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Webinar on Eliminating Bank Holding Companies

On Thursday, October 12, 2017, Atlanta Partner, Robert Klingler, will be presenting a webinar on the Pros and Cons of Bank Holding Companies.  The webinar is hosted by Strafford and will begin 1:00pm Eastern on October 12, 2017.

In April of this year, Bank of the Ozarks, a $20 Billion, NASDAQ-listed, bank holding company, announced its plan to eliminate its holding company, which was completed in June.  In July, BancorpSouth, a $15 billion, NYSE-listed, bank holding company, announced its plan to eliminate its holding company.  With the inclusion of BancorpSouth Bank, only four of the 115 banks with more than $10 billion in assets don’t have a holding company; but that number has doubled in the last six months.

With Jonathan Hightower, Rob previously addressed many of these issues on The Bank Account podcast episode in which they addressed the question “Do Banks Need a Bank Holding Company?

Eliminating a holding company can often be done without limiting the permissible activities of the organization, with the potential for reduced regulatory oversight, simplified financial reporting, and consolidated governance.  However, the holding company structure can also offer significant capital flexibility, particularly for institutions under $15 billion with trust preferred securities or institutions under $1 billion that can take advantage of the Small Bank Holding Company Policy Statement.   Depending on the status of the applicable banking statutes, a holding company structure can also provide significant corporate governance benefits, including facilitating stock repurchases and avoiding super-majority voting thresholds for certain transactions.

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Do Banks Need a Holding Company?

the-bank-accountOn April 11, 2017, Bank of the Ozarks announced that it would be completing an internal corporate reorganization to eliminate its holding company.  As a result, it will continue as a publicly-traded, stand-alone depository bank, without a bank holding company.

In this episode of The Bank Account, Jonathan and I discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the bank holding company structure.  Specific topics include:

  • praise for Bank of the Ozarks innovative approach to further improve its already impressive efficiency,
  • a review of the existing landscape of holding company and non-holding company structures,
  • activities that may require a holding company,
  • size-related thresholds impacting holding company analysis,
  • charter and corporate-governance related elements to the analysis, and
  • the impact the absence of a holding company may have on merger and acquisition activity.

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The JOBS Act and SEC Deregistration: New Thresholds and Special Considerations for Banks and Bank Holding Companies

Introduction

The Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (the “JOBS Act”), which was enacted on April 5, 2012, established, among other things, new shareholder headcount thresholds relating to SEC registration. For banks and bank holding companies (“BHCs”), registration and reporting under Section 12(g) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”) is required for any class of securities held by more than 2,000 shareholders of record as of the end of a given fiscal year, and deregistration is permitted for any class of securities held by fewer than 1,200 shareholders of record under the timing rules described below. The reports in question include annual (10-K), quarterly (10-Q) and periodic (8-K) reports; proxy statements; Forms 3, 4 and 5; Schedule 13D and 13G reports; and other reports required under the Exchange Act.

The JOBS Act allows a bank or BHC to terminate its registration under Section 12(g) of the Exchange Act effective 90 days after filing a Form 15 certifying that it has fewer than 1,200 shareholders of record. For a bank/BHC that currently has fewer than 1,200 shareholders of record, termination can be effected without a stock buyback, share reclassification or other “going-private” transaction. Instead, a board resolution, Form 8-K, press release and, if desired, a letter to shareholders would be all that would be required. This is frequently referred to as “going dark” or “turning off the lights.” The new thresholds also apply to going-private transactions, however, and banks and BHCs that did not previously have the resources to cash out a significant number of shareholders or that had more shareholders of record than could be accommodated reasonably in multiple classes of stock via a share reclassification transaction may wish to revisit the idea of going private in the wake of the JOBS Act.

A bank or BHC that terminates its Section 12(g) registration and reporting obligations will remain eligible to avoid re-registration and reporting so long as it has fewer than 2,000 shareholders of record (or 1,200 if it has ever previously filed a registration statement for an offering of securities under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”)), at the end of a given fiscal year.  Examples of Securities Act registration statements include Forms S-1 (public offering), S-3 (short-form public offering), S-8 (employee benefit plans) and S-4 (business combinations). The different threshold for companies that have previously filed a registration statement arises from Section 15(d) of the Exchange Act, which requires such companies to file periodic reports under the Exchange Act for the remainder of the fiscal year in which a Securities Act registration statement was declared effective.

The decision to deregister involves balancing the advantages and disadvantages of “going dark” to the bank/BHC and its shareholders, and each bank or BHC will need consider the issues in light of its particular facts and circumstances. In general, relevant considerations include:

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Brand Group Holdings, Inc. Announces Successful Recapitalization

In its press release issued on May 4, 2011, Bryan Cave client Brand Group Holdings, Inc. (the “Company”) announced the successful completion of its recapitalization.  The total amount raised in the initial phase of this effort was $125 million, and the three largest investors in the recapitalization, affiliates of The Carlyle Group, The Stephens Group, and the Cousins’ family, invested approximately $96 million, with various other investors investing approximately $29 million.  The investors have agreements in place with the Company to invest an additional $75 million in capital at a later date.

A unique feature of this transaction is a valuation adjustment that utilizes a stock escrow arrangement.   Some of the purchased shares will revert from the new investors to the legacy shareholders if the existing loan portfolio performs better than the investors have projected.

As a result of the recapitalization, the Company is among the best capitalized financial institutions, among those with over $1 billion in assets, in Georgia. The Company’s Total Risk-Based Capital Ratio stands at over 24%.  The Company anticipates that its wholly owned subsidiary bank, The Brand Banking Company, will use proceeds from the recapitalization to enhance its current offerings and expand into new banking services.

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New Supervisory Guidance on BHC's Dividends, Redemptions and Repurchases

On February 24, 2009, the Federal Reserve published a Supervisory Letter regarding the ability of bank holding companies to declare dividends and to redeem or repurchase equity securities.  The Supervisory Letter is generally consistent with prior guidance, although places greater emphasis on discussions with the regulators prior to dividend declarations and redemption or repurchase decisions even when not explicitly required by the regulations.  Although consultation with the Federal Reserve in these situations is optional, the guidance makes clear that the failure to consult with the Federal Reserve “could result in a supervisory finding that the organization is operating in an unsafe and unsound manner.”

The Federal Reserve provides that the principles discussed in the letter are applicable to all bank holding companies, but are especially relevant for bank holding companies that are experiencing financial difficulties and/or receiving TARP Capital.  To that end, the Supervisory Letter specifically addresses the Federal Reserve’s supervisory considerations for TARP Capital participants.

TARP Capital

In addition to the general guidance provided by the Supervisory Letter and the explicit restrictions on dividends, repurchases and redemptions contained in the TARP Capital documents, the Supervisory Letter also provides guidance on how the supervisory staff will analyze TARP Capital recipients.  The guidance provides that TARP recipients should “consider and communicate reasonably in advance” to supervisory staff  how the bank holding company’s proposed dividends, capital redemptions, and capital repurchases are “consistent with the requirements applicable to its receipt of capital under the program and its ability to redeem, within a reasonable period of time and with Federal Reserve consent, its outstanding capital issuance under the program.”  The Federal Reserve’s guidance specifically calls for the redemption of the TARP Capital “as soon as reasonably feasible and appropriate.”

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Federal Reserve Loosens Restrictions on Private Equity

Our September 25, 2008 Client Alert analyzes the impacts of the Federal Reserve’s new policy statement easing the limitations on private equity investments in banks and bank holding companies.

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