In a rare rejection by members, the $63 million Montana First Credit Union of Missoula, Mont. has turned thumbs down on an interstate merger proposal by the $432 million Horizon Credit Union of Spokane Valley, Wash.
The defeat in a special member vote held two weeks ago and confirmed Tuesday following auditor certification was seen as a setback for Horizon in its plans to expand its footprint in western Montana.
Horizon, with 16 branches, already has a presence in Idaho’s northern panhandle in addition to branches in eastern Washington.
The rejection came after weeks of letter writing in the Missoulian newspaper, with members taking sides pro and con on the efficacy and the necessity of a merger with an out-of-state credit union.
Some members and a past CEO had complained that service would be lessened through a merger, a point vigorously refuted by management of both 39,000-member Horizon and 9,800-member Montana First.
Sources said also some members felt the merger bid was rushed through during the Christmas-New Year holidays and arguments for a merger were not made clear.
There were also new arguments put forward that the planned merger would bring in younger members, sources said.
One of the merger proponents and author of a Dec. 26 guest column in the local newspaper, Mark D. Lodine, chairman of Montana First and a Missoula attorney, had maintained the Horizon merger would enhance products and services in Missoula.
But opponents objected to what they said would be a loss of control with fewer directors represented on the Horizon board.
Top managers of both CUs were not immediately available for comment on the defeat or what might be Horizon’s future expansion path.