SPECIAL REPORT:

1995 WAS the Year of the Big Deals, with bank mergers and acquisitions tripling to a total value of more than $73 billion, a new high. Rankings of the top 150 deals and more.

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WASHINGTON:

TWO INFLUENTIAL members of the House Banking Committee are asking Chairman Jim Leach to cut regulatory relief legislation free from a bill to reform Glass-Steagall.

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BANKERS AND LAWMAKERS transformed the California Museum of Science and Industry into a battleground for Fed-sponsored discussions of the takeover of First Interstate.

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MORTGAGES:

THE 65,000 PEOPLE attending the Builders Show in Houston didn't mind that they had to compete with the Super Bowl hubbub emanating from Arizona.

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BATTERED BY RISING credit costs and administrative expenses, the nation's largest thrift, H.F. Ahmanson & Co., reported fourth-quarter earnings that were sharply below expectations.

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REGIONAL BANKING:

FIRSTAR chairman Roger Fitzsimonds made his name cleaning up a troubled loan portfolio. Now, the 57-year-old banker faces a bigger task: cutting 2,500 jobs - 26% of Firstar's work force.

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NATIONSBANK's vice chairman - one of the company's top five officers - is taking early retirement, starting Wednesday.

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COMMUNITY BANKING:

RABOBANK of the Netherlands is capturing the attention of U.S. farm lenders with its rapid growth and big plans.

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CUTS IN GOVERNMENT payments to farmers have not increased loan delinquencies, but are likely to have an impact on credit availability, a recent survey says.

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CREDIT UNIONS:

FOR THE FIRST TIME since 1993, a slowing economy and growing consumer debt have increased credit union holdings of loans tied up in bankruptcy proceedings - by 21.7%.

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THE CREDIT CARD chief at Credit Union National Association resigned shortly before the release of a report about spinning off portions of its card operations.

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INVESTMENT PRODUCTS:

FIRST UNION is making a play to expand its brokerage operations into the Northeast by using tellers in newly acquired branches to sell mutual funds and annuities.

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FIDELITY INVESTMENTS is hiring eight sales representatives to beef up support for banks and trust departments that sell mutual funds.

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CREDIT/DEBIT/ATMs:

VISA HAS UPPED the ante for domestic operations by hiring an executive to manage credit product management in the United States.

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THE NATION'S LEADING TOY manufacturer and a New York bank are offering a cobranded Visa card that rewards users with U.S. savings bonds.

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TECHNOLOGY:

VERIFONE was one of a number of financial technology firms that posted solid results for 1995.

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IBM PROMOTED a longtime finance executive to the newly created position of worldwide general manager for banking, finance, and securities.

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FINANCE:

MBNA Corp.'s long-term debt ratings are being reviewed for a possible downgrading by Moody's, which said it was "concerned" about the allegiance of the bank's cardholders.

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INVESTORS at an ABA gathering said they want more information, and more time to study it, before they commit any more funds to asset-backed securities.

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