The Federal Reserve Board has asked Fleet Financial Group Inc. to explain how much research it did before announcing its $16 billion deal to acquire BankBoston Corp.

In an Aug. 11 response letter, a lawyer for Fleet, Geoffrey Etherington 3d, said that "management of both institutions concluded that extensive due diligence prior to execution of definitive agreements was not advisable because it would be difficult to control leaks."

Mr. Etherington told the Fed that Fleet was already well aware of BankBoston's operations, informed by publicly available information and from years of competition in New England. Mr. Etherington, with the Edwards & Angell law firm in New York, also wrote that "Fleet and BankBoston have in the past considered the possibility of a merger or similar transaction, so Fleet had extensive historical data available to it regarding BankBoston."

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