Wall Street turning into skid row

Written by Melissa Hankins

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Just days after Bank of America absorbed Merrill Lynch, Charlotte's other big bank seems set to make a multi-billion dollar merger.

Many are saying it's the end of an era on Wall Street and another sign that the financial landscape in this country as we know it, is about to come to an end.

"The crisis is extremely severe.  I mean, you know, without being melodramatic, without over-reacting, we have a serious problem on our hands," said Tony Plath, a banking expert in Charlotte.

He has studied Wall Street for decades and has seen a lot but nothing like this.

"Really, it's just unbelievable," he said.

Beneath the bull, the big boys continue to fall, and Morgan Stanley is the latest to stumble after a seventh straight decline in the company's share price.

"If you look at Morgan Stanley's stock today, it's down another $4.50 a share.  A deal with a commercial bank is becoming increasingly likely and Wachovia is the best merger partner out there for them," Plath said.

Sure, we could call it a merger, but a shot-gun wedding might be more appropriate description.

"The investment banking industry will never stand alone again.  That's why Morgan is fleeing into the hands of a depository.  If Morgan goes to Wachovia, Goldman will follow, and find a partner as well," Plath said.

If Morgan goes to Wachovia and Merrill goes to Bank of America, and Goldman starts searching, too, what will become of Wall Street?  Citibank will still be there but it is shrinking and Chemical Chase is writing off some of their asset positions.

It sounds like Wall Street is turning into skid row.

Just Wednesday we thought our biggest problem was mortgage fraud, but Plath says, "It's deeper than housing... really, it's just unbelievable."

After the shock of Wall Street's fall wears off, there's something awfully interesting for us to consider here.

Charlotte is currently the number two banking city in the world, but it looks like the city is on its way to becoming number one.  The implications of that are huge.