Have you checked Google Maps recently? I was looking up the location of an address in Aina Haina last week and noticed little bus symbols on the map. Click on one of those little buses and it opens a window with the bus stop location, route number and destination of buses that stop there, along with the next two scheduled arrival times. Unfortunately, the bus info does not show up on my cell phone. Perhaps when Google updates its software version for Palm-based phones, the buses will appear. In any case, it’s still a very neat trick!
At the end of the week, I was interested in the reports of another big financial hit taken by Central Pacific Financial, parent company of Central Pacific Bank. The bank said it expects to report sharply lower income, another write-off of loan losses estimated at about $9 million, an investment loss and much higher credit costs. Not a good quarter, for sure.
But what I’m wondering about is the company’s statement back in July, before the financial meltdown accelerated. A company press release dated July 26, 2007, filed as an SEC form 8-K, attributes a quote to CEO Clint Arnoldus:
“We recognize the recent concerns surrounding the subprime residential mortgage market and we want to emphasize that we do not have any credit exposure to this market,” stated Arnoldus.
This past Friday, Alnoldus sounded quite different:
“The fundamentals and overall safety and soundness of our bank remain strong,” stated Clint Arnoldus, President & Chief Executive Officer. “However, along with other financial institutions, we are dealing with deteriorating market conditions and credit weaknesses in a number of residential tract lending projects we financed in California. While we expect these credit conditions to improve over time, we anticipate a challenging market in California for the next several quarters and we are committed to reducing our credit risk exposure in this sector.”
Between those two statements, Central Pacific stockholders have seen half the value of their investment evaporate as the company’s stock value plunged.
It seems to me that this situation raises both a regulatory issue and a media issue.
For state bank regulators, the question is whether investors were deliberately misled by the bank’s statement denial of “any credit exposure” to the subprime market. Was the company tracking potential problems while failing to disclose those to shareholders? And if the problems weren’t anticipated, should they have been?
That latter question applies equally to reporters covering island business. When reporting on local banks and companies, do reporters go beyond the company’s statements by independently digging into SEC filings and other available information on a routine basis? Were clues available concerning CPF’s approaching subprime woes?
The company’s last annual report noted being involved in 70 mainland projects in 2006, mostly in California, and loan originations there of $625 million and a mainland loan portfolio of over $1 billion. In July, with subprime jitters already shaking the financial markets, was it reasonable for the bank to claim no potential exposure to the problems?
By the way, Central Pacific’s board of directors includes at least two members with media ties, KGMB-9 general manager Rick Blangiardi and Duane Kurisu, owner of PacificBasin Communications, publisher of Hawaii Business magazine, and a minority investor in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Kurisu was named Media Person of the Year by the Advertising Agency Association of Hawaii in 2007.