In early June, it looked like Providian (NYSE:PVN) shareholders were getting a fair deal. That is, Washington Mutual (NYSE:WM) agreed to purchase the credit card provider for $6.45 billion, which was a 4.2% premium.

Then, a few weeks later, Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) agreed to shell out $35 billion for MBNA (NYSE:KRB) -- at a hefty 31% premium.

So, it's understandable that Providian shareholders feel like they left a few bucks on the table, right? Actually, at least one serious shareholder feels this way: Putnam Investments. In aggregate, the firm's funds have about 7.5% of Providian's outstanding shares.

In fact, Putnam put out a press release indicating its displeasure with the proposed transaction. Its reasoning is clear: There are not many independent credit card companies left. Yet mega financial institutions see credit cards as a core business. According to Putnam: "In a consolidating industry and in light of the recently announced Bank of America-MBNA transaction, monoline credit card companies such as Providian represent an increasingly scarce asset that should command a higher price."

Furthermore, Providian had a strong second quarter. Net income increased from $49.9 million, or $0.16 cents a share, to $225.3 million, or $0.67 cents per share. The company also lowered its credit losses 35% to $359.8 million.

But, as for Washington Mutual, why would the company want to raise its bid? After all, it has a signed deal to buy Providian. Some industry experts speculate that Wachovia (NYSE:WB) may make a play for Providian since its credit card partnership with MBNA is about to expire. But until another offer actually materializes, Washington Mutual would simply be bidding against itself.

Besides, Putnam is merely going to vote "no" on the deal. It will not take an activist role by convincing other funds to do the same. Other large institutional holders such as Legg Mason (NYSE:LM) have not yet publicly announced their feelings on the offer price, but it will be interesting to see where they stand.

So, while Putnam is flexing its muscle -- which is rare for mutual funds in these situations -- the fact remains that this deal is very likely to get done. Thus, by buying shares in Providian you will most likely have them exchanged for shares in Washington Mutual.

Fool contributor Tom Taulli does not own shares mentioned in this article.