Fourth quarter non-interest income increased $3.8 million to $26.2 million, compared with fourth quarter 2011, reflecting increased benefits administration and consulting fees, higher deposit services fees, and increased wealth management revenues. Employee benefits administration and consulting revenues were up 19.3% compared to fourth quarter 2011, principally from the December 2011 acquisition of Metro-New York based, CAI Benefits (CAI). Wealth management fees were up $0.6 million, or 21.8% over fourth quarter 2011, driven by solid gains in trust services and asset management. Deposit service fees of $12.6 million were up $1.6 million, or 14.3% from fourth quarter of 2011, and included the activities of the branches acquired in the third quarter.
Fourth quarter core operating expenses (excluding acquisition expenses and the litigation settlement charge) of $53.9 million, increased $6.2 million over the fourth quarter of 2011, and included the recurring operating expenses of the acquired branches as well as CAI. Year-to-date core operating expenses (excluding acquisition expenses and the litigation settlement charge) of $203.5 million were 9.7% higher than 2011, and reflect the aforementioned branch and CAI transactions, as well as the acquisition of the Wilber Corporation in April 2011. The results for the fourth quarter and full-year 2012 included an accrual of $2.5 million with respect to the settlement of a class action lawsuit, similar to other actions filed against more than 100 other financial institutions in the United States over the last three years. The litigation settlement related to the processing of retail debit card transactions and its impact on overdraft fees. The Company had considerable affirmative defenses to the claims, however, the settlement the Company was able to achieve was, in its judgment, a superior outcome for shareholders when measured against the cost and the staff resources required for litigation.
The full year 2012 effective income tax rate of 29.2% was consistent with the 29.4% rate in 2011, reflecting proportionately similar levels of income being generated from fully taxable and non-taxable sources.
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