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First Interstate Bancorp

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Title: First Interstate Bancorp  
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Subject: Wells Fargo, First National Bank, Bank of America, History of Wells Fargo, William Lawton
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First Interstate Bancorp

First Interstate Bank
Headquarters Los Angeles, California
Established 1928 (1928)
Ownership Private
Currency USD
Succeeded by Wells Fargo
First Interstate BancSystem

First Interstate Bancorp was a bank holding company based in the United States that was taken over in 1996 by Wells Fargo. Headquartered in Los Angeles, it was the nation's eighth largest banking company.[1]

The name (along with the company logo) has continued to be used in the banking world after the merger by First Interstate BancSystem who had been using the name under a franchise agreement since 1984.


In 1928, Amadeo Giannini, born in California to Italian immigrant parents, formed a holding company, the Transamerica Corporation, to consolidate his existing financial ventures, which began business with $1.1 billion in assets and both banking and non-banking activities. From the 1930s through the mid-1950s, Transamerica made a number of acquisitions of banks and other financial corporations throughout the western United States, creating the framework for the later First Interstate system.

In 1953, regulators succeeded in forcing the separation of Transamerica Corporation and Bank of America under the Clayton Antitrust Act. Transamerica Corporation, a Delaware corporation, petitioned this court to review an order of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System entered against it under Section 11 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C.A. § 21, to enforce compliance with Section 7 of the Act, 15 U.S.C.A. § 18.[2]

The Bank Holding Company Act of 1956 placed new restrictions on companies such as Transamerica. Therefore, in 1957, Transamerica's banking operations, which included 23 banks in 11 western states, were spun off as Firstamerica Corporation. Transamerica continued to pursue its insurance and other operations.

Firstamerica changed its name to Western Bancorporation in 1961. Western expanded steadily in the 1960s, both domestically and overseas, ending the decade with assets of more than $10 billion. The bank's financial services network grew through the 1974 founding of the Western Bancorporation Mortgage Company and the 1979 formation of Western Bancorp Venture Capital Company.

In June 1981 the company changed its name to First Interstate Bancorp. The First Interstate name became a systemwide brand for most of the company's banks, thus promoting greater public recognition of the company and internal consistency. During the 1980s, in addition to acquiring more banks, First Interstate jumped into new areas of financial services as the deregulation of the banking industry progressed. In 1983 the First Interstate Discount Brokerage was set up to provide bank customers with securities and commodities support. In 1984 the bank branched into merchant banking with the purchase of Continental Illinois Ltd. and equipment leasing with the acquisition of the Commercial Alliance Corporation of New York, and broadened its mortgage banking activities by acquiring the Republic Realty Mortgage Corporation. In 1986 and 1987, First Interstate attempted a bold $3.2 billion hostile takeover of the ailing Bank of America, but the bid was successfully defeated.

First Interstate ran into its own troubles in the late 1980s and early 1990s stemming from bad real estate loans and the severe recession in California. The bank posted losses in the hundreds of millions for 1987, 1989, and 1991. Consequently, First Interstate concentrated on rebuilding and rejuvenating its existing operations rather than acquiring new ones. A number of noncore unprofitable subsidiaries were jettisoned, including the equipment leasing unit, a government securities operation, and most of the wholesale banking unit. Rumors of a takeover of First Interstate were rife in the early 1990s before the bank recovered fully by mid-decade under the leadership of Ed Carson, Chairman and CEO (1990–95).

Despite First Interstate's healthier condition, and with the banking industry consolidation in full swing, Wells Fargo made a hostile bid for First Interstate in October 1995 initially valued at $10.8 billion. Other banks came forward as potential 'white knights,' including Norwest, Bank One Corporation, and First Bank System. The latter made a serious bid for First Interstate, with the two banks reaching a formal merger agreement in November valued initially at $10.3 billion. But First Bank ran into regulatory difficulties with the way it had structured its offer and was forced to bow out of the takeover battle in mid-January 1996. Talks between Wells Fargo and First Interstate then led within days to a merger agreement.[3]

In 1984, First Interstate BancSystem of Montana entered into a franchise agreement with First Interstate Bancorp of California to use the First Interstate Bank name and logo. In 1996 when First Interstate Bancorp was split up, the Montana organization successfully negotiated to retain the well known First Interstate name and logo. First Interstate BancSystem continues to offer banking in Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota.[4]

1986 bank heist

In June 1986, a highly trained group, called the "Hole in the Ground" crew by the media, tunneled under the First Interstate Bank in Hollywood at Spaulding Avenue and Sunset Boulevard through an extensive network of tunnels over the course of several months and took about US$270,000 (equivalent to $580,000 in 2015) in cash and the contents of 36 safety deposit boxes valued at US$2,500,000 (equivalent to $5,400,000 in 2015). The group rode all-terrain vehicles through the underground storm drain system of Los Angeles, and used gas-powered generators, hammer drills, power saws, and digging equipment used to tunnel 100 ft (30 m) up into the bank’s vault.[5][6]

See also


  1. ^ Adelson, Andrea (1988-09-23). "First Interstate Plans To Spin Off 'Bad' Bank".  
  2. ^ "206 F.2d 163 Transamerica Corp. v. Board of Governors of Federal Reserve System. No. 10768.".  
  3. ^ "First Interstate Decides To Talk To Wells Fargo -- First Bank's Bid Suffers Second Blow".  
  4. ^ "First Interstate Bank Locations". First Interstate Bank. First Interstate BancSystems. Retrieved 10 May 2009. 
  5. ^ Harvey, Steve (27 December 2009). "Boring thieves had tunnel visions". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 November 2013. 
  6. ^ Manaugh, Geoff (Spring 2013). "Forensic Topology".  
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