Fulton Bank Takes Over Republic After Pa. Declares Philly’s Largest Bank ‘Unsafe and Unsound’

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

PHILADELPHIA (The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS) — Fulton Financial Corp. of Lancaster will roughly double its presence in the Philadelphia area by taking over $4 billion in customer deposits, nearly $3 billion in loans, and 30 area branches from the long-troubled Republic Bank of Philadelphia.

Republic was seized by Pennsylvania’s banking department and its assets transferred to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. on Friday, citing the bank’s “unsafe and unsound condition, in order to protect depositors.”

The takeover follows the collapse of Republic parent Republic First Corp.’s share value after the company repeatedly failed to file required financial reports. It ends years of infighting by board and investor factions for control of the largest commercial bank still based in Philadelphia, once the nation’s banking center. Fulton quickly acquired the assets from the FDIC, which had been looking for a bank to take over Republic since last year.

“We are excited,” Curt Myers, chairman and chief executive of Fulton, said in a statement Friday, promising Republic customers “uninterrupted access to their accounts” through online accounts, automatic tellers and banking cards.

The combination will initially give Fulton a total of nearly $9 billion in deposits and more than 80 branches in the region, giving it the fifth-largest branch network after Citizens, Wells Fargo, PNC and TD, and the eighth-largest deposit base, after those banks plus Bank of America, WSFS and M&T. Some customers typically leave a bank after a merger, and banks typically shut redundant offices and lay off some staff once an acquisition is consolidated.

Outside the Philadelphia area, Fulton has about 90 branches, mostly in central Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware; Republic had two in Manhattan.

The takeover ended a series of dramatic and desperate moves to improve Republic’s prospects since Vernon Hill, already the bank’s board chairman and a major investor, took over as chief executive in 2021 and expanded plans to add branches in Pennsylvania and metro New York, at a time when more Americans were banking online and most banks were shutting branches.

Hill, a real estate investor and longtime Burger King operator, had previously started both the former Commerce Bancorp, now part of TD Bank; and Metro Bank Plc, claiming credit for speeding up the staid field of commercial banking with faster service lines, long hours, pet-friendly branches, and glass-walled offices designed by his wife, Shirley — but falling afoul of major investors and regulators over issues such as his use of family-controlled contractors and accounting for troubled loans.

In 2022 Hill was ousted as Republic’s boss in a boardroom coup that was followed by a legal fight for control between factions headed by earlier Republic chief executive Harry Madonna and New York investor Andrew Cohen, on one hand, and allies of George Norcross, the South Jersey Democratic power broker and Cooper Health chairman.

Norcross last year agreed to make a major investment that would give him control of the bank, only to cancel the deal earlier this year.

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