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A sense of optimism returns one year after Wachovia's fall

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Looking back on last fall's financial crisis, former Wachovia general counsel Jane Sherburne said it's disappointing that executives scrambling to salvage the tottering Charlotte bank had to sell it to Wells Fargo to save it.

But, considering the fate of other failed firms, she's convinced the bank could have suffered worse: a government dismantling or a complex sale to Citigroup.

"It's been hard for individuals, but for the company and for shareholders and even employees we got a result that was vastly better than receivership and clearly much better than the agreement with Citi," said Sherburne, who started at the company in June 2008 shortly after the ouster of former chief executive Ken Thompson.

One year after Wachovia's dramatic fall, San Francisco-based Wells Fargo has cut more than 500 jobs here, former Wachovia shareholders are still reeling from their losses and uneasiness remains about the bank's plans. But there's also a growing feeling that Wachovia — and the Charlotte region — could have suffered an even worse fate.

As the crisis unfolded last year, Charlotte Regional Partnership chief executive Ronnie Bryant worried the city could lose 5,000 to 8,000 Wachovia jobs over time. Instead, a top Wells executive this month said the bank expects to grow from here. "We have fared better than I thought we would," Bryant said.

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