Wells Fargo, Citi battle for Wachovia behind closed doors

After a weekend of legal wrangling, the battle for Wachovia headed behind closed doors Monday afternoon, with the Charlotte bank's future likely to be decided through private negotiations instead of public arguments.

Wachovia and its two suitors, Citigroup and Wells Fargo, agreed to a legal cease-fire until noon Wednesday, and — with the help of the Federal Reserve — could reach a deal soon over Wachovia's fate. That, in turn, could determine how many banking jobs ultimately will remain in Charlotte.

The banks' "standstill agreement" halting formal litigation came after a weekend of legal jousting in multiple courts. It came just hours after Citi's announcement Monday that it had sued Wachovia and Wells Fargo, seeking more than $60 billion in damages from Wells for interfering with Citi's deal with Wachovia.

At stake for the region are roughly 20,000 Wachovia jobs that have helped make Charlotte the nation's No. 2 banking center. Any acquisition almost certainly will mean fewer jobs, but many employees and local leaders fear even bigger losses in a deal that breaks up the company's divisions – either under one new owner or in a negotiated split.

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