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Comment period extended for KeyCorp-First Niagara deal

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The public will have more time to comment on a proposed $4.1 billion dollar purchase of First Niagara Financial Group by KeyCorp.

The Federal Reserve has extended the comment period one month to January 31.

State Assemblyman Michael Kearns praised the extension in an interview with WBFO.  The South Buffalo Democrat is convinced the merger will result in huge job cuts locally, a claim that was characterized as premature earlier this month by KeyCorp.

Kearns, who was among the earliest elected officials in Western New York to raise concerns about the proposed sale, said he's hopeful that the extension will allow the "true facts" to be unearthed.

“The true facts are that there’s going to be a tremendous loss of jobs. In their  reporting to their investors,   they stated they have to cut $400 million," Kearns said.

He also expressed concern about the impact possible bank branch closings could have on some local neighborhoods.

"When you talk about an overlapping of branches, there’s going to be blight in our community," he said.

Earlier this month, a KeyCorp spokesperson provided a written statement defending the proposed sale.

"With regard to potential job loss, particularly in Buffalo, it's still very early in the process," the statement read. "Together, Key and First Niagara will create a stronger, more powerful regional bank. We recognize that banking is a people business. To succeed, we need to draw on a wide range of experience, talent, and capabilities. We will be thoughtful in how we approach the integration and combining our companies. As with any combination of this size, however, we expect there will be some overlaps in job functions. It is premature to speculate on specific numbers; that said, we are committed to treating all employees with respect and dignity throughout this process."

The statement also suggested that the two banks have "built a legacy of philanthropy and civic involvement and will continue this commitment" to the markets they serve.

Kearns said Thursday he is not buying the argument that the merger will have a positive impact on the region.

“Someone has to answer how $400 million is going to be cut from this bank and how it’s going to make the community stronger," Kearns said. If they can do that, then maybe they can coach the Bills and we can get a winning season. But I don’t think it’s going to happen. "

Kearns also praised Sen. Charles Schumer for his role in pressing federal officials to extend the public comment period. During a visit to Buffalo  Tuesday, Schumer vowed to oppose the deal if he determines that it will cost the region jobs. Schumer is considered one of the most powerful members of Congress and sits on the Senate Banking Committee.


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