The Federal Reserve Board on Monday gave Commerce Bancorp permission to acquire A.H. Williams & Co., a Philadelphia-based brokerage house.

The order allows the Cherry Hill, N.J.-based Commerce to fold A.H. Williams into a newly formed section 20 unit. The firm may underwrite municipal revenue and government bonds, offer brokerage services and private placements, and provide investment advice.

Separately, the Fed on Monday approved a section 20 unit for Banco Bilbao Vizcaya, a $130 billion-asset bank based in Bilbao, Spain. The bank had received temporary permission in 1995 to offer securities underwriting services in the United States. The new order makes this authority permanent. The section 20 may not earn more than 25% of its revenue underwriting and dealing in corporate securities.

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