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OPINION

Front end: World Bank party poopers

Edited by Brian Caplen

Bank mergers are putting the dampers on the party spirit at the IMF/World Bank meetings. The latest casualty is the Republic National Bank of New York, famous for its lavish receptions at the National Gallery of Art. Aficonados considered the sumptuous Republic do as the highlight of the social calendar at the Washington pow-wow.

But then along came HSBC which gobbled up New York's third largest bank and didn't care to leave anything on the table for World Bank gourmets. A big boo to Wayfoong. Was it the takeover artist's desire to show who's in charge that killed off the event or the legendary thriftiness of HSBC's Scottish management?

The decline of extravagant parties at the annual meetings is, alas, a sign of the times. Whereas banks once tried to out-do each other with their generosity, now the message in the age of shareholder value seems to be: look how seriously we pay attention to costs. In the last few years, banks such as Merrill Lynch and CSFB ceased holding grand affairs and now Republic National has joined the list.

Fortunately not everyone is being so puritanical.