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Company files lawsuit to block Hancock-Whitney merger

GULFPORT — A company that holds stock in Whitney Holding Corp. is suing to block the bank’s acquisition by Hancock Holding Co.

A class-action lawsuit filed Monday by Realistic Partners accuses Whitney’s directors of acting in their own interests at the expense of shareholders and of preventing investors from making an informed decision about the proposed $1.5-billion deal.

The boards for the parent companies of Hancock Bank and Whitney National Bank approved the stock-for-stock transaction in December.

A Hancock spokesman said the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation. A Whitney spokeswoman didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

The agreement between Gulfport, Miss.-based Hancock Holding and New Orleans-based Whitney Holding awaits regulatory approval.

During the financial crisis, Whitney received $300 million from the federal government’s Trouble Asset Relief Program, or TARP.

The lawsuit says Whitney remains a “strong company with the potential for greater growth,” yet its directors agreed for it to be purchased by Hancock “on the cheap.”

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