Charlotte Legal Web

If there were any doubt just how much of a banking town Charlotte has become, it may have melted away amid the legal wrangling this week between SunTrust Banks Inc., First Union Corp., and Wachovia Corp.

When SunTrust asked the federal court in Charlotte to take over a lawsuit that First Union and Wachovia had filed against it in North Carolina Superior Court, both federal judges in Charlotte had to bow out because of conflicts.

Judges Graham C. Mullen and Richard L. Voorhees both recused themselves from hearing the case, according to a federal court clerk. She wasn't sure exactly what the conflict was, but said it was likely the result of stock ownership or personal connections with First Union or Wachovia.

That sent SunTrust's lawyers packing off to Asheville, about 100 miles west of Charlotte, to another branch of Charlotte's federal court district. No luck there, either. In a hearing Wednesday, Judge Lacey H. Thornburg ruled against SunTrust, tossing the case back to the North Carolina state court.

We're Still Waiting

The Department of Justice's antitrust trial against Visa U.S.A. and Microsoft International still awaits a decision from Judge Barbara Jones, who canceled closing arguments in the case in October.

There have been many rumors about why the wait has been so long, but people questioned at a recent conference admitted to being baffled. Most expected a quick decision. How quick?

At one banking firm's headquarters, employees set up an officewide betting pool to pick dates when the judge might release her decision. The latest one chosen: Dec. 31, 2000.

No word on whether the group will start over with a new choice of dates.

Citi-Banamex Foes

If the ruckus over Citigroup Inc.'s acquisition of Associates First Capital Corp. kept him up at nights, Sandy Weill ought to stock up on Sominex. His deal for Mexico's second-largest bank promises to get testy.

Some three dozen Latino organizations plan to ask the Federal Reserve Board to hold hearings in Los Angeles and Mexico City on Citigroup's plan to buy Grupo Financiero Banamex-Accival. The groups also plan to write Mexico's President, Vincente Fox, next week asking for a meeting to discuss the $12.5 billion deal.

According to a draft of the letter, Citigroup has an "alarming corporate history of exploitation" and an "indifference to Mexican-Americans." The groups, which include the Latin Business Association and the Mexican American Political Association, claim Citigroup made just two conventional home loans last year to the 600,000 Latinos living in South Central Los Angeles and employs no Mexican-Americans among its top 100 officers. The draft letter to President Fox also criticizes Citigroup's philanthropy, saying Mr. Weill's salary last year was 80 times the amount given to nonprofits run by Latinos.

The advocates, who are being led by the Greenlining Coalition in San Francisco, urge President Fox to make five demands of Citigroup: a 1% cap on fees for sending money across the U.S.-Mexico border; no down payments on low-income mortgages; low-interest small-business loans in poor neighborhoods; corporate donations of at least $400 million a year; and equal employment opportunities for Latinos.

"We were strongly opposed to Citigroup's purchase of Associates and we're going to come out against this Banamex deal and demand Citigroup make a real community commitment," said Alan Fisher, executive director of the California Reinvestment Coalition.

Dimon-Cashin 2?

Jamie Dimon may be poaching more recruits from his old stomping ground. Bank One Corp. is going to be needing a replacement soon for the head of its corporate investments unit, Geoffrey L. Stringer, who has plans to retire. Mr. Stringer, who has 27 years of experience at Bank One, will step down within the next month.

Published reports say Mr. Dimon is set to hire Richard Cashin, the former president of Citicorp Venture Capital, who worked with Mr. Dimon at Citigroup. Mr. Cashin left Citicorp last year to start his own company, Cashin Capital & Partners, while Mr. Dimon was named chief executive at Bank One.

Officials at the Chicago banking company would not comment on the published reports. A spokesman said no timetable has been set on the hiring of Mr. Stringer's successor.

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