A Minnesota political candidate and former state banking regulator is raising a ruckus about Norwest Corp.'s planned merger with Wells Fargo & Co.
Mike Hatch, who left office as commissioner of commerce in 1990 and is now campaigning for attorney general, said the merger would have a devastating effect on the Twin Cities region.
Mr. Hatch, a Democrat, is calling on state officials to challenge the forthcoming merger application at the Federal Reserve.
He said Norwest, which estimated 830 Minnesota jobs would be lost in the transfer of headquarters from Minneapolis to San Francisco, is significantly underestimating the impact on people and other residual effects.
Mr. Hatch, considered a long shot in the attorney general race, is trying to tap into voters' perceived discontent with large corporations. Not long after Norwest announced the merger, he called on Minnesota Gov. Arne H. Carlson, Attorney General Hubert H. Humphrey 3d, and Commerce Commissioner David B. Gruenes to investigate the impact of the deal and urge the Fed to delay approval.
Gov. Carlson's office referred questions to the commerce commissioner, and a spokeswoman there said that office does not have jurisdiction. Denise Dimler Holland said that although some of Mr. Hatch's assertions "were valid on the surface," Mr. Gruenes "rejects the 'Chicken Little sky-is- falling' scenario."
Leslie Sandberg, a spokeswoman for Mr. Humphrey, said the attorney general would be "assessing the impact" of the merger. Mr. Humphrey, also a Democrat, is running for governor.
Mr. Hatch faces a primary battle in September to win the party's nomination to succeed Mr. Humphrey.
Norwest adamantly denies Mr. Hatch's assertions.
This merger "is not about slash and burn, this is not about firing people," said spokesman Larry Haeg. "It's just the opposite. This is about protecting the core of the franchise. It's about people as a competitive advantage."