Commerce Bancshares Inc. in Kansas City, Mo., said late Tuesday that its fourth-quarter profits were flat from a year earlier, at $61.5 million, following the settlement of a class-action lawsuit.

Fourth-quarter results of 69 cents a share missed the average analysts' estimate by a penny. For the year, Commerce's earnings rose 15.6% compared to 2010, to $256.3 million.

David W. Kemper, the company's chairman and chief executive, said in a press release that record earnings for 2011 resulted from growth in average deposits and higher revenues from the corporate card and money management businesses. While loan growth remained soft, he said Commerce had detected increased demand for auto and commercial real estate loans during the fourth quarter.

The $20.6 billion-asset company said its loan-loss provision for the fourth quarter fell nearly 44% from a year earlier, to $12.1 million. Fourth-quarter chargeoffs fell 28% from a year earlier, to $15.6 million. Noninterest income in the fourth quarter fell almost 15% from a year earlier, to $94 million, as bank card transaction fees fell 11.8%.

During the quarter, Commerce reached an $18.3 million class-action settlement about debit overdraft transactions. Commerce said that this resulted in an additional pretax charge of $7.4 million.

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