Closed Bank in Vancouver Prepared for Reopening

January 20, 2009

Federal regulators worked to prepare for reopening a failed bank after a collapse that jolted the business community with millions of dollars of losses, as well as the departure of a civic-minded institution.

On Saturday , Jan. 17, 2009, a day after the Bank of Clark County was closed for lack of sufficient capital and liquidity, officials from Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and bank employees were making arrangements to resume operations on Jan. 20 as a branch of Umpqua Bank of Roseburg, Ore.

About 10 bank customers stopped in to ask general questions about their accounts, said Roberta Valdez, an FDIC senior ombudsman specialist.

“We have just told them it’s business as usual,” Valdez said. “They can continue using their checks.”

As of July 13, Bank of Clark County had $446.5 million in assets and $366.5 million in deposits. Officials said the principal losses will be felt by the bank’s investors and the holders of $39.3 million in uninsured deposits.

“It is a huge blow, and tragic on so many levels,” Mayor Royce Pollard said. “They have been just good people. That’s the thing.”

The bank was opened in February 1999 after 15 business owners raised $8.6 million from 400 local shareholders. It grew quickly and helped fuel the county’s rapid expansion by loaning money to builders and developers, only to be hit by enormous declines in its loan portfolio during the economic meltdown in late 2008.

“The recession hits, and there are casualties — and this is one of the very unfortunate casualties,” said Bart Phillips, president of the Columbia River Economic Development Council.

“I don’t think there is a community event I have been to where they are not a significant sponsor,” Phillips said. “They were huge contributors, both as individuals and as the bank.”

David Nierenberg, manager of a Camas-area investment fund and former board chairman for Far West Federal Bank, said the bank’s former chief executive, Mike Worthy, Worthy volunteered as auctioneer for an annual Humane Society fundraiser for the past three years.

“This bank and Mike Worthy were wonderful community benefactors,” Nierenberg said, “and the loss of that is terribly unfortunate during a recession when charitable needs are even greater.”

Nierenberg chose his words carefully when asked whether he knew the bank was in trouble. “Let’s just say I have been worried about it for several months.”

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