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Huntington Bank to go after Unizan merger

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The Times Reporter
Copley Ohio Newspapers
October 8, 2005

Huntington Bancshares plans to resubmit its application to merge with Unizan Financial Corp. after the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency lifted its formal written agreement with Huntington National Bank.

An agreement with the Federal Reserve remains in effect, but Huntington said Thursday it has consulted with the Fed and will resubmit the application. Huntington has been advised that it is in full compliance with the financial holding company and financial subsidiary requirements under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.

Huntington and Unizan announced their planned merger in January 2004. But investigations by Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Securities and Exchange Commission delayed the planned August 2004 closing, and the merger agreement was extended until January 2006.

The SEC earlier approved Huntington’s $7.5 million offer to settle an investigation into the company’s past accounting practices. In that settlement, Chief Executive Thomas Hoaglin, former Chief Financial Officer Michael McMennamin and former controller John Van Fleet also paid a combined $1.1 million.

“We are very pleased with the termination of the OCC written agreement,” Hoaglin said in a prepared statement. “As previously indicated, we have been working extensively with our banking regulators for many months. We are pleased with the progress we have made in addressing their concerns and are confident that we can complete the remaining work in a timely manner. We look forward to the filing of the Unizan application.”

The SEC was investigating the company’s accounting and financial reporting practices, including the handling of automobile loan and lease origination fees and costs. Previously, the company reclassified $3.2 billion in auto leases.

The SEC settlement was separate from a deal struck with the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank and Office of the Comptroller that requires federal banking regulators to review Huntington’s accounting procedures and other business practices. The Federal Reserve review is ongoing.

What are people saying about mortgages today:

Rates on 30-year mortgages edged down last week to a seven-month low. Mortgage-giant Freddie Mac reported Thursday that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages fell to 6.3 percent, down slightly from 6.31 percent two weeks ago. It put rates at the lowest level since they were at 6.24 percent the first week of March.

Bank of Hawaii, Central Pacific Bank, Territorial Savings Bank and Wells Fargo Home Mortgages all cut their 30-year mortgage rates to 5.75 percent this week.

Most people think of a mortgage as a means to an end. After all, you buy a house, not a home loan. But a mortgage is much more than the path to homeownership. It is a financial instrument that must be managed, just like any other financial investment.