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Business in brief: Banner Bank OK’d to buy F&M Bank

Sat., April 14, 2007, midnight

Walla Walla-based Banner Bank has received federal and state approval to buy F&M Bank of Spokane, the company announced Thursday.

The $98.8 million deal still requires approval by F&M Bank shareholders. A special shareholder meeting will be held April 27, and the merger is expected to close by May 1, according to a Banner Bank news release.

Banner Bank has also received regulatory approval to buy San Juan Financial Holding Company of Friday Harbor, Wash., in a $40.8 million deal, according to the release.

If approved, the combined bank will have nearly 80 locations in Washington, Idaho and Oregon, said Banner Bank Vice President Albert Marshall.

Formerly Farmers and Merchants Bank, the 100-year-old F&M Bank has 13 branches in the Spokane area.


IRS warns of Internet scams

The Internal Revenue Service on Friday warned of Internet scam artists trying to obtain people’s bank account numbers and other information by posing as a participant in a program offering free tax preparation software to low- and middle-income taxpayers.

The tax agency said in a statement that the IRS’s Web site,, is the only way to access the Free File program, and that taxpayers should avoid other Web sites claiming to be part of the program.

“The final days of the tax season always bring tax scams,” IRS Commissioner Mark Everson said in a statement. “Make sure you’re really dealing with the IRS. Taxpayers can feel safe using Free File, but the only way to do it is through the secure Web site.”

The tax agency said it was looking into allegations that the bogus Web sites, which were not identified, were accepting tax information from taxpayers, changing the taxpayers’ bank account numbers to their own and filing the return through a legitimate Free File partner.

IRS spokesman Terry Lemons said the agency was working to identify taxpayers affected by the scam and would try to make sure they received their refunds.


FCC, radio firms reach payola deal

Federal regulators Friday announced an unprecedented settlement with four radio broadcast companies under investigation for accepting cash and merchandise from record companies in exchange for airplay.

The four broadcasters will pay a $12.5 million fine and agree that their 1,653 stations won’t engage in “payola” practices, according to a consent decree with the Federal Communications Commission.

The radio companies involved – Clear Channel Communications Inc., CBS Radio, Entercom Communications Corp. and Citadel Broadcasting Corp. – represent four of the nation’s six largest radio station owners. They admit to no wrongdoing under the three-year settlement.

A separate agreement was negotiated by the American Association of Independent Music and the radio groups. In that deal, the broadcasters agreed to provide 8,400 half-hour segments of free airtime for independent record labels and local artists.

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