerned about antitrust implications of the deal, which was approved by the Federal Reserve Board and the Justice Department on Oct. 28.

The Fed and the Justice Department ruled that Jacksonville-based Barnett, the state's largest bank, with $32.6 billion in assets, had to divest itself of only four branches, involving a scant $100 million in deposits, even though the merger would leave it with one-third of the deposits in the Tampa Bay area.

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