When First Banks System Inc. agreed to buy First Interstate Bancorp. last November, a jubilant Patricia Stuhff handed out sunglasses at a downtown Los Angeles pep rally. "Our future's so bright we've gotta wear shades," exulted the events planner at First Interstate.

Not quite. Two months later, Ms. Stuhff was one of 7,200 First Interstate bankers to lose their jobs after Wells Fargo & Co. emerged as their bank's victorious suitor.

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