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Pacific Capital CFO to resign

By   /   Wednesday, December 9th, 2009  /   Comments Off on Pacific Capital CFO to resign

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After a brief but eventful tenure, Stephen Masterson, chief financial and operating officer of Pacific Capital Bancorp, is leaving the troubled banking company, the firm said Dec. 9.

Pacific Capital Bancorp is the parent of Santa Barbara Bank & Trust and is the largest independent banking company in the Tri-Counties. After taking federal bailout money last year, the company has had to set aside hundreds of millions of dollars for troubled real estate loans and has failed to meet the higher liquidity and capital standards that federal regulators laid out for it.

Pacific Capital did not elaborate on why Masterson is leaving other than to say that he and the bank “mutually agreed to Mr. Masterson’s resignation,” which will become effective March 12. The bank said in a release that it is starting a search for a new chief financial officer but did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the third quarter, Pacific Capital lost $40.7 million – far below the $362.5 million the quarter before – but held its capital position steady. Analysts said the bank handled a rough quarter well but that big questions remain for the fourth quarter and the first quarter of next year, when Pacific Capital sees the most activity from its refund anticipation loan program.

That program provides cash advances on expected tax returns. It has drawn criticism from consumer advocates for its fees but has been a significant source of profit and growth capital for Pacific Capital over the last decade, though it was hampered this year by a frozen securitization market.

Masterson came to Pacific Capital Bancorp in March 2008 as chief financial officer and took on the role of chief operating officer earlier this year. In the past, analysts credited some of the changes that happened after Masterson joined the bank with stemming some of Pacific Capital’s worst bleeding.

“Since [the addition of Chief Operating and Chief Financial Officer Stephen Masterson], one can see a significant improvement in how they reacted in credit problems,” Julianna Balicka, an analyst with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, told the Business Times in August.

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