September 26, 2007

Bank of America Corp. plans to eliminate nearly a third of LaSalle Bank Corp.’s jobs once it acquires the Chicago unit of ABN Amro Holding NV, and despite protests from local groups, B of A refused to announce any long-term plans for community investment or job creation in the region.

Scott Silvestri, a spokesman for the $1.5 trillion-asset Charlotte company, said it told employees Monday that it would cut 4,000 jobs once it acquires LaSalle from its Dutch parent. Of those cuts, 2,500 would be made in Illinois, and the other 1,500 would be made in Michigan. LaSalle has sizable operations in Detroit.

The layoffs would occur over the next two years and would begin in the first quarter, Mr. Silvestri said Tuesday. The $21 billion acquisition is expected to close next month.

The cuts would represent about 31% of LaSalle’s base of 13,000 employees, according to employment estimate provided by a spokeswoman of the unit, who would not comment further on the planned cuts.

B of A, which currently has a small operation in Chicago, has said that it plans to eliminate about $800 million of expenses at LaSalle after closing the deal. Mr. Silvestri said it was too early to say specifically what positions would be cut. B of A would offer severance packages to the affected employees and would work with local officials on job-placement services, he said.

He also said that his company has “nothing to share” regarding any long-term plans for community investment or for bringing jobs back to Chicago and Detroit.

A coalition of Chicago community groups and politicians has pressured B of A to make a commitment similar to the one it made in Boston in 2003 after announcing plans to buy FleetBoston Financial Corp. At that time B of A said that it would replace the 2,900 jobs it planned to cut in New England, with a goal of returning its employment in the region to the 17,900 jobs that existed at Fleet before the acquisition.

Last month the community groups released a study speculating on job cuts as a result of the LaSalle purchase. They have since held demonstrations in Charlotte and Chicago and held a community hearing on Sept. 15 to protest the deal. However, the Federal Reserve Board approved the transaction the day before the hearing.

Calls to the Service Employees International Union and the Woodstock Institute, the most-vocal community groups in the coalition, were not immediately returned.

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