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Pacific Capital taps veteran as interim finance chief

By   /   Wednesday, January 27th, 2010  /   Comments Off on Pacific Capital taps veteran as interim finance chief

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[Editor’s Note: After this story was posted, Pacific Capital announced that its earnings call will be delayed until Feb. 1.]

Pacific Capital Bancorp named longtime insider Donald Lafler interim chief financial officer on Jan. 26.

Pacific Capital, the struggling corporate parent of Santa Barbara Bank & Trust and a likely buyout target, has been under scrutiny from federal regulators because of its dwindling capital levels, which have missed agreed-upon regulatory targets for the past two quarters. Lafler, who worked as a consultant to the bank since July 2007, held a variety of senior posts at the firm between 1987 and 2006, when he retired as chief financial officer.

The 63-year-old Lafler replaces Stephen Masterson, who announced in December that he would resign in March after a two-year stint as chief financial officer. Masterson will remain a consultant until then, and the bank said in a release that it is searching for a permanent replacement.

For his interim services, Lafler will get $20,833 per month and medical, life and disability insurance and other perks reserved for Pacific Capital’s senior management. Earlier this month, the bank told some of its retirees that it was cutting its contribution toward their health benefits in half.

On Jan. 14, Pacific Capital sold a highly profitable segment – its refund anticipation loan program, which drew the ire of consumer advocates but generated hundreds of millions of dollars in earnings – for $10 million. Analysts said the low price made the possibility of a buyout more acute unless the bank gets a big infusion of capital.

Pacific Capital’s stock lost 3.9 percent on Jan. 27 to close at $1.24. The stock traded for $13.20 a year earlier.

Pacific Capital is set to announce its fourth quarter earnings Jan. 28. Analysts say the bank’s capital levels can’t sustain more losses without sparking the need for a sale of the bank or possibly a regulatory seizure.

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