Senate Vote on Bankruptcy Due This Week

WASHINGTON - A Senate vote on the bankruptcy bill is scheduled for Tuesday, but it may be delayed a day because many lawmakers plan to be in New Hampshire for Tuesday's presidential primary.The way was cleared for a vote on the on-again, off-again legislation after Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm and Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes came to agreement on a controversial amendment.

Behind-the-scenes negotiations yielded a compromise on credit card disclosures pushed by Sen. Sarbanes, Senate Banking's ranking Democrat. The compromise, adopted by the Senate without debate on Jan. 26, would require all credit card issuers to include a warning on statements that making only the minimum monthly payment will increase interest owed and the time it takes to pay the balance.

Issuers also would have to publish a toll-free number that borrowers could call for information on their total projected indebtedness.

Even if the Senate approves bankruptcy reform legislation this week, as expected, enactment is far from certain. A House/Senate conference committee would still need to hammer out a final bill because the House version, adopted last May, differs significantly from the Senate package. The White House has threatened to veto the House bill, which is the version preferred by lenders.

- Dean Anason

Fed Approves Mergers in Midwest, N.C.

WASHINGTON - The Federal Reserve Board last week approved two mergers of bank holding companies.Old Kent Financial Corp. of Grand Rapids, Mich., received approval to merge with Merchants Bancorp of Aurora, Ill. The deal will allow $17.7 billion-asset Old Kent to acquire Merchants National Bank of Aurora, and to subsequently merge it with its subsidiary Old Kent Bank.

After absorbing Merchants Bancorp's $988 million in assets, Old Kent Financial would be the 44th-largest commercial banking organization in the United States, with total assets of $18.7 billion.

The Fed also approved the merger of two North Carolina banks. Centura Banks Inc., an $8.8 billion-asset bank holding company in Rocky Mount, plans to merge with $2.3 billion-asset Triangle Bancorp of Raleigh. Centura would acquire Triangle's subsidiary banks, Triangle Bank of Raleigh and Bank of Mecklenburg; as well as Triangle's non-bank subsidiary, Coastal Leasing of Greenville.

Centura also received approval to merge Triangle Bank and Bank of Mecklenburg with its subsidiary, Centura Bank. The combination will make Centura Bancorp the 58th-largest commercial banking organization in the United States, with approximately $11 billion of assets.

- Rob Garver

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