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Consultant questions PNC-First Niagara deal

| Wednesday, April 15, 2009

An independent banking consultant-economist claimed in a letter to the Department of Justice that PNC Financial Services Group Inc. "hand picked" a buyer for branches it must divest as part of the National City Corp. acquisition.

Kenneth H. Thomas said PNC's sale of 57 branches to First Niagara Financial Corp. of Lockport, N.Y., was "insufficient to ensure that consumers, small businesses, and middle market businesses will continue to have sufficient choices for banking services and to enjoy the benefits of competition."

Miami-based Thomas said PNC still will control 48 percent of the deposits in Pittsburgh market, while No. 2 deposit holder Citizens Bank holds only 8 percent. Thomas urged the Justice Department's Antitrust Division to review the PNC-First Niagara transaction. PNC spokesman Brian Goerke declined to comment.

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