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M&T Bank has sent out letters to the holders of time deposit accounts formerly held by the defunct Empire Federal Savings Bank of America, asking them to ratify M&T as their bank.

In addition, about 3 percent of all 183,000 Empire deposit accounts M&T purchased from the Resolution Trust Corp. earlier this year will undergo rate and possible term adjustments, depending on the rates and terms remaining on the accounts.

"As part of our agreement with the RTC, the holders of the 183,000 accounts that we purchased must ratify us as their bank," said Gary S. Paul, an M&T senior vice president. "If they don't ratify us, the account must be returned to the RTC."

Ratification must be completed by Mar. 28, 1992, and is done by simply signing a certificate of ratification enclosed with the letter.

Any partial withdrawal of principal from a certificate of deposit automatically ratifies M&T as a time depositor's bank for that specific account. All savings and checking accounts utilized since the M&T takeover also automatically ratify M&T.

Should a depositor choose not to continue his or her account with M&T, there is no penalty for closing the account.

As part of the deal with the RTC to acquire the deposits and 13 Empire branch offices in the Buffalo and Rochester areas, M&T also was given the right to adjust the rates paid on deposits. "During our pre-acquisition analysis of Empire, the RTC did not give us enough information to determine how many accounts needed to be adjusted," Paul said. "We've now determined that 3 percent of the 183,000 accounts will be adjusted."

Paul said the deposits in question had maturities ranging from 7 1/2 to 20 years, at an average rate of 10.5 percent. Rates currently are under 8 percent. For those accounts maturing in less than five years, M&T will pay its typical rate depending on the instrument's maturity.

For those accounts with five or more years remaining until maturity, M&T will cap the maturity at five years and offer the account holder its five-year rate. That rate currently is yielding 8.25 percent. All adjusted rates and terms go into effect Jan. 15, 1991.

Depending on how many separate accounts a person holds, multiple letters may have been received. Paul emphasized that each account must be ratified.

"Our main concern is that people are not used to getting mail regarding their CDs and will mistake these ratification letters for junk mail," Paul said. "They may erroneously throw them away without looking at them."

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