Cumorah Credit Union Collapse Is Nevada's Third This Year
In a state reeling from 13.4% unemployment, deeply depressed tourist and casino industries and declines in construction, Cumorah, with 15,000 members, 60 employees and four branches, was taken over in an Oct. 23 purchase and assumption transaction by the $575 million Credit Union 1 of Rantoul, Ill. The transaction was approved by the Nevada Division of Financial Institutions.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed by the state or the insurer, American Mutual Share Insurance, but Dennis Adams, the president/CEO of ASI, maintained that the private insurance system in Nevada and elsewhere remains in sound shape despite the battering.
"All the right moves were made" in the case of ASI selecting a healthy, "diversified, well-managed Midwest credit union" to come to the rescue of a CU that stumbled by making faulty real estate loans at a time the local economy was in a grim, downward spiral.
Cumorah is simply "one of our credit unions that didn't quite make it, but we have a strong, responsible credit union to correct the problems," said Adams whose firm brought in Paul Simons, head of the downstate Illinois CU, to serve as interim CEO on Oct. 5 following the sudden departure of longtime Cumorah President Tony Mook.
The Las Vegas CU is one of seven ASI-insured CUs in the state and numbers among the middle tier in the group but is one that was crippled by "the economic challenges," said Adams. Simons, described as a workout specialist for troubled CUs, said he found Cumorah saddled with bad real estate-related commercial loans.
"Some of those loans were made a year ago," said Simons, but the fallout lingered, and in Las Vegas news reports on the collapse, the Illinois CEO defended the practice of CUs extending commercial loans.
"There is nothing wrong with credit unions offering commercial loans," said Simons, noting there are countless examples of success even though his own Illinois credit union has shied from the field.
Simons was responding to a Oct. 24 Las Vegas Review Journal article that cited unnamed bankers complaining that credit unions should "stick to consumer and car loans" since they lack the expertise to handle commercial loans.
In countering the criticism, Simons said he knows of one New Jersey credit union written up in the financial press that "has done an outstanding job and performed an excellent service by financing taxi medallions," referring to a CUSO venture operated for years by Aspire FCU of Clark, N.J.
Regarding the depressed Nevada economy, Adams of ASI said all of his client CUs in Nevada, including the state's biggest, the $899 million Silver State Schools CU also of Las Vegas, are facing loan challenges and "are simply working much harder."
Silver State, whose management has declined formal comment on how it is faring, has reportedly suffered a $10.9 million loss for the third quarter and a $35.9 million loss for the first nine months.
By comparison, Cumorah had a $12 million loss for the first three quarters of the year and was operating at 3.4% net worth.
In shuttering Cumorah, founded in 1965 to serve the Mormon Church membership, Nevada Financial Institutions Commissioner George Burns in an administrative order found the Las Vegas CU "operating in an unsafe and unsound manner" and was "in imminent danger of insolvency."
In seizing Cumorah and turning it over to ASI, Burns also cited inadequate capital, poor liquidity, inadequate earnings and excessive loan risk.
Adams said he was heartened by steps Simons' interim management team had already taken to calm public fears and restore financial stability even though an ASI team has been on premise for weeks in case a takeover was necessary.
"We've already seen evidence of a smooth transition in how members and the public have reacted without a panic," said Adams.
On its Web site, Cumorah Chairman Kerry H. Gifford, in an Oct. 23 letter to members, cited the severe impact of the recession on southern Nevada and the difficult year for Cumorah, triggering the board to consider "options, primarily partnering with another credit union."
"Joining forces" with another CU "was our best option," wrote Gifford.
In citing the financial health of private insurance, Adams said Cumorah marks his firm's first claim since 2006. He said other ASI-insured credit unions "are doing just fine, though in Nevada they are undergoing a challenge," meaning managements "have to act smarter and work harder" than ever before.
The problems of ASI CUs in Nevada and elsewhere "are no different than what the NCUA and FDIC have been facing," argued Adams whose Ohio firm insures 159 CUs.