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Fed schedules hearings on BofA, Countrywide merger

Public input sought on benefits, drawbacks

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The Federal Reserve will hold public hearings next month in Los Angeles and Chicago before ruling on Bank of America Corp.'s planned acquisition of Countrywide Financial Corp. The meetings will be held on April 22 in Chicago and April 28 and 29 in Los Angeles (see announcement). The Fed -- which held similar hearings before approving the merger of J. P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Bank One Corp. in 2004 -- said it's looking for public input on whether the merger's possible benefits would outweigh potential problems such as decreased competition or conflicts of interests.The National Community Reinvestment Coalition welcomed the Fed's decision to hold hearings, saying "clarity about the details of the merger would be useful, considering the size and scope of the lending activities that Bank of America and Countrywide conduct."In a statement, NCRC said it sees a potential for "significant and positive outcomes as a result of the merger," because the combined...