SAN FRANCISCO - In what could be one of the largest settlements brokered by a regulatory agency, the credit card issuer Providian Financial Corp. is expected to pay up to $300 million to settle claims related to an investigation by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the San Francisco district attorney into allegedly unfair business practices.

Such a sum, which is still under negotiation, would be far more than previously expected and would act as a stern rebuke to financial institutions that have been under attack by regulators for what they say is "predatory" behavior.

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