Last week's deal between California Federal Bank and Golden State Bancorp was so complex it was difficult to say which agreed to acquire which.

In fact, in analyzing the planned reverse merger-which uses a "collar" formula and the transfer of tax benefits dating back to late-1980s thrift bailouts to determine how the ownership would be divvied up-The New York Times suggested that it was CalFed that had sold out, and that the price was a bargain.

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