Card Fraud

MasterCard said yesterday that counterfeit and mail/telephone order fraud remain the major areas of focus this year in its fight against card fraud. MasterCard reported total dollar fraud losses worldwide of $526 million, a 13.7% increase over 1997’s $462 million. As a percentage of sales volume, this computes to 8.1 basis points, or 8.1 cents per $100 in transaction volume, compared to 7.1 basis points in 1997. MasterCard said the increases last year were largely the result of skimming activity and the proliferation of technologies such as account generation programs.


Insurance Suit

A national class action on behalf of consumers who purchased credit card insurance from American Bankers Insurance Group, Inc., American Bankers Insurance Company of Florida, and Bankers American Life Assurance Company has been certified by the Supreme Court of the State of New York. The suit, filed by Wolf Popper, attorneys for the plaintiffs, charges these companies’ advertising material and solicitations are deceptive, because the large, bold typeface promises coverage if the insured cardholder dies, becomes disabled or becomes unemployed, but then the fine print restricts the availability of that coverage for a variety of reasons, including the state of the customer’s residence, the age of the customer, and whether or not the customer is self-employed, so that when a claim for insurance is made, the claim is denied. No trial schedule has been set.


Gambling Help

Global Cash Access announced yesterday a new initiative to help ATM customers at casinos to get help for gambling problems. The program was developed in cooperation with the National Council on Problem Gambling and is being rolled out to the more than 1,200 gaming properties served by the GCA. The effort includes point-of-decision messages that encourage gaming patrons to “Think” and act responsibly in obtaining funds at GCA cash access devices. The messages, including the NCPG 24-hour, toll-free help line number, will be displayed via highly visible decals and transaction receipts at GCA’s ATM, POS debit and credit card cash advance devices. More than two-thirds of GCA devices include a telephone handset with direct access to its 24-hour call center. GCA is training all of its call center service representatives to provide immediate connection to the NCPG hotline if a gaming patron uses the code word “think.” The code word is provided in a pre-recorded message.


BofA Corp Update

BankAmerica Corporation and BA Merchant Services,Inc. announced Wednesday the approval by the holders of a majority of the outstanding common stock of BAMS of the Agreement and Plan of Merger dated December 22, 1998 among BankAmerica, BAMS and BAMS Acquisition Corporation. The Merger became effective as of 5:01 p.m. (Pacific Time) Wednesday. As a result, BAMS has become a wholly owned subsidiary of Bank of America National Trust and Savings Association, and each outstanding share of BAMS common stock (other than the shares owned by BankAmerica), has been converted into the right to receive a cash payment equal to $20.50 per share, without interest. “We’re now in a better position to provide Bank of America’s full range of products and services to merchants from coast to coast,” said Sharif Bayyari, President and Chief Executive Officer of BAMS.

The Class A Common Stock of BAMS (NYSE: BPI) will no longer be traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

BAMS provides a range of payment processing and related information products and services to merchants who accept credit, charge and debit cards as payments for goods and services throughout the United States. BAMS is the exclusive provider of merchant processing services for Bank of America. BAMS is the fifth-largest processor of merchant credit transactions and one of the largest processors of debit card transactions in the United States.

BankAmerica Corporation Shareholders Vote to Change Name of Holding Company to Bank of America Corporation; Directors Declare Dividends

At the annual meeting Wednesday, shareholders of BankAmerica Corporation voted to change the name of the company to Bank of America Corporation. The name change becomes effective with the official filing in Delaware today and will be reflected tomorrow on the exchanges where the company’s securities are listed.

The holding company’s name now reflects the brand under which the company will do business around the world. Bank of America Corporation was formed Sept. 30, 1998 by the merger of BankAmerica Corporation and NationsBank Corporation. By mid-year 2000, the company’s banks will all be doing business under the brand name Bank of America. Affiliated companies such as Bank of America Mortgage and Bank of America Card Services already are doing business under that name.

In addition today, the Bank of America Corporation board of directors declared a regular quarterly dividend of $.45 per share on Bank of America Corporation common stock.

The dividend is payable June 25, 1999 to shareholders of record on June 4, 1999.

The board also declared regular quarterly dividends on two preferred stock issues. A $1.75 cash dividend was declared on the 7 percent Cumulative Redeemable Preferred Stock, Series B. The dividend is payable July 28, 1999 to shareholders of record on July 14, 1999.

A cash dividend of 62.5 cents was declared on the $2.50 Cumulative Convertible Preferred Stock, Series BB, payable on July 1, 1999 to shareholders of record on June 4, 1999.

BankAmerica, with $614 billion in total assets, is the largest bank in the United States. It has full-service operations in 22 states and the District of Columbia and provides financial products and services to 30 million households and two million businesses, as well as providing international corporate financial services for business transactions in 190 countries. BankAmerica stock (NYSE: BAC) is listed on the New York, Pacific and London stock exchanges and certain shares are listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.


MobileMinutes Charity

Bell Atlantic Mobile announced Wednesday a three-month initiative to help raise much-needed funds for the American Cancer Society’s fight against cancer. For the first time, Bell Atlantic Mobile has created a limited-edition MobileMinutes pre-paid wireless phone card, with a portion of the proceeds to be donated to the American Cancer Society.

The design of the new MobileMinutes cards features the artwork of local children who participated in the 1999 Daffodil Days art contest sponsored by Bell Atlantic Mobile and the American Cancer Society earlier this year.

“It is our hope that the funds raised from the sale of our MobileMinutes cards will allow the American Cancer Society to continue their important work,” said John Stratton, president, Bell Atlantic Mobile’s Philadelphia region. “This program is an excellent way to mark the third year of our corporate partnership with the American Cancer Society, and we wanted to do something out of the ordinary to show our commitment to the cause. The creation of an American Cancer Society MobileMinutes card was the answer.”

“As always, we are thrilled to have Bell Atlantic Mobile as a partner in the fight against cancer,” said Randy Linduff, regional vice president of the American Cancer Society, Pennsylvania division, Southeast region. “The money they will raise through the sale of MobileMinutes cards will certainly help us to make a big difference in the health and well being of individuals throughout the Delaware Valley.”

Also on hand at the event to speak about the American Cancer Society’s 1999 theme, “Hope, Progress, Answers,” were Dr. Robert Young, president of Fox Chase Cancer Center; Dr. Beatrice Mintz, senior member of the Basic Science Division at the Fox Chase Cancer Center; and Steve Zielinski, head of recruitment for “Moving On,” one of the American Cancer Society’s childhood cancer programs and a counselor at the Cancer Information Service at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Dr. Mintz, the recipient of an American Cancer Society research grant, discussed the “progress” that has been made as a result of cancer research funding and Steve Zielinski spoke about the “hope” for finding a cure for cancer. In addition, John Stratton and Randy Linduff unveiled a replica of the new MobileMinutes card, and Mr. Linduff spoke about the “answers” that the American Cancer Society can provide to those with cancer.

During the months of May, June and July, Bell Atlantic Mobile will donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the MobileMinutes cards to the American Cancer Society. The money raised will then be used by the American Cancer Society to help fund three of their largest annual events: the Relay for Life, the Bike-A-Thon and Daffodil Days. Cards will be sold at all Bell Atlantic Mobile Communications Stores throughout the region as well as at participating retailers such as Boscov’s and Let’s Talk Cellular beginning this month, with other dealers to follow.

The American Cancer Society is the nationwide, community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives and diminishing suffering from cancer through research, education, advocacy, and service.

Bell Atlantic Mobile is the first corporate sponsor of the Southeastern Pennsylvania chapter of the American Cancer Society. Bell Atlantic Mobile owns and operates the largest wireless network in the East, covering 120,000 square miles, and the largest chain of retail outlets devoted exclusively to wireless voice, data and paging. Based in Bedminster, NJ, Bell Atlantic Mobile has 6.2 million customers and 8,000 employees from Maine to Georgia and, through a separate subsidiary, in the Southwest. Through its “Wireless at Work…” community service program, the company uses its technology to help individuals and communities improve security and emergency communications. Bell Atlantic Mobile’s parent is one of the world’s largest wireless communications companies, with domestic operations in 25 states and international investments in Mexico, Europe and the Pacific Rim. For more information on Bell Atlantic Mobile visit:; on global operations visit:

Fox Chase Cancer Center is one of 35 National Cancer Institute-designed comprehensive cancer centers in the nation. The Center’s activities include basic and clinical research; prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and community outreach programs. The Center’s new Cancer Prevention Pavilion is the nation’s first such building and will add state-of-the-art laboratories as well as 11 new research programs to Fox Chase’s main campus.


Tough Quarter

IVI Checkmate Corp. reported this morning a net loss of $2.3 million for the first quarter. IVI Checkmate’s financial performance in the first quarter was primarily affected by its decision to temporarily halt shipments of its ‘eN-Touch 1000’ terminal in order to carry out certain technical changes. While there were no problems in the functionality and usability of the terminal, IVI Checkmate discovered intermittent and inconsistent wear patterns on the protective coating on the glass of the installed terminals when used in a particular retail environment which contained concrete and chemical dust in the air. As a result after a study of alternative technologies, the company decided in March to adapt and integrate an alternative technology that would produce a more robust product and reduce the overall cost of ownership during the life of the product. Terminals utilizing this alternative technology have already been installed in the field for further testing, and have been performing well; however, IVI Checkmate is still awaiting final acceptance from its customers before resuming full production. For more information on IVI Checkmate’s 1Q/99 visit CardData ([][1]).




IVI Checkmate Corp. announced Tuesday a $1.5 million order from PETsMART, a Phoenix-based pets supply chain of 492 locations. PETsMART will implement a total end-to-end payment transaction management solution from IVI Checkmate.

The agreement includes the eN-Crypt 2100 customer-activated debit/credit terminal, eN-Check 430 check reader, eN-Concert Store electronic payment software, and eN-Concert Enterprise client/server based transaction management and value-added application software suite. The implementation in anticipated to begin in the third quarter and be completed in the fourth quarter of this year.

Jake Mendelsohn, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer of PETsMART states, “IVI Checkmate was the only supplier that could offer PETsMART a single source for all our non-cash payment transaction management needs.” Mr. Mendelsohn adds, “The solution they implement will integrate in our store environment with several different brands of POS systems while offering PETsMART the ability to promote value-added consumer services at the check-out lanes in addition to payment.”

Gregory A. Lewis, President and CEO of IVI Checkmate’s U.S. operations stated, “The agreement with PETsMART is another validation of our end to end transaction solutions strategy. Our goal of transitioning the company from a hardware centric supplier to a value-added systems solution provider is beginning to pay dividends.” Lewis adds, “PETsMART recognized the tremendous value in working with a single supplier to serve their electronic payment needs. In addition to our hardware and software applications, IVI Checkmate will provide the systems integration and project management services through its professional services organization that will insure a smooth and successful implementation.”

PETsMART, Inc. is a leading worldwide operator of superstores specializing in pet food, supplies and services. As of April 1, 1999, PETsMART operated 465 superstores in North America and 93 superstores in the United Kingdom. The Company’s common stock trades on The Nasdaq Stock Market under the symbol PETM.

IVI Checkmate is the third largest electronic transaction solutions provider in North America. The Company designs, develops, and markets innovative payment and value-added solutions that optimize transaction management at the point-of-service in the retail, financial, travel & entertainment, healthcare, and transportation industries. IVI Checkmate’s software, hardware, and professional services minimize transaction costs, reduce operational complexity, and improve profitability for its customers in the U.S., Canada and Latin America. For more information on IVI Checkmate, visit their web site at .


Associates Buys Exxon Travel Club

United States Auto Club, Motoring Division, Inc., a subsidiary of Associates First Capital Corporation , announced Tuesday it has acquired all membership contracts of the Exxon Travel Club and the right to offer services under the Exxon Travel Club name. The transaction closed on March 30, 1999. Terms were not disclosed.

The Associates auto club operation has administered a range of auto club management services to Exxon Travel Club since 1979. “We have enjoyed a long history with Exxon and are proud to move our relationship to the next logical step. USAC/MD is proud that Exxon Travel Club would entrust its members to our service and care,” said John Hunter, president of USAC/MD.

“This agreement builds on our existing relationship with USAC/MD,” said Exxon Travel Club President Don Taylor. “Exxon Travel Club members will continue to experience the very best auto club services. And USAC/MD plans to broaden the offerings, providing more benefits to ETC members,” he added.

Exxon Travel Club, Inc., based in Houston, Texas, is a subsidiary of Exxon Corporation, based in Irving, Texas. The Exxon Travel Club is a full-service auto club with more than 198,000 members nationwide.

Formed in 1968, United States Auto Club, Motoring Division, Inc. is one of the nation’s largest providers of auto club services and emergency roadside assistance. The Associates auto club operation serves more than 12 million households.

Associates First Capital Corporation, established in 1918, is a leading diversified finance company providing consumer and commercial finance, leasing, insurance and related services worldwide. The Associates has operations in the United States and 15 international markets. Headquartered in Dallas, it is one of the nation’s 100 largest companies, based on total market capitalization. For more information, visit The Associates Web site at [][1].



Bank Plus Sub-Prime Update

Bank Plus Corporation, and its subsidiaries, which include Fidelity Federal Bank, FSB , Tuesday reported net earnings of $2.0 million, or $0.10 per diluted share, for the first quarter of 1999 compared to net earnings of $1.1 million, or $0.06 per diluted share, for the 1998 fourth quarter and net earnings of $3.5 million, or $0.18 per diluted share, for the first quarter of 1998.

First Quarter 1999 Results of Operations

Net interest income and net yield on interest-earning assets in the 1999 first quarter increased to $27.5 million and 3.08%, respectively, compared to $26.6 million and 2.93% for the fourth quarter of 1998 and $21.0 million and 1.94% for the 1998 first quarter. The increase in net yield is due primarily to higher average yields and balances in the Bank’s credit card portfolio and a lower cost of funds as maturing certificates of deposit roll over at significantly lower rates.

The 1999 first-quarter provision for estimated loan losses was $13.0 million as compared to $15.0 million for the 1998 fourth quarter and $2.0 million for the 1998 first quarter. The increase in provision levels over the 1998 first quarter reflects the rapid growth of the Bank’s credit card portfolio in the second and third quarters of 1998 and the high levels of delinquencies and charge-offs experienced in that portfolio.

Net noninterest income for the quarter was $14.4 million as compared to $18.6 million and $5.3 million for the 1998 fourth and first quarters, respectively. Noninterest income decreased from the fourth quarter primarily due to lower credit card fee income realized from deferred origination fees resulting from the curtailment of the MMG Direct Inc. (“MMG”) credit card program in 1998.

Operating expenses decreased $2.2 million from the 1998 fourth quarter to $26.8 million and increased $6.7 million from 1998 first-quarter levels. The decrease over the 1998 fourth quarter reflected $3.8 million in expense savings partly offset by a $1.6 million increase in deposit insurance premium costs, while the increase over the 1998 first quarter was due to servicing costs relating to the growth in the Company’s credit card portfolio.

Asset Quality

Classified assets decreased to $111.8 million at March 31, 1999, from $133.1 million at December 31, 1998, primarily due to a $10.9 million decrease in classified credit card balances and a $10.1 million decrease in classified mortgage loans. Overall loan delinquencies decreased to $76.8 million at March 31, 1999, from $103.2 million at December 31, 1998, primarily due to a decrease in credit card loan delinquencies.

Delinquencies in the mortgage loan portfolio decreased to a historically low level of below 1%, and utilization of the allowance for loan and lease losses (“ALLL”) for mortgage loans was less than $1.0 million for the quarter. For the twelve months ended March 31, 1999, the mortgage loan portfolio experienced net recoveries of $2.8 million to the ALLL.

Credit Card Operations

At March 31, 1999, outstanding credit card balances were $310.6 million, a net decrease of $39.5 million, or 11.3%, from the December 31, 1998, balances primarily due to charge-offs in the quarter. As anticipated, delinquencies under the program with MMG peaked during the first quarter and then declined as a consequence of charge-offs, including first payment defaults, and increased collection efforts, decreasing from 31.9% at December 31, 1998, to 23.7% at March 31, 1999.

The Company has recently experienced certain limited success in resolving certain litigation related to the termination of the MMG credit card program. The Bank has filed an amended claim in arbitration seeking damages against MMG in excess of $13 million as of December 31, 1998. The Company’s motion to compel arbitration filed in California Federal Court was granted. MMG’s action against the Bank in Texas State Court which the Bank removed to Federal District Court in Texas was dismissed without prejudice. The McCarthy Advertising v. MMG Direct Inc. case, in which the Bank was a third party defendant, was abated pending the outcome of the Company’s arbitration claim against MMG.

Deposit Repricing and Conversion Program

During the quarter the Company’s cost of deposits continued to decrease as maturing certificates of deposit were rolled over or replaced at lower rates. As of March 31, 1999, the total cost of deposits had decreased to 4.32% from 4.53% at December 31, 1998. Additionally, total deposits decreased $163 million.

Senior Note Debt Service

During the quarter, the Company made its scheduled interest payment on its Senior Notes. The liquidity for the interest payments for the remainder of 1999 is expected to be provided by preferred stock dividends from the Bank and currently projected liquidity at the holding company.

The Bank has an agreement with the Office of Thrift Supervision (“OTS”) which permits the payment of dividends on the Bank’s preferred stock so long as the Bank remains adequately capitalized. The agreement with the OTS does not constrain the OTS from restricting future dividend payments based on safety and soundness considerations or future examination findings, and no assurance can therefore be given that the OTS will permit future dividend payments by Fidelity to Bank Plus. The Bank has received no indication from the OTS that it will object to the continued payment of preferred dividends.

Sale of Auto Loan Portfolio

In March 1999 Fidelity sold $10.5 million, or 64%, of its auto loan portfolio, and the buyer, who will service the balance of the portfolio still owned by the Bank, has a 90 day option to purchase an additional $2.3 million of the portfolio. No gain or loss was recognized on this transaction.

Sale of Deposits

The Bank has solicited bids from a broad group of potential purchasers to sell $140 million of deposits and three branch offices. Bids have been received and the high bidders have been notified of the Bank’s intention to proceed with these sales, subject to the negotiation and execution of definitive agreements and regulatory approval of these potential transactions. Successful bidders will purchase the deposits for an aggregate purchase price which includes a deposit premium, the net book value of furniture, fixtures and equipment and the appraised value of the two owned branch offices. The buyer of the leased branch will assume that leasehold. The Bank anticipates closing the sale of deposits by June 30, 1999, although no assurances can be given that the sale will be completed, or if completed, will be completed at the sales prices indicated or by June 30, 1999.

Although no assurances can be given, based on current projections, including the completion of the deposit sale by June 30, 1999, the Bank anticipates that its regulatory capital ratios will exceed the minimum level required to be considered “Well Capitalized” at June 30, 1999.

Regulatory Capital

The Bank’s core and risk-based capital ratios as of March 31, 1999, were 4.61% and 9.21%, respectively, compared to 4.36% and 8.95%, respectively, as of December 31, 1998. Under the most restrictive of the regulatory capital ratio measurements the Bank had an excess of $21.7 million above the minimum level required to be considered “Adequately Capitalized”, compared to an excess of $13.5 million at December 31, 1998. Common stockholders’ equity of the Company totaled $130.1 million at March 31, 1999, with a tangible book value per common share outstanding of $5.98.

Status of Exploration of Strategic Alternatives

At the end of 1998, the Company, with the help of its financial advisors, initiated a process to explore a potential sale with parties interested in an acquisition of the Company in whole or in part. Information on the Company was distributed to interested parties and expressions of interest, including preliminary non-binding offers, were received from several parties. Certain of those parties have performed due diligence on the Company. The Company continues to evaluate the preliminary offers received and to negotiate the terms of the preliminary offers to improve their overall value. To date no definitive offers have been received. There can be no assurance that any definitive offers will be received or, if received, will be determined to be adequate by the Board of Directors of the Company.

Bank Plus Corporation is the holding company for Fidelity Federal Bank, FSB, which offers a broad range of consumer financial services, including demand and time deposits and mortgage loans. In addition, through its affiliate Gateway Investment Services, Inc., a NASD-registered broker/dealer, Fidelity provides customers of the Bank with investment products, including mutual funds, annuities and insurance. Fidelity operates through 38 full-service branches, 37 of which are located in Southern California, principally in Los Angeles and Orange counties.




NetPack’s PC-card reader

NetPack Inc. () Tuesday said that it will release beta versions for two of its e-commerce packaging systems designed for the offline sale of Internet products and services, and announced plans for a home-PC card reader.

A beta version of NetPack’s “NetPackage” system will be released by July 31, Nils-Eric Svensson, NetPack’s vice president of marketing, said. The beta version will serve as an electronic delivery system for publishers of informational online-type textbooks, and will be sold only in retail bookstores or software stores.

“The `NetPackage’ version of NetPack’s First Internet Access Card family will fully demonstrate the feasibility of this unique e-commerce delivery system,” he said.

Svensson also announced that the newly developed NetPack “Special Application Package” (SAP) system will be released for beta testing in October, and also will be sold only in retail stores.

The SAP, a five-inch by six-inch card with a magnetic strip along its back, is drawn through an existing card reader at the merchant’s register for validation. The card supports the vendor’s canvas area on the front and back of the card as well, similar to a traditional hard- cover book jacket.

Svensson said NetPack has plans to integrate card readers with the Internet, and will offer home-PC card readers. A version will be available in January. The card can also be used for obtaining future updates as well.

Explaining how the system would work, Svensson said once in the customer’s possession the NetPack card would be drawn through a home- or office-computer card reader. The code automatically unlocks the Internet site specified on the card’s magnetic tape and grants the user access to the material or product being offered.

“Card readers for home and office computers are less than $200 away from piggyback-type serial ports, and we have already facilitated room on our card for the code,” he said. “The NetPack SAP card can be utilized for any purpose whatsoever with the highest degree of security. The SAP version of NetPack’s First Internet Access Card is specially encoded.”

Credit cards, checks or bank participation will no longer be useful, mandatory or necessary to retrieve services or goods from the Internet using NetPack’s system.

“Most recent announcements concerning Internet cards `stand on the shoulders of banks’ to underwrite the process at 21 percent interest to the consumer,” he said. “NetPack will put its dollar back into the retailers’ and consumers’ hands.”


Go2Net MasterCards

Seattle-based Go2Net, Inc. and Fleet Credit Card Services officially unveiled a suite of ‘Go2Net’-branded MasterCards yesterday. (Both firms signed a credit card marketing agreement in December.) Fleet also revealed yesterday it will now compete, via the Go2Net deal, with First USA’s ‘Titanium’ card. The Go2Net cards will initially come in three basic versions: ‘Silicon Investor MasterCard’; ‘MetaCrawler MasterCard’ and the ‘Go2Net Personal Titanium MasterCard’. Fleet said a fourth card, the ‘HyperMart Business MasterCard” will be introduced later. Applications for the new cards are available online via their respective Websites. Fleet’s ‘Customer Service Online’ will provide online access to available credit balances and to review past transactions. Cardholders may also request balance transfers and credit line increases online. All the Fleet/Go2Net cards offer a five month 3.9% intro APR. The ‘Titanium MasterCard’ offers an annual year-end transaction summary, $1 million in travel accident insurance, doubled manufacturers’ warranties, and purchase protection. The individually-branded MasterCards offer program-specific benefits such as 10% discounts on Silicon Investor’s annual and lifetime memberships.


I-Banking Explosion

A new report by CA-based Netroscope shows that over the next few years, the number of banks that consider Internet banking as an integral part of their direct banking will dramatically increase. However fewer than 10% of corporate banks either have or are building highly competitive and advanced transaction Web sites. The majority of banks currently use their Websites primarily for disseminating information to their customers and prospects and advertising their products and services through the Internet. Netroscope’s research also indicates that most banks evaluate their Internet presence by the generated online transactions and revenues. The study concludes that consumers’ demand for easy to use, access, configure, and manage financial services will drive visionary banks to offer true Internet banking branches loaded with innovative functionality and services.