Great Western Financial Corp. is urging the Office of Thrift Supervision to block H.F. Ahmanson & Co.'s hostile takeover bid.
Great Western general counsel J. Lance Erikson said that Ahmanson's Feb. 6 application to combine the nation's two largest thrifts lacks important details and "raises unique safety and soundness concerns."
"Ahmanson has concentrated its operations in California . . . which would make the combined entity of Great Western and Ahmanson more vulnerable to regional economic fluctuations and regional real estate market downturns," Mr. Erikson wrote the regulators.
Mr. Erikson said the application also lacks details regarding Ahmanson's information systems, making it impossible to gauge the compatibility of the Irwindale, Calif.-based company's computer system with that of Great Western.
Comments on the Ahmanson application were due April 7. Washington Mutual Inc. of Seattle, which entered a friendly merger agreement with Chatsworth, Calif.-based Great Western, also was required to file an application. Comments on the Washington Mutual request are due Friday.
Mitchell S. Eitel, a lawyer with New York law firm Sullivan & Cromwell who represents Ahmanson, asked the OTS to extend the Washington Mutual comment deadline until April 28.
Mr. Eitel accused Washington Mutual of omitting important details from its March 17 application. In order to comment, he said, his firm needs more information regarding "the unprecedented rate of growth, and the relevant risks created by such an aggressive growth rate" planned by Washington Mutual.
Several consumers also sent letters to the OTS complaining that an Ahmanson/Great Western merger would increase the cost of banking services.
"Every time an S&L swallows or destroys a competitor, there are more banking fees (and) lower interest paid to savers, while credit card interest rates and penalties soar beyond reason," wrote Elaine F. Wells, a San Diego resident.
The OTS has 60 days after it deems an application complete in which to approve or reject a merger request. Approval is automatic if the agency does not act within that time frame. The OTS has 10 days after comments close to decide whether more information is needed.