After months of legal and public wrangling with a dissident shareholder group, Mason-Dixon Bancshares won a key shareholder vote this week.

Shareholders at the Maryland company's annual meeting voted overwhelmingly Monday against a proposal by the dissidents that would have required the board to "pursue and explore inquiries and expressions of interest for the sale of the company."

Of the 4,278,803 shares voted, 643,723 were voted for the dissidents' proposal.

Representatives of the group, made up in part of former executives of a Mason-Dixon bank subsidiary, could not be reached for comment on the vote. The group had argued that shareholders had more to gain from a sale than from continued independence for the $840 million-asset company.

The period leading up to the annual meeting was characterized by legal maneuvers and public trading of barbs, much of which was no doubt closely watched by Mason-Dixon's Baltimore-area shareholder base.

"We communicated often and openly to our stockholders about the proposal," said Mason-Dixon president Thomas K. Ferguson. "My personal opinion is that shareholders responded overwhelmingly the way they did because the don't want to see the company sold."

The fighting isn't over yet, however. Court disputes over disclosure and banking law are pending.

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