UPDATED 2:45 P.M. SPOKANE, Wash. -- Sterling Financial Corp., owner of Sonoma Bank in Santa Rosa, today announced that its subsidiary, Sterling Savings Bank, has entered into agreements with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. requiring it to strengthen its financial position.
William Eisenhart, chairman of Sterling’s board of directors, stated, "Sterling has been working closely with its regulators since the start of this economic cycle to ensure that we are maintaining safe and sound banking practices. Our agreement formalizes steps that already are underway and that we and our regulators feel are necessary to maintain Sterling's financial health and its ability to provide high levels of service to our customers and the communities we serve throughout the Pacific Northwest."
The cease and desist agreement commits Sterling’s principal banking subsidiary, Sterling Savings Bank, to continue taking actions relating to its capital position, asset quality, liquidity and management oversight.
It is known as a Stipulation and Consent to the Issuance of an Order to Cease and Desist and was entered into with the FDIC and Washington Department of Financial Institutions.
The bank also announced the departure of Harold Gilkey and Heidi Stanley. Mr. Gilkey co-founded Sterling in 1983, was chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer of Sterling Financial Corporation and a director of Sterling Savings Bank. Ms. Stanley, was chairman of the board and CEO of Sterling Savings Bank and was on the board of Sterling Savings Bank.
Mr. Eisenhart was appointed as non-executive chairman of its board of directors. "Harold did what many banking executives strive to do but few accomplish. He created a successful, customer-focused regional banking franchise," said Mr. Eisenhart. "Heidi played a central role in the growth of Sterling and was responsible for developing a core of highly experienced bankers who today are providing superior service in communities across the bank's five-state footprint," Mr. Eisenhart added.
The bank also announced the promotion of J. Gregory Seibly to acting president and CEO of Sterling Financial Corporation and the promotion of Ezra Eckhardt to acting chief operating officer.
Mr. Seibly and Mr. Eckhardt have assumed the full responsibilities of their roles, effective immediately. They will serve as acting executives until their appointments receive final approval from Sterling's regulators, who have been informed of the appointments.
"The board is committed to taking the actions necessary to respond to the challenges that face Sterling and many other banks in the Pacific Northwest. As a crucial next step, the board is bringing in a new generation of management to lead the efforts to strengthen Sterling's capital and liquidity positions, work through our problem loans and put into place processes to improve credit quality going forward," said Mr. Eisenhart.
Customer deposit accounts and non-classified loans are unaffected by the agreement with regulators. Deposits remain fully covered by FDIC insurance to at least $250,000 per depositor. In addition, non-interest bearing transaction accounts and qualified NOW Checking accounts are fully guaranteed by the FDIC for an unlimited amount of coverage under the FDIC’s Transaction Account Guarantee program, in which Sterling is a participant.
"Our core deposits have been growing in response to our relationship-driven deposit strategy. This is helping us to maintain a strong liquidity position," said Mr. Seibly. "As the Pacific Northwest’s largest community bank, Sterling is committed to ensuring that it has the financial strength and resources to serve our customers over the long term."