IS BIGGER BADDER?

THE CHEMICAL-CHASE ALLIANCE RAISES CONSUMER ANXIETY ABOUT MERGERS

JOHN HAMILTON HAS LEARNED TO HIS sorrow that bank mergers like last week's $10 billion union of Chemical Banking Corp. and Chase Manhattan can enrich investors but hurt depositors. Hamilton fled his own bank in Washington last year after the giant First Union Corp. of Charlotte, North Carolina, acquired it and raised the minimum balance for no-fee checking from $250 to $500. "We couldn't meet that every month," says Hamilton, president of a nonprofit community-development group, who shifted his money to his wife's credit union. Unlike most consumers, Hamilton isn't watching the trend passively. His organization, Community First Inc., is trying...

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