If the Federal Reserve Board permits the merger of two Minneapolis banking companies, it will be setting a dangerous precedent under antitrust law that could have grave implications for community banks and for the country.

First Bank System Inc. wants to acquire Bank Shares Inc., parent of the Marquette Banks in Minneapolis and Rochester, Minn., for some $263 million. First Bank, with 42 branches and $11.6 billion in assets in the area, is already several points in excess of the market-concentration limit that supposedly guides Federal Reserve policy on mergers.

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