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Sterling rebrands Sonoma Bank and Borrego Springs Bank as Argent Bank

Sterling Financial Corporation  and its subsidiary, Sterling Savings Bank, announced on Monday the rebranding of its two California banks under the name Argent Bank.

The name applies to Sonoma Bank and Borrego Springs Bank, the two banking systems Sterling has acquired in California. It will also attach the name to the Commerce National Bank system it's buying pending approval later this year.

CEO and President Greg Seibly said, in a release, “Argent Bank unifies our California banking operations under one brand, providing a cohesive identity for the bank to continue to grow and deepen its roots in California. Our recent acquisitions demonstrate that we are committed to California and are ready to build a strong franchise in the state.”

Sterling Financial chose the name Argent — which means “silver” in French — because it wanted a name that aligned with the bank’s identity. It is linked in a clear way to the name “sterling.”

Sonoma Bank and Borrego Springs Bank will transition to the Argent Bank name on Sept. 23, 2013. Commerce National Bank, which has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by Sterling Financial, will transition to the Argent Bank name after the acquisition is completed, which is expected to occur in the fourth quarter of 2013.  
  
The BankWithArgent.com website, which will share the same look and feel as the Sterling Bank website, is now live.

Sterling Financial had a solid 4Q and a very decent fiscal 2012

IN case you missed on Thursday, Spokane's Sterling Financial Corp. had a good 4Q earnings report.

The company, which operates Sterling Savings Bank, announced it booked net income of $20.9 million, or 33 cents per diluted common share, compared to $30.6 million, or 49 cents per diluted common share, for the quarter ended September 30, 2012, and $14.8 million or 24 cents per diluted common share, for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2011.

For the year Sterling recorded net income of $385.7 million, or $6.14 per diluted common share, compared to $39.1 million, or 63 cents per diluted common share, for the year ended Dec. 31, 2011.

The 2012 annual net income included an income tax benefit of $292 million associated with the release of a deferred tax asset valuation allowance.

Here are some other bullet points, borrowed from TheStreet.com:

  • Portfolio loan originations for the quarter were $561.7 million, a 23 percent increase over the prior quarter.
  • Income from mortgage banking operations for the year was $96.9 million, up 85 percent over 2011.
  • Nonperforming assets to total assets was 2.28 percent, down from 2.73 percent at September 30, 2012, and 4.01 percent at December 31, 2011.
  • A total of $40.4 million, or 65 cents per share, was returned to shareholders during the fourth quarter of 2012 through payment of a 15 cent per share regular dividend, a 35 cents per share special dividend and the accelerated payment of the 15 cents regular dividend that would have otherwise been paid during the first quarter of 2013.
  • During the fourth quarter, Sterling announced the signing of definitive agreements to acquire American Heritage Holdings and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Borrego Springs Bank of California.

Heidi Stanley’s discrimination lawsuit against Sterling Bank is still active

The discrimation lawsuit filed by former Sterling Bank CEO Heidi Stanley remains active in Spokane's County Superior Court.  Stanley is suing her former employer for wrongful termination, saying she lost her job after being diagnosed with breast cancer in spring 2009.

Sterling officials say the illness has nothing to do with Stanley leaving the company.

That departure or dismissal occurred right in the middle of Sterling's efforts to dig out of a deep financial pit. It ended up taking a huge investment through the TARP  (troubled assets relief program).

The recent legal development worth noting is a U.S. District Court ruling against Sterling, who had made a motion to dismiss the suit, arguing that the bank could not provide Stanley any compensation for her departure because of conditions imposed by virtue of the TARP money Sterling took from the feds.

But the court didn't buy the Sterling legal argument. The net result is that Stanley's wrongful termination suit can proceed.

Read to the next section to get a segment from the recent U.S. District Court ruling (the issue of TARP condition dragged this motion into federal court, while the termination action can be pursued at the state court level).

Sterling wins outstanding Washington state civic business award

Two companies from Spokane and Tacoma have received Secretary of State Sam Reed's  most prestigious civics award for businesses in Washington state.

Reed will present the 2011 Corporations for Communities awards to Spokane-based Sterling Savings Bank and Korsmo Consruction at a ceremony on Nov. 2.
 
The awards are part of an annual recognition hosted by Washington's Secretary of State for companies making outstanding commitments to their communities.
 
Sterling was the winner of the large-company category while Korsmo was honored in the small-company sector.
 
Sterling and Korsmo Construction “stood out thanks to their impressive records of community involvement,” Reed said in announcing the awards. “Both are very deserving of this honor as a result of their dedication to volunteerism and their communities.”
 
Sterling was recognized as the prime sponsor of the Spokane Symphony Labor Day Comstock concert, and for its employees donating more than 27,000 hours to Habitat for Humanity, Junior Achievement, United Way, regional food banks and other community activities.
 
 
Read more: http://blog.thenewstribune.com/business/2011/10/20/korsmo-of-tacoma-sterling-of-spokane-named-as-winners-of-secretary-of-states-community-service-awards/#ixzz1bLg3mZsk

Former Sterling branch manager barred

A former Sterling Savings Bank branch manager in Klamath Falls, Ore., has been barred from the banking industry.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. issued the order against Shannon Kuhlman last month.

Kuhlman allegedly engaged in unsound banking practices that will inflict, or probably inflict, significant losses on the Spokane bank. In doing so, she either acted dishonestly, the FDIC says, or in willful disregard of sound banking practices.

Kuhlman's actions make her unfit to work for a bank, or vote proxies in banks or other financial institutions, the FDIC order says, noting that she did not admit or deny any of the alleged behavior.

Sterling spokeswoman Cara Coon said the bank would have no comment, except to note Kuhlman lef the bank in 2008.

No additional information was available from the FDIC, or Washington Department of Financial Institutions.

Sterling, after taking major losses on real estate and construction lending, recapitalized last August. 

Happy ending at Sterling? An insiders’ view at Executive Connect Breakfast

If you need to catch up on the long, stressful road Sterling Savings Bank followed to survive and not fall victim to the FDIC axe, the best chance comes on Tuesday at the next Executive Connect Breakfast.

Sterling's Greg Seibly and Ezra Eckhardt will present an overview and summary of how Spokane-based Sterling managed to find investors and survive what could have been a messy, unfortunate (for this area) takeover.
 
It runs from 7:30 to 9 a.m. at the Georgian Ballroom of the Spokane Club, in downtown.
 
Seibly is the bank's CEO and president; Eckhardt is COO.
 
Registration is $30 at this link. For more information, contact Catherine Greer at catherineg@connectnw.org or 509.358.2114.

Full resume: Before Sterling, Ezra Eckhardt worked in tech, manufacturing

To add just a bit more focus to the post below about Ezra Eckhardt speaking at the next Greater Spokane Inc. event, here's some more bio on the featured guest.

His resume notes that before joining Sterling Savings Bank, Eckhardt was also involved in managing the Spokane Valley Honeywell site.

Before that, his bio makes note that Eckhardt was a director on the Microsoft corporate strategic planning and analysis team. One more detail worth noting:  He's also a 1992 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Reward for tips on armed bank robber

Detectives are hoping for fresh clues in an armed bank robbery Dec. 2 in Spokane Valley.

A gunman demanded cash from two tellers at Sterling Savings Bank, 11205 E. Sprague Ave., about 2:25 p,.m. after walking into the bank with his gun already displayed, according to the Spokane Valley Police Department.

“The robber was so low-key and calm, several customers inside the bank at the time were not aware it was being robbed,” according to a news release.

Tellers stuffed cash into blue cloths bags with a clinch drawstring at the top, and the robber placed the blue bags into a similar green bag and walked out the east doors of the bank. He was last seen walking eastbound.

  He is described as a white man, 25 to 30 years old, 5-foot-6 and 130 pounds.

He wore a dark jacket, blue jeans, a knit cap, a scarf covering his lower face and dark glasses over his eye.

Police found the glasses, scarf and cap but have not identified a suspect. Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to an arrest.

SPD nabs Tri-Cities bank heist suspect

Patrol officers arrested a suspected bank robber Monday night after detectives in the Tri-Cities tracked him to northwest Spokane.

John T. Walker, 22, was arrested as he fled from a home at 2733 W. Wellesley Ave., about 9:45 p.m., according to a search warrant filed today.

Police believe Walker robbed a Sterling Savings Bank in Kennewick of about $1,800 Monday afternoon, then paid two friends to drive him to Spokane.

A state probation officer recognized Walker from surveillance photos and notified detectives, who learned from the suspect's roommate that he was headed to Spokane.

Detectives tracked pings from Walker's cellphone to the area of the Walmart at 2301 W. Wellesley Ave. They also used vehicle records to connect Walker's friends to a 1991 Honda Accord, which Spokane police officers spotted outside the home where Walker soon fled, according to the search warrant.

The warrant was used to search the home and the Accord and seize cash, a cell phone and a bag of marijuana.

Walker was arrested on a Department of Corrections warrant and appeared in Spokane County Superior Court today on a drug charge. Walker's friends told police that he'd claimed to have recently inherited money and “just wanted to come to Spokane to have some fun,” according to the warrant. Neither has been arrested.

Bank robbery suspect: Voices made me do it

A man accused of robbing a downtown Spokane bank told police voices in his head told him to commit the crime, according to court documents prepared by detectives.

It’s not the first time David D. Thometz, 47, has blamed crimes on the voices. He was sentenced to a year in jail after burning down his Spokane Valley home in May 2008 and telling investigators a voice in his head named Jack told him to do it, according to court records.

Thometz remains in jail on $50,000 bond after a security officer at Sterling Savings Bank, 11 N. Wall St., detained him until police arrived Tuesday. Thometz was trying to leave with stolen cash after he handed a teller a threatening note about 9:20 a.m., police said.

Police recovered the stolen money and say Thometz had an additional $400 in his wallet. Thometz also had a knife in his pocket but did not display or mention it during the robbery, police said.

Thometz told police “the voices in his head had been telling him to rob a bank and he had been dreaming of committing the robbery for three weeks,” according to court documents.

After Spokane police Detective Tim Madsen read Thometz his rights, Thometz said he understand then said, “What the hell, go for it,” according to the documents. “Thometz stated he wanted to talk to Det. Madsen and he realized an attorney would tell him not to. Thometz stated that he had been through this before when he was arrested for arson.”

Thometz then asked for a lawyer after the audio recording began and the interview ended.

Area companies recognized for community service

The Association of Washington Business Tuesday recognized the volunteerism and community service efforts of 21 Washington companies, including five based in Eastern Washington.

The Spokane-area corporate winners were: Associated Industries, for its Bright Promise Scholarship program; PAML, for raising $339,527 for charities such as Shriners Hospital and the Make-a-Wish Foundation; Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Inc. of Pullman, for its work on behalf of United Way, the Corporate Angels Program, and Haitian earthquake relief; and Sterling Savings Bank, for employee incentives that generated 24,000 volunteer hours in 2009.

Also, State Rep. Susan Fagan, R-Pullman, received the Judy Coovert Award for her work on the AWB Health Care Committee.

AWB President Don Brunell said the winners sustained their charitable work during a deep recession.

“Giving back is integral to who they are and what they do. It’s part of how they do business,” he said.

PAML also received one of 10 AWB Environmental Excellence Awards for upkeep and updating of its 162-vehicle fleet, and implementation of route-mapping software. Coupled with handheld devices for couriers, PAML has reduced travel by 1.5 million miles, or 30 percent.

Sterling Savings Bank … more to the story

Good morning, Netizens…


The local news media is absolutely astir over the situation involving Sterling Financial Corporation. It all started late Wednesday when the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp and the Washington Department of Financial Institutions served them with a cease-and-desist order, and Chairman Harold Gilkey and Heidi Stanley, chairwoman of the subsidiary Sterling Savings Bank both submitted their resignations effective immediately. The board of directors named Director William Eisenhart as acting, nonexecutive chairman. J. Gregory Seibly was named acting president and chief executive officer, and Ezra Eckhardt was named acting chief operating officer.


It goes without saying that Sterling, with $12.4 billion in assets, is the largest bank based in Washington State.


However, this change of management is only the symptom of the current changes taking place. The underlying problem with Sterling, as well several other banks in the Spokane marketplace, is one of the appraised values determined by real estate appraisers which in retrospect, were substantially higher than the true market value of the real estate. In other words, people were borrowing more money, based upon high appraisal values, than the property was worth.


So, in the world of speculative real estate values, the appraisal firm(s) and the rules under which they operate (http://www.appraisalinstitute.org/) bear nearly as much responsibility as the bank itself, for having contributed to this snafu of unimaginable proportions.


When you examine the appraised values, on which Sterling loaned money, in a predominate percentage of the time Auble, Jolicoeur and Gentry (http://www.auble.com/), one of Spokane’s largest appraisal firms, played an important role since they wrote a substantial percentage of the damaged appraisals.


Hardly anyone outside the realm of real estate openly speaks much about appraisals, especially after legal action has taken place against several lenders in the Spokane region.


The regulators are demanding that Sterling raise $300 million dollars within the next sixty days. Although the newly-coined bank representatives appear publicly optimistic, it remains to be seen if the bank can raise that amount of capital.


According to the Puget Sound Business Journal and Foresight Analytics of Oakland, Calif., “Washington went from doing better to now doing as badly as many areas around the country.”


We have already seen the impact that has had on other states.


Dave