Texas has officially opened the door to interstate branching, and Alabama banking companies are walking right in.
One eliminated its Texas charter last month, and two others are working at it. Colonial BancGroup's lead bank, in Montgomery, absorbed the company's Dallas bank subsidiary last month.
Compass Bancshares and Regions Financial Corp., both based in Birmingham, are making similar charter conversions. Compass' Houston bank is fading out this month; Regions is halfway through eliminating its seven bank charters in Texas.
NationsBank Corp. of Charlotte, N.C., led the way, but had to take on the Texas banking commissioner to do so.
In a three-year battle, Commissioner Catherine A. Ghiglieri claimed NationsBank could not branch interstate because Texas had opted out of the federal Riegle-Neal branching law. But NationsBank won the day last spring when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
"That's over. We're starting to go down the path of interstate branching," Ms. Ghiglieri said in an interview last week. In light of industry changes, her office has also recently said that out-of-state banks may hold deposits for municipalities and other public entities.
The commissioner said a task force she formed to study which Texas laws need revising has identified dozens of them, including escheat, unclaimed property, and probate laws.
The franchise-tax law also needs to be changed, Ms. Ghiglieri said.
The state cannot now collect from a bank that has only branches in Texas, she said.