WASHINGTON - A Dec. 1 stock transaction involving the chairman of Union Planters Corp. was set in motion several months earlier and was unrelated to a Federal Reserve Board decision pending at the time, a company official says.

Lynn Lanigan, the Memphis company's assistant corporate secretary, said chairman Benjamin W. Rawlins opted in October to acquire Union Planters shares under a new companywide retirement plan. She said it was coincidental that the actual transaction was made shortly before a Fed decision on a Union Planters acquisition.

Ms. Lanigan was responding to an July 20 American Banker article about allegations that Fed staffers had tipped off Union Planters officials about the approval.

The Fed's inspector general initiated an investigation of the charges in the spring. Contrary to the July 20 article, the investigation does not center on why Mr. Rawlins bought the stock. Rather, it focuses on the allegations of a leak by Fed staffers.

Ms. Lanigan said no one from the Fed contacted the bank before the vote.

Ms. Lanigan said the bank issued 131,279 new shares of stock on Dec. 1, and the retirement fund manager placed the shares in the employee accounts the same day. Mr. Rawlins and other bank officers did not make individual purchases, she said.

The inspector general's investigation was launched after a local community group filed a complaint. The inspector general routinely investigates such complaints.

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