First Bank System Inc. went on the offensive Friday against Wells Fargo & Co., charging that a Wells Fargo takeover of First Interstate Bancorp would cost more than 12,000 jobs. But Wells Fargo countered by charging First Bank with violating securities rules in its bid to acquire First Interstate.
In full-page newspaper ads up and down California and in a 1 1/2-hour conference with banking analysts, Minneapolis-based First Bank said Wells Fargo's hostile grab for First Interstate would result in more than 12,000 layoffs, as many as 10,000 in California alone--far more than in most projections.
First Bank also asserted that the Wells bid--although 2% higher in value based on Friday's closing stock prices--would shortchange First Interstate shareholders. And First Bank charged its San Francisco-based opponent with grossly overestimating its potential cost-savings in the deal and underestimating its likely revenue losses as depositors and loan customers flee the scorched battleground.
Wells Fargo, meanwhile, on Friday said it reported First Bank to the Securities and Exchange Commission because it believes the Friday broadside violates rules governing statements that publicly traded companies may make while a merger transaction is pending. Wells also asked the SEC to investigate trading in First Bank stock following reports that First Bank has been buying its own stock lately to prop up the price and make itself look more attractive as a merger partner.