NationsBank Corp. is about to make an exit from Maryland, but the only thing leaving the state is its legal address.
The company has applied to federal regulators for the right to move the headquarters of its Maryland subsidiary 30 miles south from Bethesda into Virginia, and merge that subsidiary into its Virginia bank, which is based in Richmond.
The result will be a bank headquartered in Virginia that also has branches in Maryland and Washington. Regulators are expected OK the move.
For NationsBank, the move should result in some cost savings, mainly from fewer reports that will have to be compiled for regulators.
For customers, the move will hardly be noticeable, because the company already allows its accountholders to do most transactions at any branch in the three areas, regardless of where the customer lives.
For its Maryland workers, the company said, the move won't mean a thing, because the headquarters of fice, for the purposes of the merger, is merely a legal title.
"All executives and all associates and all jobs will remain where they are," said Jim Choplick, a NationsBank spokesman in Baltimore.
That includes R. Eugene Taylor, who will remain head of the company's operations in Maryland, Washington and Northern Virginia.
The application, filed last week, is the second time NationsBank has asked the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency for permission to do the merger. Last year, it withdrew its request after Maryland Bank Commissioner Margie H. Muller objected. She maintained that state law doesn't allow an out-of-state bank to run full-service branches in Maryland without operating a bank subsidiary here.
This time, NationsBank cited an exception: Maryland's banking laws, including the out-of-state branching prohibition, don't apply branches established before 1927, the year a federal law on interstate banking was passed. A later court ruling declared that out-of-state banks could locate branches in any region where its branches already were situated.
Because Maryland National Bank, which was acquired by NationsBank last year, had pre-1927 branches (through banks it acquired decades ago), the various rulings and loopholes have allowed NationsBank to go ahead with its maneuvers.
All of these machinations most likely will become unnecessary within two years. An interstate banking law that Congress passed last year will allow banks anywhere to operate branches in any other state by 1997. States have the right to opt out of that law.