Two independent advisory firms are recommending that shareholders at Brooklyn Federal Bancorp Inc. in New York vote in favor of the thrift company's plan to merge with Investors Bancorp Inc. of Short Hills, N.J.

Brooklyn, which has been battered by defaults on real estate loans, had been looking for a buyer for months when it announced in August that it was selling itself to the $10.2 billion-asset Investors.

The deal, however, quickly came under fire from several Brooklyn shareholders who protested that the price of 80 cents per share was too low and filed class-action lawsuits in an effort  to block the deal. The companies later reached a settlement with the shareholders in which Investors  agreed to pay an additional seven cents per share.

On Wednesday, the $459 million-asset Brooklyn Federal said that Institutional Shareholders Services and Glass Lewis & Co. are now advising shareholders to approve the sale.

"We appreciate the support ISS and Glass Lewis have given to our agreement with Investors," said Gregg J. Wagner, Brooklyn's president and chief executive.  "We firmly believe that their recommendation further supports the board of directors' view that the merger is in the best interest of Brooklyn's shareholders."

The deal is expected to close in January.

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