WILMINGTON, N.C. — Cooperative Bancshares said it is offering a special early retirement benefit to certain employees, including its senior vice presidents of administration, finance, and mortgage lending, as a result of changes it is making to its pension plan.

Cooperative said the modifications will result in a one-time charge of about $750,000 in the fourth quarter of 2000 and will “substantially reduce required contributions going forward.” The company estimates its pension cost and employee expenses will fall by about $775,000 annually, beginning in 2001.

Cooperative Bankshares, the parent company of Cooperative Bank, said it would fill internally senior vacancies resulting from the move. The bank provides financial services through 16 offices in Eastern North Carolina.

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