New Mexico's bank regulator says he probably will not block a plan by BOK Financial Corp. of Oklahoma to enter his state.
After meeting with BOK officials last week, William J. Verant said Tulsa-based BOK's agreement to buy 17 branches from BankAmerica Corp. appears to meet "the spirit and intent" of a state law that forbids branch acquisitions by out-of-state companies.
Mr. Verant, director of New Mexico's financial institutions division, said he still had questions. "I want to see a way this transaction fits," he said. However, he added, "I don't want to be obstructive. I don't think that's my role."
Apart from challenging the acquisition's legality, Mr. Verant has no formal authority in the approval process. But some bankers in New Mexico have suggested that he hold a public hearing on the deal.
"If there is a compulsion to hold hearings I will," he said. "But I would hope this could be handled at a threshold below that."
In an interview after his meeting with the BOK officials, Mr. Verant said the deal seems to be legal.
He said $5.7 billion-asset BOK said it would create a separate bank to be chartered in New Mexico and capitalize it with a yet-to-be determined amount of money.
The new bank would not be permitted to merge with any bank outside New Mexico for at least five years. It could, however, do deals within the state.
BankAmerica is required by federal regulators to divest the branches as part of its planned merger with NationsBank Corp. Under New Mexico law, BOK would have to buy all or "substantially all" of BankAmerica's assets and deposits in the state, Mr. Verant said.
But Mr. Verant said he has not received enough information from BankAmerica to determine whether the $500 million of deposits and $167 million of loans represent substantially all of the company's New Mexico operations. Most of the 17 branches would be in the Albuquerque area.
BOK officials have said they are confident their deal will be approved. BankAmerica declined to comment.