0000861842 Cathay General Bancorp false --12-31 FY 2020 1,019,230 1,443,730 0.01 0.01 100,000,000 100,000,000 90,643,206 79,508,265 90,064,382 79,729,419 11,134,941 10,334,963 1.03 1.24 1.24 10 10 10 0 1 0 0 0 10 10 5 June 26, 2003 June 30, 2008 June 30, 2033 3.15 December 30, 2020 March 30, June 30, September 30, December 30 September 17, 2003 September 17, 2008 September 17, 2033 3.0 December 17, 2020 March 17, June 17, September 17, December 17 December 30, 2003 March 30, 2009 March 30, 2034 2.9 December 30, 2020 March 30, June 30, September 30, December 30 March 28, 2007 June 15,2012 June 15, 2037 1.48 December 15, 2020 March 15, June 15, September 15, December 15 May 31, 2007 September 6, 2012 September 6, 2037 1.4 December 7, 2020 March 6, June 6, September 6, December 6 2017 2018 2019 2020 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 0 10 3 10 1 6 2 0 0 3 0 3 the amount is included in other non-interest income. Other service fees comprise of fees related to letters of credit, wire fees, fees on foreign exchange transactions and other immaterial individual revenue streams Average balances were computed using daily averages. Highest month-end balance was January 2018. These amounts primarily represent revenue from contracts with customers that are out of the scope of ASC 606. Other real estate owned balance of $10.2 million in the Consolidated Balance Sheets is net of estimated disposal costs. Included in other comprehensive income. the amount of periodic net settlement of interest rate swaps was included in interest expense. There were no adjustments to the Company's financial statements recorded as a result of the adoption of ASC 606. For comparability, the Company has adjusted consolidated prior period amounts to conform to the periods presentation. 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Table of Contents



UNITED STATES SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

 

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

Form 10-K

 

         ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020

 

         TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

 

Commission file number 001-31830

 

Cathay General Bancorp

 

(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)

 

Delaware

 

95-4274680

(State or other jurisdiction of
incorporation or organization)

 

(I.R.S. Employer
Identification No.)

777 North Broadway,
Los Angeles, California
(Address of principal executive offices)

 

90012
(Zip Code)

 

Registrants telephone number, including area code:

 

(213) 625-4700

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

 

Title of each class

Trading Symbol(s)

Name of each exchange on which registered

Common Stock, $0.01 par value

CATY

NASDAQ Global Select Market

 

        Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:

 

None

 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes ☑ No ☐

 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Act. Yes ☐ No ☑

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes ☑ No ☐

 



 

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).          Yes ☑                  No ☐

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company or an emerging growth company. See definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. (Check one):

 

Large accelerated filer ☑                          Accelerated filer ☐

Non-accelerated filer ☐                            Smaller reporting company

Emerging growth company

 

If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ☐

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act). Yes No ☑                            

 

The aggregate market value of the voting stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant, computed by reference to the price at which the common equity was last sold as of the last business day of the registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter (June 30, 2020) was $1,987,485,927. This value is estimated solely for the purposes of this cover page. The market value of shares held by registrant’s directors, executive officers, and Employee Stock Ownership Plan have been excluded because they may be considered to be affiliates of the registrant.

 

As of February 15, 2021, the registrant had outstanding 79,510,444 shares of its common stock.

 

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

 

Portions of registrant’s definitive proxy statement relating to registrant’s 2021 Annual Meeting of Stockholders, which will be filed within 120 days of the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020, are incorporated by reference in this Form 10-K in response to Part III, Items 10 through 14 of this Form 10-K.

 

 

  

 

CATHAY GENERAL BANCORP

 

2020 ANNUAL REPORT ON FORM 10-K

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

PART I

 

3

Item 1.

Business.

3

Executive Officers of the Registrant

10

Item 1A. 

Risk Factors.

28

Item 1B.

Unresolved Staff Comments.

50

Item 2.

Properties.

50

Item 3.

Legal Proceedings.

51

Item 4.

Mine Safety Disclosures.

51

PART II

 

51

Item 5.

Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities.

51

Item 6.

Selected Financial Data.

53

Item 7.

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.

55

Item 7A.

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risk.

88

Item 8.

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data.

93

Item 9.

Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure.

93

Item 9A.

Controls and Procedures.

93

Item 9B.

Other Information.

96

PART III

 

96

Item 10.

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance.

96

Item 11.

Executive Compensation.

96

Item 12.

Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters.

97

Item 13.

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence.

97

Item 14.

Principal Accounting Fees and Services.

97

PART IV

 

97

Item 15.

Exhibits, Financial Statement Schedules.

97

SIGNATURES

103

 

 

  

 
 

Forward-Looking Statements

 

In this Annual Report on Form 10-K, the term Bancorp refers to Cathay General Bancorp and the term Bank refers to Cathay Bank. The terms Company, we, us, and our refer to Bancorp and its subsidiaries, including the Bank, collectively. The statements in this report include forward-looking statements within the meaning of the applicable provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 regarding managements beliefs, projections, and assumptions concerning future results and events. We intend such forward-looking statements to be covered by the safe harbor provision for forward-looking statements in these provisions. All statements other than statements of historical fact are forward-looking statements for purposes of federal and state securities laws, including statements about anticipated future operating and financial performance, financial position and liquidity, growth opportunities and growth rates, growth plans, acquisition and divestiture opportunities, business prospects, strategic alternatives, business strategies, financial expectations, regulatory and competitive outlook, investment and expenditure plans, financing needs and availability, and other similar forecasts and statements of expectation and statements of assumptions underlying any of the foregoing. Words such as aims, anticipates, believes, can, could, estimates, expects, hopes, intends, may, plans, projects, seeks, shall, should, will, predicts, potential, continue, possible, optimistic, and variations of these words and similar expressions are intended to identify these forward-looking statements.

Forward-looking statements by us are based on estimates, beliefs, projections, and assumptions of management and are not guarantees of future performance. Management's expectations and assumptions, and the continued validity of the forward-looking statements, are subject to change due to a broad range of factors affecting the U.S. and global economies, regulatory environment and the equity, debt, currency and other financial markets, as well as factors specific to Bancorp and its subsidiaries, including Cathay Bank. Factors that could cause changes in the expectations or assumptions on which forward-looking statements are based cannot be foreseen with certainty and include the factors described under the headings "Risk Factors Summary" and "Risk Factors" and elsewhere in this Form 10-K, including under "Management's Discussion and Analysis," and Bancorp’s other reports and filings filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) from time to time. Actual results in any future period may also vary from the past results discussed in this report. Given these risks and uncertainties, readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on any forward-looking statements. Any forward-looking statement speaks only as of the date on which it is made, and, except as required by law, we undertake no obligation to update or review any forward-looking statement to reflect circumstances, developments or events occurring after the date on which the statement is made or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events.

 

Risk Factors Summary

 

The following is a summary of the material risks that could adversely affect our business, operations and financial results. The below summary does not contain all of the information that may be important to you, and you should read the below summary together with the more detailed discussion of risks set forth under the heading "Risk Factors," as well as elsewhere in this Form 10-K, including under the heading "Management's Discussion and Analysis."

 

Market and Economic Risks

 

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a significant global economic downturn, which has, and is expected to continue to, adversely affected our business and results of operations.

 

Unfavorable or uncertain economic and market conditions, including in California and the other markets in which we operate, can adversely affect our industry and business.

 

Our loan portfolio is largely secured by real estate, and a downturn in the real estate market may adversely affect our results of operations. 

 

Adverse conditions in Asia and elsewhere could adversely affect our business. 

 

The soundness of other financial institutions could adversely affect us.

 

Credit, Interest Rate and Liquidity Risks

 

 

We may be required to make additional provisions for loan losses and charge off additional loans in the future, which could adversely affect our results of operations.

 

The allowance for credit losses is an estimate of probable credit losses. Actual credit losses in excess of the estimate could adversely affect our results of operations and capital. 

 

Our business is subject to interest rate risk, and fluctuations in interest rates could reduce our net interest income and adversely affect our business. 

 

Inflation and deflation may adversely affect our financial performance.

 

Liquidity risk could impair our ability to fund operations and jeopardize our financial condition.

 

If the Company’s goodwill were determined to be impaired, it would result in a charge against earnings and thus a reduction in stockholders’ equity. 

 

 

 

1

 

Operational Risks

 

 

We may incur significant losses as a result of ineffective risk management processes and strategies.

 

Concentration of risk increases the potential for significant losses.

 

COVID-19 could have negative effects on our CRE and other loans, including loans to hotels/motels, restaurants and the retail industry, which are dependent for repayment on the successful operation and management of the CRE, the strength of the CRE industry broadly and other factors outside of the borrower’s control.

 

Our commercial loan, CRE loan and construction loan portfolios expose us to risks that may be greater than the risks related to our other loans.

 

Our investments and/or financings in certain tax-advantaged projects may not generate returns as anticipated and may have an adverse impact on our financial results.

 

Our use of appraisals in deciding whether to make a loan on or secured by real property does not ensure the value of the real property collateral. 

 

Our use of third party vendors and our other ongoing third party business relationships are subject to increasing regulatory requirements and attention.

 

Our deposit insurance premiums could increase in the future, which could have a material adverse impact on future earnings and financial condition.

 

As we expand our business outside of California markets, including through acquisitions, we will encounter risks that could adversely affect our business and earnings. 

 

We face substantial competition from our competitors. 

 

We are dependent on key personnel and the loss of one or more of those key personnel may materially and adversely affect our prospects. 

 

Natural disasters, geopolitical events, public health crises and other catastrophic events beyond our control could adversely affect us.

 

Societal responses to climate change could adversely affect our business and performance, including indirectly through impacts on our customers.

 

Information, Information Technology and Privacy Risks

 

 

We depend on the accuracy and completeness of information about customers.

 

Our information systems may experience failures, interruptions, or breaches in security, which could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and the value of our common stock. 

 

Our need to continue to adapt our information technology systems to allow us to provide new and expanded service could present operational issues, require significant capital spending, and disrupt our business. 

 

Managing reputational risk is important to attracting and maintaining customers, investors, and employees. 

 

Regulations relating to privacy, information security and data protection could increase our costs, affect or limit how we collect and use personal information and adversely affect our business opportunities.

 

Regulatory, Compliance and Legal Risks

 

 

The banking industry is highly regulated, and the regulatory framework, together with any future legislative or regulatory changes, could limit or restrict our activities, hamper our ability to increase our assets and earnings, and materially and adversely affect our profitability.

 

We are subject to stringent capital requirements, including those required by Basel III.

 

We may become subject to supervisory action by bank supervisory authorities that could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and the value of our common stock.

 

We face a risk of noncompliance and enforcement action with the Bank Secrecy Act and other anti-money laundering statutes and regulations.

 

We are subject to the CRA, fair lending and other laws and regulations, and our failure to comply with these laws and regulations could lead to material penalties.

 

Reforms to and uncertainty regarding LIBOR may adversely affect our business.

 

Governmental monetary policies and intervention to stabilize the U.S. financial system may affect our business and are beyond our control.

 

Adverse results in legal proceedings could adversely affect our business and financial condition.

 

Liabilities from environmental regulations could adversely affect our business and financial condition.

 

Changes in accounting standards or tax laws and regulations could adversely affect our financial results.

 

Risks Related to Ownership of Our Common Stock

 

 

The price of our common stock may fluctuate significantly, and this may make it difficult for a holder to sell shares of common stock at times or at prices such holder finds attractive. 

 

An investment in our common stock is not an insured deposit.

 

Statutory and regulatory restrictions on dividends and other distributions from the Bank may adversely impact us by limiting the amount of distributions the Bancorp may receive. Statutory and contractual restrictions (including our outstanding debt securities) and our regulators may also restrict the Bancorp’s ability to pay dividends. 

 

The issuance of preferred stock could adversely affect holders of common stock.

 

Certain provisions of our charter and bylaws could make acquiring our Company more difficult. 

  We may need to raise additional capital, which may dilute the interests of holders of our common stock or otherwise have an adverse effect on their investment.

 

2

 

PART I

 

Item 1.         Business.

 

Business of Bancorp

 

Overview

 

Cathay General Bancorp (the “Bancorp” on a parent-only basis, and the “Company,” “we,” "us" or “our” on a consolidated basis) is a corporation that was organized in 1990 under the laws of the State of Delaware. The Bancorp is the holding company of Cathay Bank, a California state-chartered commercial bank (“Cathay Bank” or the “Bank”), ten limited partnerships investing in affordable housing investments in which the Bank is the sole limited partner, and GBC Venture Capital, Inc. The Bancorp also own 100% of the common stock of five statutory business trusts created for the purpose of issuing capital securities.

 

Our principal place of business is located at 777 North Broadway, Los Angeles, California 90012, and our telephone number at that location is (213) 625-4700. Certain of our administrative offices are located at 9650 Flair Drive, El Monte, California 91731. Our common stock is traded on the NASDAQ Global Select Market, and our trading symbol is “CATY”.

 

The Bancorp is regulated as a bank holding company by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (“Federal Reserve”). Cathay Bank is regulated as a California commercial bank by the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (“DFPI”) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”).

 

At December 31, 2020, we had $19.0 billion in total consolidated assets, $15.5 billion in net loans, $16.1 billion in deposits, and $2.4 billion in shareholders’ equity.

 

Subsidiaries of Bancorp

 

In addition to its wholly-owned bank subsidiary, the Bancorp has the following subsidiaries:

 

Cathay Capital Trust I, Cathay Statutory Trust I, Cathay Capital Trust II, Cathay Capital Trust III and Cathay Capital Trust IV. The Bancorp established Cathay Capital Trust I in June 2003, Cathay Statutory Trust I in September 2003, Cathay Capital Trust II in December 2003, Cathay Capital Trust III in March 2007, and Cathay Capital Trust IV in May 2007 (collectively, the “Trusts”) as wholly-owned subsidiaries. The Trusts are statutory business trusts. The Trusts issued capital securities representing undivided preferred beneficial interests in the assets of the Trusts. The Trusts exist for the purpose of issuing the capital securities and investing the proceeds thereof, together with proceeds from the purchase of the common securities of the Trusts by the Bancorp, in a certain series of securities issued by us, with similar terms to the relevant series of securities issued by each of the Trusts, which we refer to as “Junior Subordinated Notes.” The Bancorp guarantees, on a limited basis, payments of distributions on the capital securities of the Trusts and payments on redemption of the capital securities of the Trusts. The Bancorp is the owner of all the beneficial interests represented by the common securities of the Trusts. The purpose of issuing the capital securities was to provide the Company with a cost-effective means of obtaining capital. Because the Bancorp is not the primary beneficiary of the Trusts, the financial statements of the Trusts are not included in our Consolidated Financial Statements.

 

GBC Venture Capital, Inc. The business purpose of GBC Venture Capital, Inc. is to hold equity interests (such as options or warrants) received as part of business relationships and to make equity investments in companies and limited partnerships subject to applicable regulatory restrictions.

 

Competition

 

The Bancorp’s primary business is to act as the holding company for the Bank. Accordingly, the Bancorp faces the same competitive pressures as those expected by the Bank. For a discussion of those risks, see “Business of the Bank — Competition” below under this Item 1.

 

3

 

Employees

 

Due to the limited nature of the Bancorp’s activities as a bank holding company, the Bancorp currently does not employ any persons other than the Bancorp’s management, which includes the Chief Executive Officer and President, Executive Chairman, the Chief Financial Officer, Executive Vice Presidents, the Secretary and General Counsel, and the Assistant Secretary. See also “Business of the Bank — Employees” below under this Item 1. In the future, the Bancorp may become an operating company or may engage in such other activities or acquire such other businesses as may be permitted by applicable law.

 

Business of the Bank

 

General

 

Cathay Bank was incorporated under the laws of the State of California on August 22, 1961, is licensed by the DFPI, and commenced operations as a California state-chartered bank on April 19, 1962. Cathay Bank is an insured bank under the Federal Deposit Insurance Act by the FDIC, but it is not a member of the Federal Reserve.

 

The Bank’s head office is located in the Chinatown area of Los Angeles, at 777 North Broadway, Los Angeles, California 90012. As of December 31, 2020, the Bank has branch offices in Southern California (25 branches), Northern California (13 branches), New York (10 branches), Washington (four branches), Illinois (three branches), Texas (two branches), Maryland (one branch), Massachusetts (one branch), Nevada (one branch), New Jersey (one branch), and Hong Kong (one branch) and a representative office in Beijing, Shanghai, and Taipei. Deposit accounts at the Hong Kong branch are not insured by the FDIC. Each branch has loan approval rights subject to the branch manager’s authorized lending limits. Current activities of the Beijing, Shanghai, and Taipei representative offices are limited to coordinating the transportation of documents to the Bank’s head office and performing liaison services.

 

Our primary market area is defined by the Community Reinvestment Act (the “CRA”) delineation, which includes the contiguous areas surrounding each of the Bank’s branch offices. It is the Bank’s policy to reach out and actively offer services to low and moderate income groups in the delineated branch service areas. Many of the Bank’s employees speak both English and one or more Chinese dialects or Vietnamese, and are thus able to serve the Bank’s English, Chinese and Vietnamese speaking customers.

 

As a commercial bank, the Bank accepts checking, savings, and time deposits, and makes commercial, real estate, personal, home improvement, automobile, and other installment and term loans. From time to time, the Bank invests available funds in other interest-earning assets, such as U.S. Treasury securities, U.S. government agency securities, state and municipal securities, mortgage-backed securities, asset-backed securities, corporate bonds, and other security investments. The Bank also provides letters of credit, wire transfers, forward currency spot and forward contracts, traveler’s checks, safe deposit, night deposit, Social Security payment deposit, collection, bank-by-mail, drive-up and walk-up windows, automatic teller machines (“ATM”), Internet banking services, and other customary banking services.

 

The Bank primarily services individuals, professionals, and small to medium-sized businesses in the local markets in which its branches are located and provides commercial mortgage loans, commercial loans, U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) loans, residential mortgage loans, real estate construction loans, home equity lines of credit, and installment loans to individuals for automobile, household, and other consumer expenditures.

 

4

 

Through its Cathay Wealth Management business unit, the Bank provides its customers the ability to trade securities online and to purchase mutual funds, annuities, equities, bonds, and short-term money market instruments.  As of December 31, 2020, all securities and insurance products provided by Cathay Wealth Management are offered by, and all financial consultants are registered with, Cetera Financial Services, a registered securities broker/dealer and licensed insurance agency and member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and Security Investor Protection Corporation. Cetera Financial Services and Cathay Bank are independent entities. The securities and insurance products offered by Cetera Financial Services are not insured by the FDIC.

 

Securities

 

The Bank’s securities portfolio is managed in accordance with a written investment policy which addresses strategies, types, and levels of allowable investments, and which is reviewed and approved by our Board of Directors on an annual basis.

 

Our investment portfolio is managed to meet our liquidity needs through proceeds from scheduled maturities and is also utilized for pledging requirements for deposits of state and local subdivisions, securities sold under repurchase agreements, and Federal Home Loan Bank (“FHLB”) advances. The portfolio is comprised of U.S. government securities, mortgage-backed securities, collateralized mortgage obligations, corporate debt instruments, and mutual funds.

 

Information concerning the carrying value, maturity distribution, and yield analysis of the Company’s securities portfolio as well as a summary of the amortized cost and estimated fair value of the Bank’s securities by contractual maturity is included in Part II — Item 7 — “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” and in Note 3 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

 

Loans

 

The Bank’s Board of Directors and senior management establish, review, and modify the Bank’s lending policies. These policies include (as applicable) an evaluation of a potential borrower’s financial condition, ability to repay the loan, character, secondary repayment sources (such as guaranties), quality and availability of collateral, capital, leverage capacity and regulatory guidelines, market conditions for the borrower’s business or project, and prevailing economic trends and conditions. Loan originations are obtained through a variety of sources, including existing customers, walk-in customers, referrals from brokers or existing customers, and advertising. While loan applications are accepted at all branches, the Bank’s centralized document department supervises the application process including documentation of loans, review of appraisals, and credit reports.

 

Commercial Mortgage Loans. Commercial mortgage loans (also known as CRE loans) are typically secured by first deeds of trust on commercial properties. Our commercial mortgage portfolio includes primarily commercial retail properties, shopping centers, and owner-occupied industrial facilities, and, secondarily, office buildings, multiple-unit apartments, hotels, and multi-tenanted industrial properties.

 

5

 

The Bank also makes medium-term commercial mortgage loans which are generally secured by commercial or industrial buildings where the borrower uses the property for business purposes or derives income from tenants.

 

Commercial Loans. The Bank provides financial services to diverse commercial and professional businesses in its market areas. Commercial loans consist primarily of short-term loans (normally with a maturity of up to one year) to support general business purposes, or to provide working capital to businesses in the form of lines of credit to finance trade. The Bank continues to focus primarily on commercial lending to small-to-medium size businesses within the Bank’s geographic market areas. The Bank participates or syndicates loans, typically more than $25.0 million in principal amount, with other financial institutions to limit its credit exposure. Commercial loan pricing is generally at a rate tied to the prime rate, as quoted in The Wall Street Journal, or the Bank’s reference rate.

 

SBA Loans. The Bank originates SBA loans under the national “preferred lender” status. Preferred lender status is granted to a lender that has made a certain number of SBA loans and which, in the opinion of the SBA, has staff qualified and experienced in small business loans. As a preferred lender, the Bank’s SBA Lending Group has the authority to issue, on behalf of the SBA, the SBA guaranty on loans under the 7(a) program which may result in shortening the time it takes to process a loan. In addition, under this program, the SBA delegates loan underwriting, closing, and most servicing and liquidation authority and responsibility to selected lenders.

 

The Bank utilizes both the 504 program, which is focused on long-term financing of buildings and other long-term fixed assets, and the 7(a) program, which is the SBA’s primary loan program and which can be used for financing of a variety of general business purposes such as acquisition of land, buildings, equipment and inventory and working capital needs of eligible businesses generally over a 5- to 25-year term. The collateral position in the SBA loans is enhanced by the SBA guaranty in the case of 7(a) loans, and by lower loan-to-value ratios under the 504 program. The Bank has sold, and may in the future sell, the guaranteed portion of certain of its SBA 7(a) loans in the secondary market. SBA loan pricing is generally at a rate tied to the prime rate, as quoted in The Wall Street Journal.

 

Residential Mortgage Loans. The Bank originates single-family-residential mortgage loans. The single-family-residential mortgage loans are comprised of conforming, non‐conforming, and jumbo residential mortgage loans, and are secured by first or subordinate liens on single (one-to-four) family residential properties. The Bank’s products include a fixed-rate residential mortgage loan and an adjustable-rate residential mortgage loan. Mortgage loans are underwritten in accordance with the Bank’s and regulatory guidelines, on the basis of the borrower’s financial capabilities, an independent appraisal of the value of the property, historical loan quality, and other factors deemed relevant by the Bank’s underwriting personnel. The Bank generally retains all mortgage loans it originates in its portfolio. As such, the Bank was not impacted by the rule pertaining to risk retention implementing the risk retention requirements of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the “Dodd-Frank Act”), since the Bank does not securitize any of the loans it originates in its portfolio.

 

Real Estate Construction Loans. The Bank’s real estate construction loan activity focuses on providing short-term loans to individuals and developers, primarily for the construction of multi-unit projects. Residential real estate construction loans are typically secured by first deeds of trust and guarantees of the borrower. The economic viability of the projects, borrower’s credit worthiness, and borrower’s and contractor’s experience are primary considerations in the loan underwriting decision. The Bank utilizes approved independent licensed appraisers and monitors projects during the construction phase through construction inspections and a disbursement program tied to the percentage of completion of each project. The Bank also occasionally makes unimproved property loans to borrowers who intend to construct a single-family residence on their lots generally within twelve months. In addition, the Bank makes commercial real estate construction loans to high net worth clients with adequate liquidity for construction of office and warehouse properties. Such loans are typically secured by first deeds of trust and are guaranteed by the borrower.

 

Home Equity Lines of Credit. The Bank offers variable-rate home equity lines of credit that are secured by the borrower’s home. The pricing on the variable-rate home equity line of credit is generally at a rate tied to the prime rate, as quoted in The Wall Street Journal, or the Bank’s reference rate. Borrowers may use this line of credit for home improvement financing, debt consolidation and other personal uses.

 

Installment Loans. Installment loans tend to be fixed rate and longer-term (one-to-six year maturities). These loans are funded primarily for the purpose of financing the purchase of automobiles and other personal uses of the borrower.

 

Distribution and Maturity of Loans. Information concerning types, distribution, and maturity of loans is included in Part II — Item 7 — “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” and in Note 4 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

 

Financing of Tax-Advantaged Projects. We invest in and/or finance certain tax-advantaged projects promoting affordable housing and renewable energy sources. Our investments in these projects are designed to generate a return primarily through the realization of federal and state income tax credits, and other tax benefits, over specified time periods. For regulatory purposes, these investments are deemed loan-equivalent transactions and are made under the power of banks to make loans.

 

Asset Quality

 

The Bank’s lending and credit policies require management to regularly review the Bank’s loan portfolio so that the Bank can monitor the quality of its assets. If during the ordinary course of business, management becomes aware that a borrower may not be able to meet the contractual payment obligations under a loan, then such policies require that the loan be supervised more closely with consideration given to, among other things, placing the loan on non-accrual status, requiring additional allowance for loan losses, and (if appropriate) charging-off a part or all of the loan.

 

Under the Bank’s current policies, a loan will generally be placed on a non-accrual status if interest or principal is past due 90 days or more, or in cases where management deems the full collection of principal and interest unlikely. When a loan is placed on non-accrual status, previously accrued but unpaid interest is reversed and charged against current income, and subsequent payments received are generally first applied towards the outstanding principal balance of the loan. Depending on the circumstances, management may elect to continue the accrual of interest on certain past due loans if partial payment is received or the loan is well-collateralized, and in the process of collection. The loan is generally returned to accrual status when the borrower has brought the past due principal and interest payments current and, in the opinion of management, the borrower has demonstrated the ability to make future payments of principal and interest as scheduled. A non-accrual loan may also be returned to accrual status if all principal and interest contractually due are reasonably assured of repayment within a reasonable period and there has been a sustained period of payment performance, generally six months.

 

Information concerning non-performing loans, restructured loans, allowance for credit losses, loans charged-off, loan recoveries, and other real estate owned is included in Part II — Item 7 — “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” and in Note 4 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

 

6

 

Deposits

 

The Bank offers a variety of deposit products in order to meet its customers’ needs. As of December 31, 2020, the Bank offered passbook accounts, checking accounts, money market deposit accounts, certificates of deposit, individual retirement accounts, and public funds deposits. These products are priced generally to promote growth of deposits in a safe and sound manner.

 

The Bank’s deposits are generally obtained from residents within its geographic market area. The Bank utilizes traditional marketing methods to attract new customers and deposits, by offering a wide variety of products and services and utilizing various forms of advertising media. From time to time, the Bank may offer special deposit promotions. Information concerning types of deposit accounts, average deposits and rates, and maturity of time deposits is included in Part II — Item 7 — “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” and in Note 7 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

 

Borrowings

 

Borrowings from time to time include securities sold under agreements to repurchase, the purchase of federal funds, funds obtained as advances from the FHLB, borrowing from other financial institutions, and the issuance of Junior Subordinated Notes. Information concerning the types, amounts, and maturity of borrowings is included in in Part II — Item 7 — “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” and in Note 8 and Note 9 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

 

Return on Equity and Assets

 

Information concerning the return on average assets, return on average stockholders’ equity, the average equity to assets ratio and the dividend payout ratio is included in Part II — Item 7 — “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.”

 

Interest Rates and Differentials

 

Information concerning the interest-earning asset mix, average interest-earning assets, average interest-bearing liabilities, and the yields on interest-earning assets and interest-bearing liabilities is included in Part II — Item 7 — “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.”

 

Analysis of Changes in Net Interest Income

 

An analysis of changes in net interest income due to changes in rate and volume is included in Part II — Item 7 — “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.”

 

Commitments and Letters of Credit

 

Information concerning the Bank’s outstanding loan commitments and letters of credit is included in Note 12 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

 

7

 

Subsidiaries of Cathay Bank

 

Cathay Holdings LLC (“CHLLC”) was incorporated in December 2007. The purpose of this subsidiary is to hold other real estate owned in the state of Texas that was transferred from the Bank. As of December 31, 2020, CHLLC owned properties with a carrying value of $752 thousand.

 

Competition

 

We face substantial competition for deposits, loans and other banking services, as well as for acquisition, opportunities, from the numerous banks and financial institutions that operate in our market areas. We also compete for loans and deposits, as well as other banking services, such as payment services, with savings and loan associations, savings banks, brokerage houses, insurance companies, mortgage companies, credit unions, credit card companies and other financial and non-financial institutions and entities.

 

In California, one larger Chinese-American bank competes for loans and deposits with the Bank and at least two super-regional banks compete with the Bank for deposits. In addition, there are many other banks that target the Chinese-American communities in both Southern and Northern California. Banks from the Pacific Rim countries, such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China, also continue to open branches in the Los Angeles area, thus increasing competition in the Bank’s primary markets. See discussion below in Part I — Item 1A — “Risk Factors.”

 

To compete with other financial institutions in its primary service areas, the Bank relies principally upon personal contacts by its officers, directors, employees, and stockholders, our long established relationships with the Chinese-American communities, the Bank’s responsiveness to customer needs, local promotional activities, availability and pricing of loan and deposit products, extended hours on weekdays, Saturday banking in certain locations, Internet banking, an Internet website (www.cathaybank.com), and other specialized services. The content of our website is not incorporated into and is not part of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 

If a proposed loan exceeds the Bank’s internal lending limits, the Bank has, in the past, and may in the future, arrange the loan on a participation or syndication basis with correspondent banks. The Bank also assists customers requiring other services not offered by the Bank to obtain these services from its correspondent banks.

 

Human Capital Resources

 

Our employees are vital to our success in the banking industry. Our goal is to ensure that we have the right talent, in the right place, at the right time. To achieve this level of value creation, Cathay Bank believes we must strive to find, develop and keep a world-class workforce. We invest in our employees by providing quality training and learning opportunities, promoting inclusion and diversity, and upholding a high standard of ethics and respect for human rights.

 

As of December 31, 2020, Cathay Bank employed approximately 1,205 regular full-time equivalent employees, of whom 1,161 were located in the United States and 44 were located in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Of the total number of employees, 640 are banking officers. None of the employees are represented by a union.

 

Diversity and Inclusion

 

Inclusion and diversity are hallmarks of the culture at Cathay Bank. We benefit from having our staff offer a multiplicity of viewpoints, backgrounds and experiences, as do our clients and the commercial and financial industries in which we work.

 

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Our staff comprise a diverse mixture of men and women of different races, ethnic backgrounds, religions, sexual orientations, cultures and primary languages. Our diversity makes us who we are. Our commitment to diversity enables us to draw from a remarkable wealth of talent to recruit and retain the best employees and to provide innovative solutions for our customers' banking needs. In recent years, the Bank has continued to make progress in its culture of inclusion journey, including, among other things, expanding gender diversity on the Bank’s Board, increasing female representation in executive management, and increasing U.S. underrepresented minority representation.

 

Grow, Engage and Elevate

 

The Bank believes that its future success is highly dependent upon its continued ability to attract qualified employees. As part of our efforts to attract and motivate employees, we offer competitive rewards, compensation and benefits, including healthcare and 401(k) benefits, parental and family leave, holiday and paid time off, and tuition assistance.

 

Recruiting the best and brightest is just the beginning. Cathay Bank’s goal is to provide every employee with a robust platform that allows each individual to truly grow, engage and elevate to their full potential. We believe every individual is integral to our success, we strive to provide an engaging environment coupled with training and development opportunities throughout one’s career.

 

Employee Learning and Development

 

Committed to the belief that every employee is integral to the Bank’s success, we offer employees numerous opportunities for both personal and professional development. From the Emerging Leadership programs to interoffice transfer opportunities to a database of online training courses, Cathay Bank provides employees with the tools they need to succeed.

 

Cathay Bank’s skill-building programs are aligned around a common set of objectives and framework focused on compliance, technical, professional and management development. For example, our Emerging Leadership I program for newly promoted supervisors and managers and our Emerging Leadership II – Senior Cohort Program for the senior management, both are designed to help employees to gain a clear and in-depth assessment of the current state of their work and be more effective in their current and future roles. There is an expectation that every employee has a development goal as a part of individual performance objectives.

 

Employee Health and Pandemic Response

 

Cathay Bank manages organizational and personal health to gain insight into employees’ experiences, levels of workplace satisfaction, and feelings of engagement with the Bank. We have organized the Cathay Well-Being program since 2014, encouraging employees to participate in healthy habit challenges and Bank wide exercise plans in order to qualify for additional discounts on medical premiums. As of December 31, 2020, we have 72% of our employees participating in the Well-Being program.

 

Cathay Bank’s top priority during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic remains protecting the health and safety of our employees and their families, customers and community. The Bank continues to maintain workplace flexibility such as working remotely where possible to reduce the number of people who are in the office each day. We have also introduced the Cathay Bank Pandemic Landing Page on the Bank’s intranet to allow employees easy access all the latest COVID-19 news and resources within and outside of Cathay Bank. Cathay Bank is keeping its bank branches open consistent with local laws and regulations and continuing to provide essential banking services to customers. In the interest of public health, all bank branches are utilizing the minimum number of people to safely execute tasks and following enhanced safety and health protocols—including screenings, social distancing, and use of personal protective equipment.

 

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Executive Officers of the Registrant

 

The table below sets forth the names, ages, and positions at the Bancorp and the Bank of all executive officers of the Company as of February 15, 2021.

 

Name

Age

 

Present Position and Principal Occupation During the Past Five Years

       

Dunson K. Cheng          

76

 

Executive Chairman of the Boards of Directors of the Bancorp and the Bank since October 2016; Director of the Bancorp since 1990; Director of the Bank since 1982; Chairman of the Boards of Directors of the Bancorp and the Bank from 1994 to September 2016; President of the Bank from 1985 to March 2015; President and Chief Executive Officer of the Bancorp from 1990 to September 2016.

       

Chang M. Liu

54

 

President and Chief Executive Officer, and Director of the Bancorp since October 2020; Chief Executive Officer of the Bank since October 2020; Director of the Bank since October 2019; President of the Bank from October 2019 to September 2020; Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Bank from February 2019 to September 2019; Executive Vice President and Chief Lending Officer of the Bank from 2016 to 2019; Senior Vice President and Deputy Chief Lending Officer of the Bank from 2015 to 2016; Senior Vice President and Assistant Chief Lending Officer of the Bank from 2014 to 2015; Chief Lending Officer at Banc of California (formerly known as Pacific Trust Bank) from 2011 to 2014

       

Heng W. Chen

68

 

Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer, and Treasurer of the Bancorp since 2003; Executive Vice President of the Bank since 2003; Chief Financial Officer of the Bank since 2004.

       

Kim R. Bingham

64

 

Chief Risk Officer of the Bank since 2014; Executive Vice President of the Bank since 2004; Chief Credit Officer of the Bank from 2004 to 2013.

       

Mark H. Lee

58

 

Executive Vice President and Chief Credit Officer of the Bank since December 2017; Executive Vice President and Special Advisor to the Office of the President of the Bank from April 2017 to December 2017; Senior Executive Vice President and Head of Corporate Banking of Bank of Hope (formerly known as BBCN Bank) from 2016 to 2017; Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Credit Officer of BBCN Bank (formerly known as Nara Bank) from 2009 to 2016; and Senior Vice President and Deputy Chief Credit Officer of East West Bank from 2007 to 2009.

 

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Available Information

 

We invite you to visit our website at www.cathaygeneralbancorp.com, to access free of charge the Bancorp's Annual Reports on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K, and amendments to those reports, all of which are made available as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file such material with or furnish it to the SEC. The content of our website is not incorporated into and is not part of this Annual Report on Form 10-K. In addition, you can write to us to obtain a free copy of any of those reports at Cathay General Bancorp, 9650 Flair Drive, El Monte, California 91731, Attn: Investor Relations. The SEC also maintains a website that contains the reports, proxy and information statements and other information we file with them. The address of the site is http://www.sec.gov.

 

 

Regulation and Supervision

 

General

 

The Bancorp and its bank and non-bank subsidiaries are subject to extensive regulation under federal and state statutes and regulations that, among other things, may affect our cost of doing business and financial performance, limit permissible activities and expansion or impact the competitive balance between us and other financial services providers. These statutes and regulations are intended primarily for the protection of depositors and the FDIC’s Deposit Insurance Fund, and secondarily for the stability of the U.S. banking system and are not intended for the benefit of stockholders of financial institutions.

 

The following discussion of certain statutes and regulations to which the Bancorp and the Bank are subject is a summary and does not purport to be complete nor does it address all applicable statutes and regulations. This discussion is qualified in its entirety by reference to the full statutes and regulations.

 

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Bank Holding Company and Bank Regulation

 

The Bancorp is a bank holding company within the meaning of the Bank Holding Company Act and is registered as such with the Federal Reserve. The Bancorp is also a bank holding company within the meaning of Section 3700 of the California Financial Code. Therefore, the Bancorp and any of its subsidiaries are subject to examination by, and may be required to file reports with, the DFPI. DFPI approvals are also required for bank holding companies to acquire control of banks. As a California commercial bank, the deposits of which are insured by the FDIC, the Bank is subject to regulation, supervision, and regular examination by the DFPI and by the FDIC, as the Bank’s primary federal regulator, and must additionally comply with certain applicable regulations of the Federal Reserve.

 

The wide range of requirements and restrictions contained in federal and state banking laws include:

 

 

Requirements that bank holding companies and banks file periodic reports.

 

 

Requirements that bank holding companies and banks meet or exceed minimum capital requirements (see “Capital Adequacy Requirements” below).

 

 

Requirements that bank holding companies serve as a source of financial and managerial strength for their banking subsidiaries. In addition, the regulatory agencies have “prompt corrective action” authority to limit activities and require a limited guaranty of a required bank capital restoration plan by a bank holding company if the capital of a bank subsidiary falls below capital levels required by the regulators. (See “Source of Strength” and “Prompt Corrective Action Provisions” below.)

 

 

Limitations on dividends payable to Bancorp stockholders. The Bancorp’s ability to pay dividends is subject to legal and regulatory restrictions. A substantial portion of the Bancorp’s funds to pay dividends or to pay principal and interest on our debt obligations is derived from dividends paid by the Bank. (See “Dividends” below)

 

 

Limitations on dividends payable by bank subsidiaries. These dividends are subject to various legal and regulatory restrictions. The federal banking agencies have indicated that paying dividends that deplete a depositary institution’s capital base to an inadequate level would be an unsafe and unsound banking practice. Moreover, the federal agencies have issued policy statements that provide that bank holding companies and insured banks should generally only pay dividends out of current operating earnings. (See “Dividends” below)

 

 

Safety and soundness requirements. Banks must be operated in a safe and sound manner and meet standards applicable to internal controls, information systems, internal audit, loan documentation, credit underwriting, interest rate exposure, asset growth, and compensation, as well as other operational and management standards. These safety and soundness requirements give bank regulatory agencies significant latitude in exercising their supervisory authority and the authority to initiate informal or formal enforcement actions.

 

 

Requirements for notice, application and approval, or non-objection of acquisitions and certain other activities conducted directly or in subsidiaries of the Bancorp or the Bank.

 

 

Compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act (“CRA”). The CRA requires that banks help meet the credit needs in their communities, including the availability of credit to low and moderate income individuals. If the Bank fails to adequately serve its communities, restrictions may be imposed, including denials of applications for branches, for adding subsidiaries or affiliate companies, for engaging in new activities or for the merger with or purchase of other financial institutions. In its last reported examination by the FDIC in June 2019, the Bank received a CRA rating of “Satisfactory.”

 

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Compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act, the USA Patriot Act, and other anti-money laundering laws (“AML”), and the regulations of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”). (See “Anti-Money Laundering and OFAC Regulations” below.)

 

 

Limitations on the amount of loans to one borrower and its affiliates and to executive officers and directors.

 

 

Limitations on transactions with affiliates.

 

 

Restrictions on the nature and amount of any investments in, and the ability to underwrite, certain securities.

 

 

Requirements for opening of intra- and interstate branches.

 

 

Compliance with truth in lending and other consumer protection and disclosure laws to ensure equal access to credit and to protect consumers in credit transactions. (See “Operations, Consumer and Privacy Compliance Laws” below.)

 

 

Compliance with provisions of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 (“GLB Act”) and other federal and state laws dealing with privacy for nonpublic personal information of customers. The federal bank regulators have adopted rules limiting the ability of banks and other financial institutions to disclose non-public information about consumers to unaffiliated third parties. These limitations require disclosure of privacy policies to consumers and, in some circumstances, allow consumers to prevent disclosure of certain personal information to an unaffiliated third party. These regulations affect how consumer information is transmitted through diversified financial companies and conveyed to outside vendors.

 

Specific federal and state laws and regulations which are applicable to banks regulate, among other things, the scope of their business, their investments, their reserves against deposits, the timing of the availability of deposited funds, their activities relating to dividends, the nature and amount of and collateral for certain loans, servicing and foreclosing on loans, borrowings, capital requirements, certain check-clearing activities, branching, and mergers and acquisitions. California banks are also subject to statutes and regulations including Federal Reserve Regulation O and Federal Reserve Act Sections 23A and 23B and Regulation W, which restrict or limit loans or extensions of credit to “insiders,” including officers, directors, and principal shareholders, and affiliates, and purchases of assets from affiliates, including parent bank holding companies, except pursuant to certain exceptions and only on terms and conditions at least as favorable to those prevailing for comparable transactions with unaffiliated parties. The Dodd-Frank Act expanded definitions and restrictions on transactions with affiliates and insiders under Sections 23A and 23B, and also lending limits for derivative transactions, repurchase agreements and securities lending, and borrowing transactions.

 

The Bank operates branches and/or loan production offices in California, New York, Washington, Illinois, Texas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, and New Jersey. While the DFPI remains the Bank’s primary state regulator, the Bank’s operations in these jurisdictions are subject to examination and supervision by local bank regulators, and transactions with customers in those jurisdictions are subject to local laws, including consumer protection laws. The Bank also operates a branch in Hong Kong and a representative office in Beijing, in Shanghai, and in Taipei. The operations of these foreign offices and branches (and limits on the scope of their activities) are subject to local law and regulatory authorities in addition to regulation and supervision by the DFPI and the Federal Reserve.

 

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The Dodd-Frank Act and the Growth Act

 

The Dodd-Frank Act financial reform legislation, adopted in July 2010, significantly revised and expanded the rulemaking, supervisory and enforcement authority of the federal bank regulatory agencies by implementing the following changes, among others:

 

 

capital standards that, among other things, increase capital requirements and eliminate the treatment of trust preferred securities as Tier 1 regulatory capital for bank holding companies with assets of $15.0 billion or more (our assets exceed the $15.0 billion threshold and, as a result, our outstanding junior subordinated notes no longer qualify as Tier 1 capital for regulatory reporting purposes);

 

 

restrictions on banking entities from engaging in proprietary trading, as well as having investments in, sponsoring, and maintaining relationships with hedge funds and private equity funds (commonly referred to as the “Volcker Rule”);

 

 

the establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) responsible for consumer protection in the financial services industry and to examine financial institutions with $10.0 billion or more in assets, such as the Company, for compliance with regulations promulgated by the CFPB;

 

 

additional risk management and other enhanced prudential standards for larger bank holding companies;

 

 

limitations on interchange fees charged for debit card transactions;

 

 

the revisions in the deposit insurance assessment base for FDIC insurance and the permanent increase in coverage to $250 thousand;

 

 

the permissibility of paying interest on business checking accounts;

 

 

the removal of barriers to interstate branching;

 

 

required disclosure and shareholder advisory votes on executive compensation; and

 

 

the establishment of new minimum mortgage underwriting standards for residential mortgages.

 

On May 24, 2018, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (the “Growth Act”) was signed into law. Among other relief, the Growth Act:

 

 

raises the asset threshold for annual company-run stress tests required under the Dodd-Frank Act from $10.0 billion to $100.0 billion;

 

 

raises the enhanced prudential supervision threshold for bank holding companies from $50.0 billion to $250.0 billion in total consolidated assets and the asset threshold for risk committee requirements for publicly traded bank holding companies from $10.0 billion to $50.0 billion; and

 

 

implements other changes that may help reduce regulatory burden for the Company and other mid-sized financial institutions, such as (i) prohibiting federal banking regulators from imposing higher capital standards on High Volatility Commercial Real Estate exposures unless they are for acquisition, development or construction; (ii) requiring amendments to the Liquidity Coverage Ratio Rule to treat all qualifying investment-grade, liquid and readily-marketable municipal securities as level 2B liquid assets, making them potentially more attractive alternative investments; (iv) directing the CFPB to provide guidance on certain disclosure requirements for mortgage assumption transactions and construction-to-permanent home loans; and (iv) not require appraisals for certain transactions in rural areas valued at less than $400 thousand.

 

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On October 15, 2019, the FDIC adopted a final rule that revised the FDIC’s requirements for stress testing by FDIC supervised institutions, such as the Bank, to conform with the Growth Act by raising the minimum threshold for applicability from $10.0 billion to $250.0 billion. The final rule became effective on November 25, 2019. Notwithstanding these amendments to the stress testing requirements, the federal banking agencies indicated through interagency guidance that the capital planning and risk management practices of institutions with total assets less than $100.0 billion would continue to be reviewed through the regular supervisory process.

 

Notwithstanding the regulatory relief provided for mid-size financial institutions such as the Company that has resulted from the Growth Act, many provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act and its implementing regulations remain in place and will continue to result in additional operating and compliance costs that could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and results of operation. In addition to the Growth Act, various pending bills in Congress may offer some regulatory relief for mid-sized banking organizations of our size. We are uncertain about the scope, nature and timing of any regulatory relief, and its effect on us.

 

Capital Adequacy Requirements

 

Bank holding companies and banks are subject to various regulatory capital requirements administered by state and federal banking agencies. Capital adequacy guidelines and, additionally for banks, prompt corrective action regulations (see “Prompt Corrective Action Provisions” below), involve quantitative measures of assets, liabilities, and certain off-balance sheet items calculated under regulatory accounting practices. Capital amounts and classifications are also subject to qualitative judgments by regulators about components, risk weighting, and other factors. The risk-based capital guidelines for bank holding companies and banks require capital ratios that vary based on the perceived degree of risk associated with a banking organization’s operations for both transactions reported on the balance sheet as assets, such as loans, and those recorded as off-balance sheet items, such as commitments, letters of credit and recourse arrangements. The risk-based capital ratio is determined by classifying assets and certain off-balance sheet financial instruments into weighted categories, with higher levels of capital being required for those categories perceived as representing greater risks and dividing its qualifying capital by its total risk-adjusted assets and off-balance sheet items. Bank holding companies and banks engaged in significant trading activity may also be subject to the market risk capital guidelines and be required to incorporate additional market and interest rate risk components into their risk-based capital standards.

 

The federal bank regulatory agencies adopted final regulations in July 2013, which revised their risk-based and leverage capital requirements for banking organizations to meet requirements of the Dodd-Frank Act and to implement Basel III international agreements reached by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision.

 

The following are among the requirements under the capital rules that became effective on January 1, 2015 (referred to herein as the “capital rules”):

 

•         An increase in the minimum Tier 1 capital ratio from 4.00% to 6.00% of risk-weighted assets.

 

•         A required 4.50% of risk-weighted assets ratio is established for “common equity Tier 1” as a subset of Tier 1 capital limited to common equity.

 

•         A minimum non-risk-based leverage ratio is set at 4.00% eliminating a 3.00% exception for higher rated banks.

 

•         Changes in the permitted composition of Tier 1 capital to exclude trust preferred securities (other than certain grandfathered trust preferred securities issued), mortgage servicing rights and certain deferred tax assets and include unrealized gains and losses on available for sale debt and equity securities.

 

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•         An additional capital conservation buffer of 2.5% of risk weighted assets over each of the required capital ratios must be met to avoid limitations in the ability of the Bank to pay dividends, repurchase shares or pay discretionary bonuses.

 

•         The risk-weights of certain assets for purposes of calculating the risk-based capital ratios are changed for high volatility commercial real estate acquisition, development and construction loans, certain past due non-residential mortgage loans and certain mortgage-backed and other securities exposures.

 

•         An additional “countercyclical capital buffer” is required for larger and more complex institutions.

 

Under the capital rules, after taking into account the capital conservation buffer, the Bancorp and the Bank must maintain the following minimum ratios: (i) a Tier 1 leverage ratio of 4.0%, (ii) a common equity Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio of 4.5%, plus the capital conservation buffer, effectively resulting in a minimum common equity Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio of 7.0%, (iii) a Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio of 6.0%, plus the capital conservation buffer, effectively resulting in a minimum common equity Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio of 8.5%, and (iv) a total risk-based capital ratio of 8.0%, plus the capital conservation buffer, effectively resulting in a minimum total risk-based capital ratio of 10.5%. To be considered “well capitalized,” a bank holding company or bank must have the following minimum ratios: (i) a Tier 1 leverage ratio of 5.0%, (ii) a common equity Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio of 6.5%, (iii) a Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio of 8.0%, and (iv) a total risk-based capital ratio of 10.0%.

 

Failure to meet statutorily mandated capital guidelines or more restrictive ratios separately established for a financial institution could subject a bank or bank holding company to a variety of enforcement remedies, including issuance of a capital directive, the termination of deposit insurance by the FDIC, a prohibition on accepting or renewing brokered deposits, limitations on the rates of interest that the institution may pay on its deposits and other restrictions on its business. Significant additional restrictions can be imposed on FDIC-insured depository institutions that fail to meet applicable capital requirements under the regulatory agencies’ prompt corrective action authority.

 

At December 31, 2020, (i) the Bancorp’s and the Bank’s common equity Tier 1 capital ratios were 13.53% and 13.83%, respectively; (ii) their total risk-based capital ratios were, respectively, 15.47% and 14.99%; (iii) their Tier 1 risk-based capital ratios were, respectively, 13.53% and 13.83%; and (iv) their leverage capital ratios were, respectively, 10.94% and 11.19%, all of which ratios exceeded the minimum percentage requirements to be deemed “well-capitalized” for regulatory purposes.

 

Bank regulators may also continue their past policies of expecting banks to maintain additional capital beyond the requirements of the capital rules. The federal banking agencies may also require banks and bank holding companies subject to enforcement actions to maintain capital ratios in excess of the minimum ratios otherwise required to be deemed “well-capitalized. The implementation of the capital rules or more stringent requirements to maintain higher levels of capital or to maintain higher levels of liquid assets could adversely impact the Bancorp’s net income and return on equity, restrict the ability of the Bank and/or the Bancorp to pay dividends or executive bonuses and require the raising of additional capital.

 

In December 2017, the Basel Committee published “Basel IV” standards to finalize the Basel III regulatory reforms. According to the Basel Committee, Basel IV is intended to, among other things, reduce variability in risk weighted assets by implementing a standardized approach for operation risk and credit risk to replace model-based approaches for certain categories of risk weighted assets, and by reducing the scope of model-based parameters and implementing exposure-level parameter floors where model-based approaches remain available. Under the Basel framework, these standards will generally be effective on January 1, 2023, with an aggregate output floor phasing in through January 1, 2028. The impact of Basel IV on us will depend on the manner in which it is implemented by the federal bank regulators.

 

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Prompt Corrective Action Provisions

 

The Federal Deposit Insurance Act (the “FDI Act”) requires the federal bank regulatory agencies to take “prompt corrective action” with respect to a depository institution if that institution does not meet certain capital adequacy standards, including requiring the prompt submission of an acceptable capital restoration plan. Depending on the bank’s capital ratios, the agencies’ regulations define five categories in which an insured depository institution will be placed: well-capitalized, adequately capitalized, undercapitalized, significantly undercapitalized, and critically undercapitalized. At each successive lower capital category, an insured bank is subject to more restrictions, including restrictions on the bank's activities, operational practices or the ability to pay dividends. Based upon its capital levels, a bank that is classified as well-capitalized, adequately capitalized, or undercapitalized may be treated as though it were in the next lower capital category if the appropriate federal banking agency, after notice and opportunity for hearing, determines that an unsafe or unsound condition, or an unsafe or unsound practice, warrants such treatment. A bank’s capital category is determined solely for the purpose of applying the prompt corrective action regulations and the capital category may not constitute an accurate representation of the bank’s overall financial condition or prospects for other purposes.

 

The FDI Act generally prohibits a depository institution from making any capital distributions (including payment of a dividend) or paying any management fee to its parent holding company, if the depository institution would thereafter be “undercapitalized.” “Undercapitalized” institutions are subject to growth limitations and are required to submit capital restoration plans. If a depository institution fails to submit an acceptable plan, it is treated as if it is “significantly undercapitalized.” “Significantly undercapitalized” depository institutions may be subject to a number of requirements and restrictions, including orders to sell sufficient voting stock to become “adequately capitalized,” requirements to reduce total assets, and cessation of receipt of deposits from correspondent banks. “Critically undercapitalized” institutions are subject to the appointment of a receiver or conservator. The capital classification of a bank holding company and a bank affects the frequency of regulatory examinations, the bank holding company’s and the bank’s ability to engage in certain activities and the deposit insurance premium paid by the bank.

 

As of December 31, 2020, the Bancorp and the Bank met all requirements to be considered well-capitalized under the capital rules.

 

Volcker Rule

 

In December 2013, the federal bank regulatory agencies adopted final rules that implement a part of the Dodd-Frank Act commonly referred to as the “Volcker Rule.” In the fall of 2019, the federal banking regulatory agencies adopted revised rules to simplify and tailor the Volcker Rules. The revised rules became effective on January 1, 2020, with a compliance date of January 1, 2021. The revised rules continue to restrict banking entities subject to the Volcker Rule, including the Bancorp and the Bank and its subsidiaries, from engaging in activities that are considered proprietary trading and from sponsoring or investing in certain entities, including hedge or private equity funds that are considered “covered funds,” subject to certain exceptions. The revised rules provide regulatory relief by tailoring application of the Volcker Rule based on the level of trading assets and liabilities, simplifying certain standards and requirements, and reducing compliance burden. In June 2020, the federal bank regulatory agencies finalized amendments to the Volcker Rule covered funds regulations, effective October 1, 2020. The amendments modified the provisions for certain existing covered fund exclusions, including loan securitizations and public welfare and small business funds, and added certain additional covered fund exclusions, including credit funds and venture capital funds. The Federal Reserve granted an extension until July 21, 2022 of the conformance period for the Bancorp to divest ownership in certain legacy investment funds that are prohibited under the rule. 

 

Except for divesting some investments aggregating less than $1.0 million as of December 31, 2020, we believe that the Volcker Rule will not require any material changes in our operations or business or security holdings.

 

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CFPB Actions

 

The Dodd-Frank Act provided for the creation of the CFPB as an independent entity within the Federal Reserve with broad rulemaking, supervisory, and enforcement authority over consumer financial products and services, including deposit products, residential mortgages, home-equity loans and credit cards. The CFPB’s functions include investigating consumer complaints, conducting market research, rulemaking, supervising and examining bank consumer transactions, and enforcing rules related to consumer financial products and services. CFPB regulations and guidance apply to all financial institutions and banks with $10.0 billion or more in assets, which are also subject to examination by the CFPB. As the Bank has more than $10.0 billion in assets, it is examined for compliance with CFPB regulation by the CFPB in addition to examinations of the Bank by the FDIC and the DFPI.

 

The CFPB has enforcement authority over unfair, deceptive or abusive act and practices (“UDAAP”). UDAAP is considered one of the most far reaching new enforcement tools at the disposal of the CFPB and covers all consumer and small business financial products or services such as deposit and lending products or services such as overdraft programs and third-party payroll card vendors. It is a wide-ranging regulatory net that potentially picks up the gaps not included in other consumer laws, rules and regulations. Violations of UDAAP can be found in many areas and can include advertising and marketing materials, the order of processing and paying items in a checking account or the design of client overdraft programs. The scope of coverage includes not only direct interactions with clients and prospects but also actions by third-party service providers. The Dodd-Frank Act does not prevent states from adopting stricter consumer protection standards. State regulation of financial products and potential enforcement actions could also adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.

 

Additionally, in 2014, the CFPB adopted revisions to Regulation Z, which implement the Truth in Lending Act, pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act, and apply to all consumer mortgages (except home equity lines of credit, timeshare plans, reverse mortgages, or temporary loans). The revisions mandate specific underwriting criteria for home loans in order for creditors to make a reasonable, good faith determination of a consumer's ability to repay and establish certain protections from liability under this requirement for “qualified mortgages” meeting certain standards. In particular, it will prevent banks from making “no doc” and “low doc” home loans, as the rules require that banks determine a consumer’s ability to pay based in part on verified and documented information. We do originate certain “low doc” loans that meet specific underwriting criteria.  Given the small volume of such loans, we do not believe that this regulation will have a significant impact on our operations.

 

Risk Committee Framework

 

Pursuant to Federal Reserve Board regulations promulgated under authority of the Dodd-Frank Act, as originally adopted, as a publicly traded bank holding company with $10.0 billion in assets, we were required and have established and maintained a risk committee responsible for enterprise-wide risk management practices, comprised of an independent chairman and at least one risk management expert. We expect to maintain our risk committee, although we are no longer required to have a risk committee under the Growth Act unless and until we reach $50.0 billion in assets. The risk committee approves and periodically reviews the risk-management policies of the bank holding company’s global operations and oversees the operations of its risk-management framework. The bank holding company’s risk-management framework must be commensurate with its structure, risk profile, complexity, activities and size. At a minimum, the framework must include policies and procedures establishing risk-management governance and providing for adequate risk-control infrastructure for the bank holding company’s operations. In addition, the framework must include processes and systems to monitor compliance with the foregoing policies and procedures, including processes and systems designed to identify and report risk-management risks and deficiencies; ensure effective implementation of actions to address emerging risks and risk-management deficiencies; designate managerial and staff responsibility for risk management; ensure the independence of the risk-management function; and integrate risk-management and associated controls with management goals and the management compensation structure.

 

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Interchange Fees

 

Under the Durbin Amendment to the Dodd-Frank Act, the Federal Reserve adopted rules establishing standards for assessing whether the interchange fees that may be charged with respect to certain electronic debit transactions are “reasonable and proportional” to the costs incurred by issuers for processing such transactions.

 

Interchange fees, or “swipe” fees, are charges that merchants pay to us and other card-issuing banks for processing electronic payment transactions. Under the final rules, the maximum permissible interchange fee is equal to no more than 21 cents plus 5 basis points of the transaction value for many types of debit interchange transactions. The Federal Reserve also adopted a rule to allow a debit card issuer to recover 1 cent per transaction for fraud prevention purposes if the issuer complies with certain fraud-related requirements required by the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve also has rules governing routing and exclusivity that require issuers to offer two unaffiliated networks for routing transactions on each debit or prepaid product.

 

Anti-Money Laundering and OFAC Regulations

 

A major focus of governmental policy on financial institutions in recent years has been aimed at combating money laundering and terrorist financing through AML and OFAC regulations. AML laws and regulations, including the Bank Secrecy Act and the U.S.A. Patriot Act, require us to assist U.S. government agencies in detecting and preventing money laundering and other illegal acts by maintaining policies, procedures and controls designed to detect and report money laundering, terrorist financing, and other suspicious activity. The AML program must include, at a minimum, a designated compliance officer, written policies, procedures and internal controls, training of appropriate personnel and independent testing of the program, and a customer identification program.

 

OFAC administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions against targeted foreign countries and regimes, under authority of various laws, including designated foreign countries, nationals and others. OFAC publishes lists of specially designated targets and countries. We and our bank are responsible for, among other things, blocking accounts of, and transactions with, such targets and countries, prohibiting unlicensed trade and financial transactions with them and reporting blocked transactions after their occurrence.

 

Regulatory authorities routinely examine financial institutions for compliance with these obligations, and any failure by us to maintain and implement adequate programs to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, or to comply with all of the relevant laws or regulations, could have serious legal and reputational consequences, including causing applicable bank regulatory authorities not to approve merger or acquisition transactions when regulatory approval is required or to prohibit such transactions even if approval is not required. Regulatory authorities have imposed cease and desist orders and civil money penalties against institutions found to be violating these obligations.

 

Additional Restrictions on Bancorp and Bank Activities

 

Subject to prior notice or Federal Reserve approval, bank holding companies may generally engage in, or acquire shares of companies engaged in, activities determined by the Federal Reserve to be so closely related to banking or managing or controlling banks as to be a proper incident thereto. Bank holding companies which elect and retain “financial holding company” status pursuant to the GLB Act may engage in these nonbanking activities and broader securities, insurance, merchant banking and other activities that are determined to be “financial in nature” or are incidental or complementary to activities that are financial in nature without prior Federal Reserve approval. Pursuant to the GLB Act and the Dodd-Frank Act, in order to elect and retain financial holding company status, a bank holding company and all depository institution subsidiaries of a bank holding company must be well capitalized and well managed, and, except in limited circumstances, depository subsidiaries must be in satisfactory compliance with the CRA. Failure to sustain compliance with these requirements or correct any non-compliance within a fixed time period could lead to divestiture of subsidiary banks or require all activities to conform to those permissible for a bank holding company. The Bancorp has not elected financial holding company status and does not believe it has engaged in any activities determined by the Federal Reserve to be financial in nature or incidental or complementary to activities that are financial in nature, which would, in the absence of financial holding company status, require notice or Federal Reserve approval.

 

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Pursuant to the FDI Act and the California Financial Code, California state chartered commercial banks may generally engage in any activity permissible for national banks. Therefore, the Bank may form subsidiaries to engage in the many so-called “closely related to banking” or “nonbanking” activities commonly conducted by national banks in operating subsidiaries or subsidiaries of bank holding companies. Further, pursuant to the GLB Act, California banks may conduct certain “financial” activities in a subsidiary to the same extent as a national bank, provided the bank is and remains “well-capitalized,” “well-managed” and in satisfactory compliance with the CRA. The Bank currently has no financial subsidiaries.

 

Source of Strength

 

Federal Reserve policy and federal law require bank holding companies to act as a source of financial and managerial strength to their subsidiary banks. Under this requirement, Bancorp is expected to commit resources to support the Bank, including at times when Bancorp may not be in a financial position to provide such resources, and it may not be in Bancorp’s, or Bancorp’s stockholders’ or creditors’, best interests to do so. In addition, any capital loans Bancorp makes to the Bank are subordinate in right of payment to depositors and to certain other indebtedness of the Bank. In the event of Bancorp’s bankruptcy, any commitment by Bancorp to a federal bank regulatory agency to maintain the capital of the Bank will be assumed by the bankruptcy trustee and entitled to priority of payment.

 

Enforcement Authority

 

The federal and California regulatory structure gives the bank regulatory agencies extensive discretion in connection with their supervisory and enforcement activities and examination policies, including policies with respect to the classification of assets and the establishment of adequate loan loss reserves for regulatory purposes. The regulatory agencies have adopted guidelines to assist in identifying and addressing potential safety and soundness concerns before an institution’s capital becomes impaired. The guidelines establish operational and managerial standards generally relating to: (i) internal controls, information systems, and internal audit systems; (ii) loan documentation; (iii) credit underwriting; (iv) interest-rate exposure; (v) asset growth and asset quality; (vi) loan concentration; and (vii) compensation, fees, and benefits. Further, the regulatory agencies have adopted safety and soundness guidelines for asset quality and for evaluating and monitoring earnings to ensure that earnings are sufficient for the maintenance of adequate capital and reserves.

 

The federal and California regulatory structure subjects the Bancorp and the Bank to regular examination by their respective regulatory agencies, which results in examination reports and ratings that, although not publicly available, can affect the conduct and growth of our businesses. These examinations consider not only compliance with applicable laws and regulations, but also capital levels, asset quality and risk, management ability and performance, earnings, liquidity, and various other factors. If, as a result of an examination, the DFPI or the FDIC should determine that the financial condition, capital resources, asset quality, earnings prospects, management, liquidity, or other aspects of the Bank’s operations are unsatisfactory or that the Bank or its management is violating or has violated any law or regulation, the DFPI and the FDIC have residual authority to:

 

 

Require affirmative action to correct any conditions resulting from any violation or practice;

 

 

Direct an increase in capital and the maintenance of higher specific minimum capital ratios, which may preclude the Bank from being deemed “well-capitalized” and restrict its ability to accept certain brokered deposits, among other things;

 

 

Restrict the Bank’s growth geographically, by products and services, or by mergers and acquisitions;

 

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Issue, or require the Bank to enter into, informal or formal enforcement actions, including required Board resolutions, memoranda of understanding, written agreements and consent or cease and desist orders or prompt corrective action orders to take corrective action and cease unsafe and unsound practices;

 

 

Require prior approval of senior executive officer or director changes, remove officers and directors, and assess civil monetary penalties; and

 

 

Terminate FDIC insurance, revoke the Bank’s charter, take possession of, close and liquidate the Bank, or appoint the FDIC as receiver.

 

The Federal Reserve has similar enforcement authority over bank holding companies and commonly takes parallel action in conjunction with actions taken by a subsidiary bank’s regulators.

 

In the exercise of their supervisory and examination authority, the regulatory agencies have recently emphasized corporate governance, stress testing, enterprise risk management and other board responsibilities; anti-money laundering compliance and enhanced high-risk customer due diligence; vendor management; cyber security and fair lending and other consumer compliance obligations.

 

Deposit Insurance

 

The FDIC is an independent federal agency that insures deposits, up to prescribed statutory limits, of federally insured banks and savings institutions and safeguards the safety and soundness of the banking and savings industries. The FDIC insures our customer deposits through the Deposit Insurance Fund (the “DIF”) up to prescribed limits of $250 thousand for each depositor pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act. The amount of FDIC assessments paid by each DIF member institution is based on its relative risk of default as measured by regulatory capital ratios and other supervisory factors. As an institution with $10.0 billion or more in assets, the FDIC uses a performance score and a loss-severity score to calculate an initial assessment rate for the Bank. In calculating these scores, the FDIC uses the Bank’s capital level and regulatory supervisory ratings and certain financial measures to assess the Bank’s ability to withstand asset-related stress and funding-related stress. The FDIC also has the ability to make discretionary adjustments to the total score based upon significant risk factors that are not adequately captured in the calculations. In addition to ordinary assessments described above, the FDIC has the ability to impose special assessments in certain instances.

 

All FDIC-insured institutions are also required to pay assessments to the FDIC to fund interest payments on bonds issued by the Financing Corporation (“FICO"), an agency of the federal government established to recapitalize the predecessor to the DIF. These assessments will continue until the FICO bonds mature in 2017 through 2019.

 

Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act, the FDIC has established 2.0% as the designated reserve ratio (DRR), that is, the ratio of the DIF to insured deposits. The FDIC adopted a plan under which it met the statutory minimum DRR of 1.35% (formerly 1.15%) before September 30, 2020, the deadline imposed by the Dodd-Frank Act. According to the FDIC, the DRR reached 1.36% of total deposits as of September 30, 2018.

 

We are generally unable to control the amount of assessments that we are required to pay for FDIC insurance. If there are additional bank or financial institution failures or if the FDIC otherwise determines, we may be required to pay even higher FDIC assessments than the recently increased levels. These increases in FDIC insurance assessments may have a material and adverse effect on our earnings and could have a material adverse effect on the value of, or market for, our common stock.

 

Under the FDI Act, the FDIC may terminate deposit insurance upon a finding that the institution has engaged in unsafe and unsound practices, is in an unsafe or unsound condition to continue operations, or has violated any applicable law, regulation, rule, order or condition imposed by the FDIC.

 

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Dividends

 

Holders of the Bancorp’s common stock are entitled to receive dividends as and when declared by the board of directors out of funds legally available therefore under the laws of the State of Delaware. Delaware corporations such as the Bancorp may make distributions to their stockholders out of their surplus, or in case there is no surplus, out of their net profits for the fiscal year in which the dividend is declared and/or the preceding fiscal year. However, dividends may not be paid out of a corporation’s net profits if, after the payment of the dividend, the corporation’s capital would be less than the capital represented by the issued and outstanding stock of all classes having a preference upon the distribution of assets.

 

It is the Federal Reserve’s policy that bank holding companies should generally pay dividends on common stock only out of income available over the past year, and only if prospective earnings retention is consistent with the organization’s expected future needs and financial condition. It is also the Federal Reserve’s policy that bank holding companies should not maintain dividend levels that undermine their ability to be a source of strength to their banking subsidiaries. The Federal Reserve also discourages dividend policy payment ratios that are at maximum allowable levels unless both asset quality and capital are very strong.

 

The terms of our Junior Subordinated Notes also limit our ability to pay dividends on our common stock. If we are not current on our payment of interest on our Junior Subordinated Notes, we may not pay dividends on our common stock. The amount of future dividends by the Bancorp will depend on our earnings, financial condition, capital requirements and other factors, and will be determined by our board of directors in accordance with the capital management and dividend policy.

 

The Bank is a legal entity that is separate and distinct from its holding company. The Bancorp is dependent on the performance of the Bank for funds which may be received as dividends from the Bank for use in the operation of the Bancorp and the ability of the Bancorp to pay dividends to stockholders. Future cash dividends by the Bank will also depend upon management’s assessment of future capital requirements, contractual restrictions, and other factors. The capital rules restrict dividends by the Bank if the capital conservation buffer is not achieved.

 

The power of the board of directors of the Bank to declare cash dividends to the Bancorp is subject to California law, which restricts the amount available for cash dividends to the lesser of a bank’s retained earnings or net income for its last three fiscal years (less any distributions to stockholders made during such period). Where the above test is not met, cash dividends may still be paid, with the prior approval of the DFPI, in an amount not exceeding the greatest of (i) retained earnings of the Bank; (ii) the net income of the Bank for its last fiscal year; or (iii) the net income of the Bank for its current fiscal year. Future cash dividends by the Bank will also depend upon management’s assessment of future capital requirements, contractual restrictions, and other factors.

 

Operations, Consumer and Privacy Compliance Laws

 

The Bank must comply with numerous federal and state anti-money laundering and consumer protection statutes and implementing regulations, including the USA Patriot Act, the Bank Secrecy Act, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, the CRA, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, as amended by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Truth in Lending Act, the Fair Housing Act, the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, the National Flood Insurance Act, the California Homeowner Bill of Rights and various federal and state privacy protection laws. The Bank and the Company are also subject to federal and state laws prohibiting unfair or fraudulent business practices, untrue or misleading advertising, and unfair competition. Some of these laws are further discussed below:

 

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (“ECOA”) generally prohibits discrimination in any credit transaction, whether for consumer or business purposes, on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, receipt of income from public assistance programs, or good faith exercise of any rights under the Consumer Credit Protection Act.

 

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The Truth in Lending Act (“TILA”) is designed to ensure that credit terms are disclosed in a meaningful way so that consumers may compare credit terms more readily and knowledgeably. As a result of the TILA, all creditors must use the same credit terminology to express rates and payments, including the annual percentage rate, the finance charge, the amount financed, the total of payments and the payment schedule, among other things.

 

The Fair Housing Act (“FH Act”) regulates many practices, including making it unlawful for any lender to discriminate in its housing-related lending activities against any person because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status. A number of lending practices have been found by the courts to be, or may be considered, illegal under the FH Act, including some that are not specifically mentioned in the FH Act itself.

 

The Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (“HMDA”) grew out of public concern over credit shortages in certain urban neighborhoods and provides public information that will help show whether financial institutions are serving the housing credit needs of the neighborhoods and communities in which they are located. The HMDA also includes a “fair lending” aspect that requires the collection and disclosure of data about applicant and borrower characteristics as a way of identifying possible discriminatory lending patterns and enforcing anti-discrimination statutes.

 

Finally, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”) requires lenders to provide borrowers with disclosures regarding the nature and cost of real estate settlements. Also, RESPA prohibits certain abusive practices, such as kickbacks, and places limitations on the amount of escrow accounts. Penalties under the above laws may include fines, reimbursements and other civil money penalties.

 

Due to heightened regulatory concern related to compliance with the CRA, TILA, FH Act, ECOA, HMDA and RESPA generally, the Bank may incur additional compliance costs or be required to expend additional funds for investments in its local community.

 

The Federal Reserve and other bank regulatory agencies also have adopted guidelines for safeguarding confidential, personal customer information. These guidelines require financial institutions to create, implement and maintain a comprehensive written information security program designed to ensure the security and confidentiality of customer information, protect against any anticipated threats or hazards to the security or integrity of such information and protect against unauthorized access to or use of such information that could result in substantial harm or inconvenience to any customer. Financial institutions are also required to implement policies and procedures regarding the disclosure of nonpublic personal information about consumers to non-affiliated third parties. In general, financial institutions must provide explanations to consumers on policies and procedures regarding the disclosure of such nonpublic personal information and, except as otherwise required by law, prohibits disclosing such information. The Bank has adopted a customer information security and privacy program to comply with such requirements.

 

Operations, consumer and privacy compliance laws and regulations also mandate certain disclosure and reporting requirements and regulate the manner in which financial institutions must deal with customers when taking deposits, making loans, collecting loans, and providing other services. Failure to comply with these laws and regulations can subject the Bank to lawsuits and penalties, including enforcement actions, injunctions, fines or criminal penalties, punitive damages to consumers, and the loss of certain contractual rights.

 

In addition, privacy and data protection are areas of increasing state legislative focus, and several states have recently enacted consumer privacy laws that impose compliance obligations with respect to personal information. For example, the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (the “CCPA”), which became effective on January 1, 2020, applies to for-profit businesses that conduct business in California and meet certain revenue or data collection thresholds. The CCPA gives consumers the right to request disclosure of information collected about them, and whether that information has been sold or shared with others, the right to request deletion of personal information (subject to certain exceptions), the right to opt out of the sale of the consumer’s personal information, and the right not to be discriminated against for exercising these rights. The CCPA contains several exemptions, including for information that is collected, processed, sold or disclosed pursuant to the GLB Act. In November 2020, California voters approved the California Privacy Rights Act (“CPRA”), a ballot measure that amends and supplements the CCPA by creating the California Privacy Protection Agency, a watchdog privacy agency to be appointed shortly after the CPRA’s enactment. The CPRA also modifies the CCPA by expanding both the scope of businesses covered by the law and certain rights relating to personal information and its use, collection, and disclosure by covered businesses.

 

In May 2018, the European Union ("EU") adopted a comprehensive general data privacy regulation ("GDPR") that, among other things, implements greater review of data processing activities and higher fines and sanctions for non-compliance with data protection legislation. The GDPR also extends the territory of EU privacy rules to non-EU organizations that offer goods or services to or monitor EU citizen behaviors and sets forth compliance obligations and penalties for non-compliance. We believe the applicability of the GDPR to us is minimal since we do not offer good or services to EU residents or monitor their behaviors. Other foreign, federal, state or local governments, including in states and countries which we do business, may try to implement similar or other privacy legislation, which, among other effects, could result in different privacy standards for different geographical regions, restrict our ability to do business and increase our costs of doing business.

 

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Cybersecurity

 

Federal regulators have issued multiple statements regarding cybersecurity and that financial institutions need to design multiple layers of security controls to establish lines of defense and to ensure that their risk management processes also address the risk posed by compromised customer credentials, including security measures to reliably authenticate customers accessing internet-based services of the financial institution. In addition, a financial institution’s management is expected to maintain sufficient business continuity planning processes to ensure the rapid recovery, resumption and maintenance of the institution’s operations in the event of a cyber-attack. A financial institution is also expected to develop appropriate processes to enable recovery of data and business operations and address rebuilding network capabilities and restoring data if the institution or its critical service providers fall victim to a cyber-attack. If we fail to observe the regulatory guidance, we could be subject to various regulatory sanctions, including financial penalties.

 

State regulators have also been increasingly active in implementing privacy and cybersecurity standards and regulations. Recently, several states, notably including California where our banking business is concentrated, have adopted laws and/or regulations requiring certain financial institutions to implement cybersecurity programs and providing detailed requirements with respect to these programs, including data encryption requirements. Many such states (including California) have also recently implemented or modified their data breach notification and data privacy requirements. We expect this trend of state-level activity in those areas to continue, and we continue to monitor relevant legislative and regulatory developments in California where most of our customers are located.

 

In the ordinary course of business, we rely on electronic communications and information systems to conduct our operations and to store sensitive data. We employ a layered, defensive approach that leverages people, processes and technology to manage and maintain cybersecurity controls. We employ a variety of preventative and detective tools to monitor, block, and provide alerts regarding suspicious activity, as well as to report on any suspected advanced persistent threats. Notwithstanding the strength of our defensive measures, the threat from cyber-attacks is severe, attacks are sophisticated and increasing in volume, and attackers respond rapidly to changes in defensive measures. While to date we have not detected a significant compromise, significant data loss or any material financial losses related to cybersecurity attacks, our systems and those of our customers and third-party service providers are under constant threat and it is possible that we could experience a significant event in the future. Risks and exposures related to cybersecurity attacks are expected to remain high for the foreseeable future due to the rapidly evolving nature and sophistication of these threats, as well as due to the expanding use of Internet banking, mobile banking and other technology-based products and services by us and our customers. See Item 1A. Risk Factors for a further discussion of risks related to cybersecurity.

 

Environmental Regulations

 

In the course of the Bank’s business, the Bank may foreclose and take title to real estate and could be subject to environmental liabilities with respect to these properties. The Bank may be held liable to a governmental entity or to third parties for property damage, personal injury, investigation and clean-up costs incurred by these parties in connection with environmental contamination, or may be required to investigate or clear up hazardous or toxic substances, or chemical releases at a property. The costs associated with investigation or remediation activities could be substantial. See Item 1A. Risk Factors for a further discussion of risks related to environmental regulations and liabilities.

 

Federal Home Loan Bank System

 

The Bank is a member of the FHLB of San Francisco. Among other benefits, each FHLB serves as a reserve or central bank for its members within its assigned region. Each FHLB is financed primarily from the sale of consolidated obligations of the FHLB system. Each FHLB makes available loans or advances to its members in compliance with the policies and procedures established by the board of directors of the individual FHLB. Each member of the FHLB of San Francisco is required to own stock in an amount equal to the greater of (i) a membership stock requirement with an initial cap of $15.0 million (100% of “membership asset value” as defined), or (ii) an activity based stock requirement (based on a percentage of outstanding advances). There can be no assurance that the FHLB will pay dividends at the same rate it has paid in the past, or that it will pay any dividends in the future.

 

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Impact of Monetary Policies

 

The earnings and growth of the Bank are largely dependent on its ability to maintain a favorable differential or spread between the yield on its interest-earning assets and the rates paid on its deposits and other interest-bearing liabilities. As a result, the Bank’s performance is influenced by general economic conditions, both domestic and foreign, the monetary and fiscal policies of the federal government, and the policies of the regulatory agencies. The Federal Reserve implements national monetary policies (with objectives such as seeking to curb inflation and combat recession) by its open-market operations in U.S. government securities, by adjusting the required level of reserves for financial institutions subject to its reserve requirements, and by varying the discount rate applicable to borrowings by banks from the Federal Reserve Banks. The actions of the Federal Reserve in these areas influence the growth of bank loans, investments and deposits, and also affect interest rates charged on loans and deposits. The nature and impact of any future changes in monetary policies cannot be predicted.

 

Securities and Corporate Governance

 

The Bancorp is subject to the disclosure and regulatory requirements of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, both as administered by the SEC. As a company listed on the NASDAQ Global Select Market, the Company is subject to NASDAQ listing standards for listed companies. The Bancorp is also subject to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, and other federal and state laws and regulations which address, among other matters, required executive certification of financial presentations, corporate governance requirements for board audit and compensation committees and their members, and disclosure of controls and procedures and internal control over financial reporting, auditing and accounting, executive compensation, and enhanced and timely disclosure of corporate information. NASDAQ has also adopted corporate governance rules, which are intended to allow stockholders and investors to more easily and efficiently monitor the performance of companies and their directors. Under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, management and the Bancorp’s independent registered public accounting firm are required to assess the effectiveness of the Bancorp’s internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2020. These assessments are included in Part II — Item 9A — “Controls and Procedures.”

 

Federal Banking Agency Compensation Guidelines

 

Guidelines adopted by the federal banking agencies pursuant to the FDI Act prohibit excessive compensation as an unsafe and unsound practice and describe compensation as excessive when the amounts paid are unreasonable or disproportionate to the services performed by an executive officer, employee, director or principal stockholder. Federal banking agencies have also issued comprehensive guidance on incentive compensation policies intended to ensure that the incentive compensation policies of banking organizations do not undermine the safety and soundness of such organizations by encouraging excessive risk-taking.

 

In addition, the Dodd-Frank Act requires the federal bank regulatory agencies and the SEC to establish joint regulations or guidelines prohibiting certain incentive-based payment arrangements. These regulators must establish regulations or guidelines requiring enhanced disclosure to regulators of incentive-based compensation arrangements. The agencies proposed such regulations in April 2011, but the regulations have not been finalized. In April 2016, the agencies published a notice of proposed rulemaking further revising the incentive-based compensation standards originally proposed in 2011. Similar to the 2011 proposed rule, the 2016 proposed rule would prohibit financial institutions with at least $1.0 billion in consolidated assets from establishing or maintaining incentive-based compensation arrangements that encourage inappropriate risk by providing any executive officer, employee, director or principal shareholder who is a covered person with excessive compensation, fees or benefits or that could lead to material financial loss to the covered institution. It cannot be predicted whether, or in what form, any such proposed compensation rules may be enacted.

 

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The scope, content and application of the U.S. banking regulators’ policies on incentive compensation continue to evolve. Depending upon the outcome of the rule making process, the application of any final compensation-related regulations to us could require us to revise our compensation strategy, increase our administrative costs and adversely affect our ability to recruit and retain qualified employees.

 

The Federal Reserve will review, as part of the regular, risk-focused examination process, the incentive compensation arrangements of banking organizations, such as us, that are not “large, complex banking organizations.” These reviews will be tailored to each organization based on the scope and complexity of the organization’s activities and the prevalence of incentive compensation arrangements. The findings of the supervisory initiatives will be included in reports of examination. Deficiencies will be incorporated into the organization’s supervisory ratings, which can affect the organization’s ability to make acquisitions and take other actions. Enforcement actions may be taken against a banking organization if its incentive compensation arrangements, or related risk management control or governance processes, pose a risk to the organization’s safety and soundness and the organization is not taking prompt and effective measures to correct the deficiencies.

 

Audit Requirements

 

The Bank is required to have an annual independent audit, alone or as a part of its bank holding company’s audit, and to prepare all financial statements in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. The Bank and the Bancorp are also each required to have an audit committee comprised entirely of independent directors. As required by NASDAQ, the Bancorp has certified that its audit committee has adopted formal written charters and meets the requisite number of directors, independence, and other qualification standards. As such, among other requirements, the Bancorp must maintain an audit committee that includes members with banking or related financial management expertise, has access to its own outside counsel, and does not include members who are large customers of the Bank. In addition, because the Bank has more than $3 billion in total assets, it is subject to the FDIC requirements for audit committees of large institutions.

 

Regulation of Non-Bank Subsidiaries

 

Non-bank subsidiaries are subject to additional or separate regulation and supervision by other state, federal and self-regulatory bodies. Additionally, any foreign-based subsidiaries would also be subject to foreign laws and regulations.

 

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017

 

On December 22, 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (“Tax Reform Act”) was signed into law. The Tax Reform Act included a number of provisions that impact us, including the following:

 

 

o

Tax Rate. The Tax Reform Act replaces the corporate tax rates applicable under prior law, which imposed a maximum tax rate of 35%, with a reduced 21% tax rate for 2018. Although the reduced tax rate generally should be favorable to us by resulting in lower tax expense in future periods, it decreased the value of our existing deferred tax assets as of December 31, 2017.

 

 

o

FDIC Insurance Premiums. The Tax Reform Act prohibits taxpayers with consolidated assets over $50.0 billion from deducting any FDIC insurance premiums and prohibits taxpayers with consolidated assets between $10.0 and $50.0 billion from deducting the portion of their FDIC premiums equal to the ratio, expressed as a percentage, that (i) the taxpayer’s total consolidated assets over $10.0 billion, as of the close of the taxable year, bears to (ii) $40.0 billion.

 

 

o

Employee Compensation. A “publicly held company” is not permitted to deduct compensation in excess of $1.0 million per year paid to certain employees. The Tax Reform Act eliminates certain exceptions to the $1.0 million limit applicable under prior law related to performance-based compensation, such as equity grants and cash bonuses that are paid only on the attainment of performance goals. As a result, our ability to deduct certain compensation paid to our most highly compensated employees is limited.

 

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o

Business Asset Expensing. The Tax Reform Act allows taxpayers immediately to expense the entire cost (instead of only 50%, as under prior law) of certain depreciable tangible property and real property improvements acquired and placed in service after September 27, 2017 and before January 1, 2023 (with an additional year for certain property). This 100% “bonus” depreciation is phased out proportionately for property placed in service on or after January 1, 2023 and before January 1, 2027 (with an additional year for certain property).

 

 

o

Limitations on Deductions. The Tax Reform Act limits deductions for state and local taxes, including property taxes, to $10 thousand per household, and limits mortgage interest deduction to mortgages of $750 thousand or less. Such limitations may reduce housing demand and prices, particularly in California and other high-tax, high-cost metro areas, which may reduce the demand for our residential mortgage loans and adversely affect our business and financial condition.

 

CARES Act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021

 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (the “CAA”) was signed into law on March 27, 2020 and December 27, 2020, respectively. Among other things, the CARES Act and the CAA include the following provisions impacting financial institutions like the Company:

 

 

As permitted by the CARES Act, and as extended by the CAA, we have chosen to continue to defer the adoption of the Current Expected Credit Losses ("CECL") methodology for estimated credit losses until the earlier of (i) the beginning of our fiscal year that begins after the date the COVID-19 national emergency comes to an end or (ii) January 1, 2022. 

 

 

As permitted by the CARES Act, and as extended by the CAA, we have elected to suspend requirements under accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America (“GAAP”) for loan modifications related to the COVID-19 pandemic (for loans that were not more than 30 days past due as of December 31, 2019) that would otherwise be categorized as a troubled debt restructuring (“TDR”), including impairment for accounting purposes, until the earlier of 60 days after the termination date of the national emergency or January 1, 2022.

 

 

The Bank participates as a lender under the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (the “PPP”) authorized by the CARES Act and extended by the CAA. The PPP provides for SBA-guaranteed business loans that may be eligible for loan forgiveness if borrowers, among other requirements, maintain their staff and payroll and if loans amounts are used to cover payroll, mortgage interest, rents and utilities payments.   

 

 

A borrower of a federally-backed mortgage loan (VA, FHA, USDA, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae) experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic may request forbearance from paying the borrower’s mortgage for up to 180 days, subject to extension for an additional 180-day period upon the request of the borrower. The CARES Act and many states, including California, also have moratoriums on certain foreclosure actions.

 

Pending Legislation and Future Initiatives

 

Certain pending legislation, and future initiatives that may be proposed or introduced before Congress, the California Legislature, and other governmental bodies, if enacted, may further alter the structure, regulation, and competitive relationship among financial institutions and may subject us to increased supervision and disclosure and reporting requirements. In addition, the various bank regulatory agencies often adopt new rules and regulations and policies to implement and enforce existing legislation. It cannot be predicted whether, or in what form, any such legislation or regulatory changes in policy may be enacted or the extent to which the business of the Bank would be affected thereby. The outcome of examinations, any litigation, or any investigations initiated by state or federal authorities also may result in necessary changes in our operations and increased compliance costs.

 

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Item 1A. Risk Factors.

 

Ownership of our common stock involves certain risks. The risks and uncertainties described below are not the only ones we face. Understanding these risks is important to understanding any statement in this Annual Report. You should carefully read and consider the risks and uncertainties described below together with all of the other information included or incorporated by reference in this Annual Report. Further, to the extent that any of the information in this report, or in other reports we file with the SEC, constitutes forward-looking statements, the risk factors below are cautionary statements identifying important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed in any forward-looking statements made by us or on our behalf. See "Forward-Looking Statements" and "Risk Factors Summary." The risks described below are not the only ones facing our business. Additional risks that management is not aware of or focused on or that management currently deems immaterial may also impair our business operations. This Annual Report is qualified in its entirety by these risk factors.

 

If any of the following risks actually occur, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected. If this were to happen, the value of our common stock could significantly decline, and you could lose some or all of your investment.

 

Market and Economic Risks

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a significant global economic downturn, which has, and is expected to continue to, adversely affect our business and results of operations.

 

Global health and economic concerns relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and government actions taken to reduce the spread of the virus have had a material adverse impact on the macroeconomic environment, and the pandemic has significantly increased economic uncertainty. The pandemic has resulted in federal, state and local authorities, including those who govern the markets in which we operate, implementing numerous measures to try to contain the virus. Such measures have included travel bans and restrictions, curfews, quarantines, shelter in place or total lock-down orders and business limitations and shutdowns. Such measures have significantly contributed to rising unemployment and negatively impacted consumer and business spending. The United States government has taken steps to attempt to mitigate some of the more severe anticipated economic effects of the virus, including the passage of the CARES Act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, and vaccination programs have commenced. There can be no assurance, however, that such steps will be effective or achieve their desired results in the near future.

 

The pandemic has adversely impacted and is likely to continue to adversely impact our workforce and operations and the operations of our customers and business partners. In particular, we may experience financial losses due to a number of operational factors impacting us or our customers or business partners, including but not limited to the following:

 

 

Our business is dependent upon the willingness and ability of our customers to conduct banking and other financial transactions. The spread of COVID-19 could disrupt the business, activities, and operations of our customers, cause a decline in demand for our products and services, including loans and deposits which may result in a significant decrease in business and would negatively impact our liquidity position, and our growth strategy.

 

Our financial results could also be impacted due to an inability of our customers to meet their loan commitments due to job losses or other losses associated with impacts of the disease, and could also result in increased risk of delinquencies, defaults, foreclosures, declining collateral values and the ability of our borrowers to repay their loans resulting in losses to our Bank.

 

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Based on a review of the appropriateness of the allowance for loan losses at December 31, 2020, we recorded a provision for credit losses of $57.5 million in the year ended December 31, 2020, primarily a result of the economic deterioration of the global economy resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. While we took steps to incorporate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economic forecast and other factors utilized to determine our allowance for loan losses, if the economic forecast or other factors worsen relative to the assumptions we utilized, our allowance for loan losses will increase accordingly in future periods.

 

Market interest rates have declined significantly. We expect that these reductions in interest rates, especially if prolonged, could adversely affect our net interest income, margins and our profitability. Our assets and liabilities may be significantly impacted by changes in interest rates.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have created significant volatility and disruption in the financial markets, and these conditions may require us to recognize an elevated level of other than temporary impairments on investment securities in our portfolio as issues of these securities are negatively impacted by the economic slowdown. Declines in fair value of investment securities in our portfolio could also reduce the unrealized gains reported as part of our consolidated comprehensive income (loss).

 

We are required to comply with minimum capital and leverage requirements. Our capital strategy is primarily to maintain capital levels through the COVID-19 pandemic, and our Board of Directors could determine, as appropriate, to reduce or forego dividends in order to maintain and/or strengthen our capital and liquidity position.

 

Current and future governmental action may temporarily require us to conduct business related to foreclosures, repossessions, payments, deferrals and other customer-related transactions differently.

 

The pandemic creates heightened risks of cyber and payment fraud, as cyber criminals try to take advantage of the disruption and increased online activity brought about by the pandemic.

 

Although we have established a pandemic response plan and procedures, our workforce has been, is, and may continue to be impacted by COVID-19. We are taking precautions to protect the safety and well-being of our employees and customers, but no assurance can be given that our actions will be adequate or appropriate, nor can we predict the level of disruption which will occur to our employees’ ability to provide customer support and service. The spread could also negatively impact availability of key personnel and employee productivity, as well as the business and operations of third-party service providers who perform critical services for us, which could adversely impact our ability to deliver products and services to our customers.

 

These and other factors may exist for an extended period of time and may continue to adversely affect our business, financial condition and operations even after the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided. The extent to which the pandemic impacts our business, financial condition and operations will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and are difficult to predict, including, but not limited to, the pandemic’s duration and severity, the actions to contain it or treat its impact (including the speed and effectiveness of vaccination programs), and how quickly and to what extent normal economic and operating conditions can resume. Even after the pandemic has subsided, we may continue to experience materially adverse impacts to our business as a result of its economic impact, including the availability of credit, adverse impacts on our liquidity and any recession that has occurred or may occur in the future. Additionally, future outbreaks of COVID-19, or other viruses, may occur.

 

There are no comparable recent events that provide guidance as to the effect the spread of COVID-19 as a global pandemic may have, and, as a result, the ultimate impact of the pandemic is highly uncertain and subject to change. We do not yet know the full extent of the impacts on our business, our operations or the global economy as a whole. Therefore, the risk factors discussed in this Annual Report on Form 10-K could be heightened, changed or be added to in the future.

 

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Unfavorable or uncertain economic and market conditions can adversely affect our industry and business.

 

Our financial performance generally, as well as the ability of borrowers to make loan payments, the value of the collateral securing those loans, and the demand for loans and our other products and services, are highly dependent upon the business and economic conditions in the markets in which we operate and in the United States as a whole. Unfavorable or uncertain economic and market conditions, including conditions triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, could lead to credit quality concerns related to repayment ability and collateral protection as well as reduced demand for our products and services. The uncertainties triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed economic growth and business spending, increased financial market volatility, and opinions vary on when the U.S. economy will recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and the rate of economic growth following recovery. Uncertainties also have arisen as a result of increased tariffs and other changes to U.S. trade policies and reactions to such changes by China and other U.S. trading partners as further discussed below. In addition, economic growth in international markets also appears to be slowing, particularly in China and Europe, which also may impact the economy and financial markets here in the United States. While we have no banking operations in Europe, the impact of Great Britain’s exit from the Europe Union on British and European businesses, financial markets, and related businesses in the United States could also adversely affect financial markets generally. Our business also could be adversely affected directly by the default of another institution or if the financial services industry experiences significant market-wide liquidity and credit problems.

 

Factors related to inflation, recession, unemployment, volatile interest rates, changes in tariffs and trade policies, international conflicts, real estate values, energy prices, state and local municipal budget deficits, consumer confidence level, government spending and any government shutdowns, the U.S. national debt, natural disasters, geopolitical events, public health crises (such as the COVID-19 pandemic) and other factors outside of our control also may assert economic pressures on consumers and businesses and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and stock price.

 

We may face the following risks, among others, in connection with these events:

 

 

Unfavorable market conditions triggered by any of these events (including, but not limited to, the COVID-19 pandemic) result in a deterioration in the credit quality of our borrowers and the demand for our products and services, an increase in the number of loan delinquencies, defaults and charge-offs, additional provisions for loan losses, adverse asset values and an overall material adverse effect on the quality of our loan portfolio.

 

 

Economic pressure on consumers and uncertainty regarding continuing economic improvement resulting from any of these events (including, but not limited to, the COVID-19 pandemic) may result in changes in consumer and business spending, borrowing and saving habits. Such conditions could have a material adverse effect on the credit quality of our loans or our business, financial condition or results of operations.

 

 

The banking industry remains heavily regulated, and notwithstanding the stated intent of the Trump administration to seek to reduce governmental regulations, changes by Congress or federal regulatory agencies to the banking and financial institutions regulatory regime and heightened legal standards and regulatory requirements may continue to be adopted in the future. Compliance with such regulation may increase our costs and limit our ability to pursue business opportunities.

 

 

The process we use to estimate losses inherent in our credit exposure requires difficult, subjective, and complex judgments, including qualitative factors that pertain to economic conditions and how these economic conditions might impair the ability of our borrowers to repay their loans. The level of uncertainty concerning economic conditions may adversely affect the accuracy of our estimates which may, in turn, impact the reliability of the process.

 

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The value of the portfolio of investment securities that we hold may be adversely affected by increasing interest rates and defaults by debtors.

 

 

There have been changes and discussions with respect to U.S. trade policies, legislation, treaties and tariffs, including trade policies and tariffs affecting other countries, including China, the European Union, Canada and Mexico and retaliatory tariffs by such countries. Tariffs and retaliatory tariffs have been imposed, and additional tariffs and retaliation tariffs have been proposed. Such tariffs, retaliatory tariffs or other trade restrictions on products and materials that our customers import or export, could cause the prices of our customers’ products to increase which could reduce demand for such products, or reduce our customer margins, and adversely impact their revenues, financial results and ability to service debt; which, in turn, could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations. In addition, to the extent changes in the political environment have a negative impact on us or on the markets in which we operate our business, results of operations and financial condition could be materially and adversely impacted in the future. It remains unclear what the U.S. Administration or foreign governments will or will not do with respect to tariffs already imposed, additional tariffs that may be imposed, or international trade agreements and policies. A trade war or other governmental action related to tariffs or international trade agreements or policies has the potential to negatively impact ours and/or our customers' costs, demand for our customers' products, and/or the U.S. economy or certain sectors thereof and, thus, adversely impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

Economic conditions in California and the other markets in which we operate may adversely affect our business.

 

Our banking operations are concentrated primarily in California, and secondarily in New York, Washington, Illinois, Texas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, and Hong Kong. The economic conditions in these local markets may be different from, and in some instances worse than, the economic conditions in the United States as a whole. Adverse economic conditions in these regions in particular could impair borrowers’ ability to service their loans, decrease the level and duration of deposits by customers, decrease demand for our loans and other services and erode the value of loan collateral. These conditions include the effects of the general decline in real estate sales and prices in many markets across the United States; declines in economic growth, business activity or investor or business confidence; limitations on the availability or increases in the cost of credit and capital; increases in inflation or interest rates; high unemployment; natural disasters, pandemics and health crises (such as the COVID-19 pandemic), and geopolitical events; state or local government insolvency or budget disputes; changes in taxes, tariffs, trade policies and other government regulations and polices; or a combination of these or other factors. These conditions could increase the amount of our non-performing assets and have an adverse effect on our efforts to collect our non-performing loans or otherwise liquidate our non-performing assets (including other real estate owned) on terms favorable to us, if at all, and could also cause a decline in demand for our products and services, or a lack of growth or a decrease in deposits, any of which may cause us to incur losses, adversely affect our capital, and hurt our business. 

 

Our loan portfolio is largely secured by real estate, and a downturn in the real estate market may adversely affect our results of operations. 

 

The real estate collateral securing our borrowers’ obligations is principally located in California, and to a lesser extent, in New York, Washington, Illinois, Texas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, and New Jersey. The value of such collateral depends upon conditions in the relevant real estate markets. These include general or local economic conditions and neighborhood characteristics, unemployment rates, real estate tax rates, the cost of operating the properties, governmental regulations and fiscal policies, acts of nature including earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes (which may result in uninsured losses), and other factors beyond our control. The direction of real estate sales and prices in many markets across the United States is not currently predictable and reductions in the value of our real estate collateral could cause us to have to foreclose on the real estate. If we are not able to realize a satisfactory amount upon foreclosure sales, we may have to own the properties, subjecting us to exposure to the risks and expenses associated with ownership. Any continued declines in real estate sales and prices coupled with any weakness in the economy and continued high unemployment will result in higher than expected loan delinquencies or problem assets, additional loan charge-offs and provisions for loan losses, a decline in demand for our products and services, or a lack of growth or a decrease in deposits, which may cause us to incur losses, adversely affect our capital, and hurt our business. 

 

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Adverse conditions in Asia and elsewhere could adversely affect our business. 

 

A substantial number of our customers have economic and cultural ties to Asia and, as a result, we are likely to feel the effects of adverse economic and political conditions in Asia, including the effects of rising inflation or slowing growth and volatility in the real estate and stock markets in China and other regions. Additionally, we maintain a branch in Hong Kong. U.S. and global economic and trade policies, military tensions, and unfavorable global economic conditions may adversely impact the Asian economies. In addition, pandemics and other public health crises, including the occurrence of a contagious disease or illness or concerns over the possibility of such crises could create economic, market and financial disruptions in the region. For example, the ongoing coronavirus outbreak emanating from China at the beginning of 2020 has resulted in massive city-wide quarantines in China, extended shutdown of businesses in the region and increased travel restrictions.

 

A significant deterioration of economic conditions in Asia could expose us to, among other things, economic and transfer risk, and we could experience an outflow of deposits by those of our customers with connections to Asia. Transfer risk may result when an entity is unable to obtain the foreign exchange needed to meet its obligations or to provide liquidity. This may adversely impact the recoverability of investments with or loans made to such entities. Adverse economic conditions in Asia, and in China or Taiwan in particular, may also negatively impact asset values and the profitability and liquidity of our customers who operate in this region. 

 

The soundness of other financial institutions could adversely affect us.

 

Financial institutions are interrelated as a result of trading, clearing, counterparty or other relationships. We have exposure to many different industries and counterparties, and we routinely execute transactions with counterparties in the financial industry, including brokers and dealers, commercial banks, investment banks, and other institutions. Many of these transactions expose us to credit risk in the event of default of our counterparty. In addition, our credit risk may be exacerbated when the collateral held by us cannot be realized upon or is liquidated at prices not sufficient to recover the full amount of the financial instrument exposure due us. The failure of financial institutions can also result in increased FDIC assessments for the Deposit Insurance Fund. Any such losses or increased assessments could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.

 

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Credit, Interest Rate and Liquidity Risks

 

We may be required to make additional provisions for loan losses and charge off additional loans in the future, which could adversely affect our results of operations.

 

At December 31, 2020, our allowance for loan losses totaled $166.5 million and we had net charge-offs of $14.2 million for 2020. Although economic conditions in the real estate market in portions of Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties and the Central Valley of California where many of our commercial real estate and construction loan customers are based, have continue to improve, the economic recovery in these areas of California is uneven and in some areas rather slow, with relatively high and persistent unemployment, and economic growth appears to have slowed. Moreover, rising interest rates may adversely affect real estate sales and the refinancing of existing real estate loans. As of December 31, 2020, we had approximately $8.2 billion in commercial real estate and construction loans. Any deterioration in the real estate market generally and in the commercial real estate and residential building segments in particular could result in additional loan charge-offs and provisions for loan losses in the future, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, net income, and capital. In addition, a recent change in accounting standards will result in a significant change in how we recognize credit losses as further disclosed in the risk factor below entitled, “Our financial results could be adversely affected by changes in accounting standards or tax laws and regulations.”

 

The allowance for credit losses is an estimate of probable credit losses. Actual credit losses in excess of the estimate could adversely affect our results of operations and capital. 

 

A significant source of risk arises from the possibility that we could sustain losses because borrowers, guarantors, and related parties may fail to perform in accordance with the terms of their loans and leases. The underwriting and credit monitoring policies and procedures that we have adopted to address this risk may not prevent unexpected losses that could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and cash flows. The allowance for credit losses is based on management’s estimate of the probable losses from our credit portfolio. If actual losses exceed the estimate, the excess losses could adversely affect our results of operations and capital. Such excess losses could also lead to larger allowances for credit losses in future periods, which could in turn adversely affect results of operations and capital in those periods. If economic conditions differ substantially from the assumptions used in the estimate or adverse developments arise with respect to our credits, future losses may occur, and increases in the allowance may be necessary. In addition, various regulatory agencies, as an integral part of their examination process, periodically review the adequacy of our allowance. These agencies may require us to establish additional allowances based on their judgment of the information available at the time of their examinations. No assurance can be given that we will not sustain credit losses in excess of present or future levels of the allowance for credit losses.

 

Our business is subject to interest rate risk, and fluctuations in interest rates could reduce our net interest income and adversely affect our business. 

 

A substantial portion of our income is derived from the differential, or “spread,” between the interest earned on loans, investment securities, and other interest-earning assets, and the interest paid on deposits, borrowings, and other interest-bearing liabilities. The interest rate risk inherent in our lending, investing, and deposit taking activities is a significant market risk to us and our business. Income associated with interest earning assets and costs associated with interest-bearing liabilities may not be affected uniformly by fluctuations in interest rates. The magnitude and duration of changes in interest rates, events over which we have no control, may have an adverse effect on net interest income. Prepayment and early withdrawal levels, which are also impacted by changes in interest rates, can significantly affect our assets and liabilities. Increases in interest rates may adversely affect the ability of our floating rate borrowers to meet their higher payment obligations, which could in turn lead to an increase in non-performing assets and net charge-offs. 

 

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Generally, the interest rates on our interest-earning assets and interest-bearing liabilities do not change at the same rate, to the same extent, or on the same basis. Even assets and liabilities with similar maturities or periods of re-pricing may react in different degrees to changes in market interest rates. Interest rates on certain types of assets and liabilities may fluctuate in advance of changes in general market interest rates, while interest rates on other types of assets and liabilities may lag behind changes in general market rates. Certain assets, such as fixed and adjustable rate mortgage loans, have features that limit changes in interest rates on a short-term basis and over the life of the asset. Therefore, as interest rates begin to increase, if our floating rate interest-earning assets do not reprice faster than our interest-bearing liabilities in a rising rate environment, our net interest income and, in turn, our profitability, could be adversely affected.

 

We seek to minimize the adverse effects of changes in interest rates by structuring our asset-liability composition to obtain the maximum spread. We use interest rate sensitivity analysis and a simulation model to assist us in estimating the optimal asset-liability composition. However, such management tools have inherent limitations that impair their effectiveness. Moreover, the long-term effects of the Federal Reserve’s unprecedented quantitative easing and tapering off are unknown, and while interest rates have begun to increase, they remain at historically low levels. There can be no assurance that we will be successful in minimizing the adverse effects of changes in interest rates. 

 

Inflation and deflation may adversely affect our financial performance. 

 

The Consolidated Financial Statements and related financial data presented in this report have been prepared in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States. These principles require the measurement of financial position and operating results in terms of historical dollars, without considering changes in the relative purchasing power of money over time due to inflation or deflation. The primary impact of inflation on our operations is reflected in increased operating costs. Conversely, deflation will tend to erode collateral values and diminish loan quality. Virtually all of our assets and liabilities are monetary in nature. As a result, interest rates generally have a more significant impact on our performance than the general levels of inflation or deflation. Interest rates do not necessarily move in the same direction or in the same magnitude as the price of goods and services. 

 

Liquidity risk could impair our ability to fund operations and jeopardize our financial condition. 

 

Liquidity is essential to our business. An inability to raise funds through deposits, FHLB advances and other borrowings, the sale of loans, the issuance of securities and other sources could have a material adverse effect on our liquidity. Our access to funding sources in amounts adequate to finance our activities could be impaired by factors that affect us specifically or the financial services industry in general. Factors that could detrimentally impact our access to liquidity sources include a decrease in the level of our business activity due to a market downturn or adverse regulatory action against us. Deposit balances can decrease when customers perceive alternative investments as providing a better risk/return tradeoff. If customers move money out of bank deposits and into other investments, we would lose a relatively low-cost source of funds, increasing our funding costs and reducing our net interest income and net income. Our ability to acquire deposits or borrow could also be impaired by factors that are not specific to us, such as a severe disruption of the financial markets or negative views and expectations about the prospects for the financial services industry as a whole.  

 

Based on past experience, we believe that our deposit accounts are relatively stable sources of funds. If we increase interest rates paid to retain deposits, our earnings may be adversely affected, which could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Any decline in available funding could adversely impact our ability to originate loans, invest in securities, meet our expenses, pay dividends to our stockholders or to fulfill obligations such as repaying our borrowings or meeting deposit withdrawal demands, any of which could have a material adverse impact on our liquidity, business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

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If the Companys goodwill were determined to be impaired, it would result in a charge against earnings and thus a reduction in stockholders equity. 

 

The Company tests goodwill for impairment on an annual basis, or more frequently, if necessary. Quoted market prices in active markets are the best evidence of fair value and are to be used as the basis for measuring impairment, when available. Other acceptable valuation methods include present value measurements based on multiples of earnings or revenues, or similar performance measures. If the Company were to determine that the carrying amount of the goodwill exceeded its implied fair value, the Company would be required to write down the value of the goodwill on the balance sheet, adversely affecting earnings as well as capital. 

 

Operational Risks

 

We may incur significant losses as a result of ineffective risk management processes and strategies.

 

We are exposed to many types of operational risks, including liquidity risk, credit risk, market risk, interest rate risk, legal and compliance risk, strategic risk, information security risk, and reputational risk. We are also reliant upon our employees, and our operations are subject to the risk of fraud, theft or malfeasance by our employees, vendors and others. We seek to monitor and control our risk exposure through a risk and control framework encompassing a variety of separate but complementary financial, credit, operational and compliance systems, and internal control and management review processes. However, these systems and review processes and the judgments that accompany their application may not be effective and, as a result, we may not anticipate every economic and financial outcome in all market environments or the specifics and timing of such outcomes, particularly in the event of the kinds of dislocations in market conditions experienced during the recession, which highlight the limitations inherent in using historical data to manage risk. If those systems and review processes prove to be ineffective in identifying and managing risks, our business, financial condition, results of operations and the value of our common stock could be materially and adversely affected. We may also suffer severe reputational damage.

 

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Concentration of risk increases the potential for significant losses.

 

We have naturally developed concentrated exposures to those markets and asset classes in which we have specific knowledge or competency. In particular, we primarily operate in California markets with a concentration of Chinese-American individuals and businesses, and commercial and commercial real estate loans constitute a significant portion of our loan portfolio. In management's judgment, our extensive experience within these concentration areas helps us to better evaluate underwriting and other associated risks with extending credit. However, the presence of similar exposures concentrated in certain asset classes leaves us exposed to the risk of a focused downturn within a concentration area. Thus, our concentration in the California markets increases our exposure to materially higher credit losses if there is a deterioration in the economic conditions, housing conditions or real estate values in the California markets. Our concentration in commercial and commercial real estate lending also increases our exposure to risks generally associated with such lending. Our commercial and commercial real estate loans may have a greater risk of loss than residential mortgage loans, in part because these loans are generally larger or more complex to underwrite and are characterized by having a limited supply of real estate at commercially attractive locations, long delivery time frames for development and high interest rate sensitivity. Unexpected deterioration in the credit quality of our commercial or commercial real estate loan portfolios would require us to increase our provision for loan losses, which would reduce our profitability and could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. Moreover, with respect to commercial real estate loans, federal and state banking regulators are examining commercial real estate lending activity with heightened scrutiny and may require banks with higher levels of commercial real estate loans to implement more stringent underwriting, internal controls, risk management policies and portfolio stress testing, as well as possibly higher levels of allowances for losses and capital levels as a result of commercial real estate lending growth and exposures.

 

COVID-19 could have negative effects on our hospitality and CRE loans, including loans to hotels/motels, restaurants and the retail industry, which are dependent for repayment on the successful operation and management of the CRE, the strength of the CRE industry broadly and other factors outside of the borrowers control.

 

In response to COVID-19, many state and local governments have ordered certain restrictions on non-essential businesses and residents. Certain industries have been particularly hard hit, including the retail industry, the restaurant industry and the travel and hospitality industry. At December 31, 2020, we had outstanding loans to retail businesses/properties of $1.7 billion, or 11% of total loans, hotels & resorts of $298.9 million, or 2% of total loans, and restaurants of $160.3 million, or 1% of total loans. Our CRE loans are dependent on the profitable operation and management of the property securing the loan and its cash flows. The continued spread of COVID-19 could result in further reduction of demand for hotel rooms and related lodging and entertainment services in general, reduction in business and personal travel, reduction in discretionary spending by our borrowers’ customers, increases in employee health related costs for our customers, operational cost increases due to potential labor, food, energy, water, transportation shortages, government forced closures and travel restrictions, or other unanticipated costs related to such force majeure events like COVID-19. These conditions could have a significant adverse impact, which could be material to our borrowers, by reducing the revenue and cash flows of our borrowers, impacting the borrowers’ ability to repay the loan, increasing the risk of default by our borrowers and/or reducing the foreclosure value of CRE that serves as collateral for certain of our loans. These conditions can also lead to a decline in property sales prices and related assets and properties planned for development. Loans may also be secured by depreciating assets where any repossessed collateral for a defaulted loan may not provide an adequate source of repayment of the outstanding loan balance.

 

Any of the foregoing could negatively impact our borrowers, and their financial results, which, in turn, could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.

 

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Our commercial loan, commercial real estate loan and construction loan portfolios expose us to risks that may be greater than the risks related to our other loans.

 

Our loan portfolio includes commercial loans and commercial real estate loans, which are secured by hotels and motels, shopping/retail centers, service station and car wash, industrial and warehouse properties, and other types of commercial properties. Commercial and commercial real estate loans may carry more risk as compared to other types of lending, because they typically involve larger loan balances often concentrated with a single borrower or groups of related borrowers. This may result in larger charge-offs on commercial and commercial real estate loans on a per loan basis than those incurred with our residential or consumer loan portfolios. These loans also may expose a lender to greater credit risk than loans secured by residential real estate. The payment experience on commercial real estate loans that are secured by income producing properties are typically dependent on the successful operation of the related real estate project and thus, may subject us to adverse conditions in the real estate market or to the general economy. The collateral securing these loans typically cannot be liquidated as easily as residential real estate. If we foreclose on these loans, our holding period for the collateral typically is longer than residential properties because there are fewer potential purchasers of the collateral.

 

Additionally, many of the Bank’s commercial real estate and commercial business loans are made to small to medium sized businesses that may have a heightened vulnerability to economic conditions. Moreover, a portion of these loans have been made by us in recent years and the borrowers may not have experienced a complete business or economic cycle. Furthermore, the deterioration of our borrowers’ businesses may hinder their ability to repay their loans with us, which could adversely affect our results of operations. Any unexpected deterioration in the credit quality of our commercial or commercial real estate loan portfolios would require us to increase our provision for loan losses, which would reduce our profitability and could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

Moreover, federal and state banking regulators are examining commercial real estate lending activity with heightened scrutiny and may require banks with higher levels of commercial real estate loans to implement more stringent underwriting, internal controls, risk management policies and portfolio stress testing, as well as possibly higher levels of allowances for losses and capital levels as a result of commercial real estate lending growth and exposures. Because a significant portion of our loan portfolio is comprised of commercial real estate loans, the banking regulators may require us to maintain higher levels of capital than we would otherwise be expected to maintain, which could limit our ability to leverage our capital and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

In addition, the risks inherent in construction lending may continue to affect adversely our results of operations. Such risks include, among other things, the possibility that contractors may fail to complete, or complete on a timely basis, construction of the relevant properties; substantial cost overruns in excess of original estimates and financing; market deterioration during construction; and lack of permanent take-out financing. Loans secured by such properties also involve additional risk because they have no operating history. In these loans, loan funds are advanced upon the security of the project under construction (which is of uncertain value prior to completion of construction) and the estimated operating cash flow to be generated by the completed project. There is no assurance that such properties will be sold or leased so as to generate the cash flow anticipated by the borrower. A general decline in real estate sales and prices across the United States or locally in the relevant real estate market, a decline in demand for residential real estate, economic weakness, high rates of unemployment, and reduced availability of mortgage credit, are some of the factors that can adversely affect the borrowers’ ability to repay their obligations to us and the value of our security interest in collateral, and thereby adversely affect our results of operations and financial results. 

 

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Our investments and/or financings in certain tax-advantaged projects may not generate returns as anticipated and may have an adverse impact on our financial results.

 

We invest in and/or finance certain tax-advantaged projects promoting affordable housing and renewable energy sources. Our investments in these projects are designed to generate a return primarily through the realization of federal and state income tax credits, and other tax benefits, over specified time periods. We are subject to the risk that previously recorded tax credits, which remain subject to recapture by taxing authorities based on compliance features required to be met at the project level, will fail to meet certain government compliance requirements and will not be able to be fully realized. The possible inability to realize these tax credits and other tax benefits can have a negative impact on our financial results. The risk of not being able to realize the tax credits and other tax benefits depends on many factors outside of our control, including changes in the applicable provisions of the tax code and the ability of the projects to be completed and properly managed. 

 

Our use of appraisals in deciding whether to make a loan on or secured by real property does not ensure the value of the real property collateral. 

 

In considering whether to make a loan secured by real property, we typically require an appraisal of the property. However, an appraisal is only an estimate of the value of the property at the time the appraisal is made. If the appraisal does not reflect the amount that may be obtained upon any sale or foreclosure of the property, we may not realize an amount equal to the indebtedness secured by the property.

 

Our use of third party vendors and our other ongoing third party business relationships are subject to increasing regulatory requirements and attention.

 

We regularly use third party vendors as part of our business. We also have substantial ongoing business relationships with other third parties. These types of third party relationships are subject to increasingly demanding regulatory requirements and attention by our federal bank regulators. Recent regulation requires us to enhance our due diligence, ongoing monitoring and control over our third party vendors and other ongoing third party business relationships. In certain cases we may be required to renegotiate our agreements with these vendors to meet these enhanced requirements, which could increase our costs. We expect that our regulators will hold us responsible for deficiencies in our oversight and control of our third party relationships and in the performance of the parties with which we have these relationships. As a result, if our regulators conclude that we have not exercised adequate oversight and control over our third party vendors or other ongoing third party business relationships or that such third parties have not performed appropriately, we could be subject to enforcement actions, including civil money penalties or other administrative or judicial penalties or fines as well as requirements for customer remediation, any of which could have a material adverse effect our business, financial condition or results of operations.

 

Our deposit insurance premiums could increase in the future, which could have a material adverse impact on future earnings and financial condition.

 

The FDIC insures deposits at FDIC-insured financial institutions, including the Bank. The FDIC charges insured financial institutions premiums to maintain the Deposit Insurance Fund ("DIF") at a specific level. Unfavorable economic conditions, increased bank failures and additional failures decreased the DIF. According to the FDIC, the DIF reserve ratio reached 1.36% of total deposits as of September 30, 2018, exceeding the statutorily required minimum reserved ratio of 1.35% ahead of the September 30, 2020 deadline imposed by the Dodd-Frank Act. The FDIC has, in addition, established a higher reserve ratio of 2% as a long term goal which goes beyond what is required by statute. There is no implementation deadline for the 2% ratio. The FDIC may increase the assessment rates or impose additional special assessments in the future to keep the DIF at the statutory target level. Any increase in the Bank's FDIC premiums could have an adverse effect on its financial condition and results of operations.

 

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As we expand our business outside of California markets, including through acquisitions, we will encounter risks that could adversely affect our business and earnings. 

 

We primarily operate in California markets with a concentration of Chinese-American individuals and businesses; however, one of our strategies is to expand beyond California into other domestic markets that have concentrations of Chinese-American individuals and businesses. We currently have operations in eight other states (New York, Washington, Illinois, Texas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, and New Jersey) and in Hong Kong. In the course of this expansion, we will encounter significant risks and uncertainties that could have a material adverse effect on our operations. These risks and uncertainties include increased expenses and operational difficulties arising from, among other things, our ability to attract sufficient business in new markets, to manage operations in noncontiguous market areas, to comply with all of the various local laws and regulations, and to anticipate events or differences in markets in which we have no current experience.

 

We have engaged in expansion through acquisitions and may consider other acquisitions in the future. There are risks associated with any such expansion. These risks include, among others, incorrectly assessing the asset quality of a bank acquired in a particular transaction, encountering greater than anticipated costs in integrating acquired businesses, facing resistance from customers or employees, and being unable to profitably deploy assets acquired in the transaction. Additional country- and region-specific risks are associated with transactions outside the United States, including in China. To the extent we issue capital stock in connection with additional transactions, if any, these transactions and related stock issuances may have a dilutive effect on earnings per share and share ownership. 

 

Our earnings, financial condition, and prospects after a merger or acquisition depend in part on our ability to successfully integrate the operations of the acquired company. We may be unable to integrate operations successfully or to achieve expected cost savings. Any cost savings which are realized may be offset by losses in revenues or other charges to earnings. As with any acquisition of financial institutions, there also may be business disruptions that cause us to lose customers or cause customers to remove their accounts from us and move their business to competing financial institutions.

 

In addition, our ability to grow may be limited if we cannot make acquisitions. We compete with other financial institutions with respect to proposed acquisitions. We cannot predict if or when we will be able to identify and attract acquisition candidates or make acquisitions on favorable terms.

 

We face substantial competition from our competitors. 

 

We face substantial competition for deposits, loans, and for other banking services, as well as acquisitions, throughout our market area from the major banks and financial institutions that dominate the commercial banking industry. This may cause our cost of funds to exceed that of our competitors. These banks and financial institutions, including those with foreign ownership, may have greater resources than we do, including the ability to finance advertising campaigns and allocate their investment assets to regions of higher yield and demand and make acquisitions and invest in new banking technology. By virtue of their larger capital bases, our larger competitors have substantially greater lending limits than we do and perform certain functions, including trust services, which are not presently offered by us. We also compete for loans and deposits, as well as other banking services, such as payment services, with savings and loan associations, savings banks, brokerage houses, insurance companies, mortgage companies, credit unions, credit card companies and other financial and non-financial institutions and entities. These factors and ongoing consolidation among insured institutions in the financial services industry may materially and adversely affect our ability to market our products and services. Significant increases in the costs of monitoring and ensuring compliance with new banking regulations and the necessary costs of upgrading information technology and data processing capabilities can have a disproportionate impact on our ability to compete with larger institutions.

 

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We are dependent on key personnel and the loss of one or more of those key personnel may materially and adversely affect our prospects. 

 

Competition for qualified employees and personnel in the banking industry is intense and we believe there are a limited number of qualified persons with knowledge of, and experience in, the communities that we serve. The process of recruiting personnel with the combination of skills and attributes required to carry out our strategies is often lengthy. Our success depends to a significant degree upon our ability to attract and retain qualified management, loan origination, finance, customer service, administrative, marketing, and technical personnel and upon the continued contributions of our management and personnel. In particular, our success has been and continues to be highly dependent upon the abilities of key executives and certain other employees, including, but not limited to, our Executive Chairman of the Board, Dunson K. Cheng, our Chief Executive Officer, Chang M. Liu, and our Chief Financial Officer, Heng W. Chen.

 

Our compensation practices are subject to review and oversight by the FDIC, the DFPI, the Federal Reserve and other regulators. We may be subject to limitations on compensation practices, which may or may not affect our competitors, by the FDIC, the DFPI, the Federal Reserve or other regulators. These limitations could further affect our ability to attract and retain our executive officers and other key personnel. In April 2011 and April 2016, the Federal Reserve, other federal banking agencies and the SEC jointly published proposed rules designed to implement provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act prohibiting incentive compensation arrangements that would encourage inappropriate risk taking at covered financial institutions, which includes a bank or bank holding company with $1 billion or more of assets, such as the Bancorp and the Bank. It cannot be determined at this time whether or when a final rule will be adopted and whether compliance with such a final rule will substantially affect the manner in which we structure compensation for our executives and other employees. Depending on the nature and application of the final rules, we may not be able to successfully compete with certain financial institutions and other companies that are not subject to some or all of the rules to retain and attract executives and other high performing employees. If this were to occur, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be adversely affected, perhaps materially.

 

Natural disasters, geopolitical events, public health crises and other catastrophic events beyond our control could adversely affect us. 

 

Natural disasters such as earthquakes, landslides, wildfires, extreme weather conditions, hurricanes, floods, and other acts of nature, geopolitical events such as those involving civil unrest, changes in government regimes, terrorism or military conflict, climate change related events and pandemics and other public health crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and other catastrophic events could, among other things, (i) adversely affect our business operations and those of our customers, counterparties and service providers; (ii) cause substantial damage and loss to real and personal property; (iii) impair our borrowers’ ability to service their loans; (iv) decrease the level and duration of deposits by customers; (v) erode the value of loan collateral; (vi) result in an increase in the amount of our non-performing loans and a higher level of non-performing assets (including real estate owned), net charge-offs, and provision for loan losses; or (vii) lead to other operational difficulties and impair our ability to manage our business. We also could be adversely affected if our key personnel or a significant number of our employees were to become unavailable due to a public health crisis (such as another outbreak of a contagious disease), natural disaster, war, act of terrorism, accident, or other reason. Natural disasters, geopolitical events, public health crises and other catastrophic events could also negatively affect our customers, counterparties and service providers, as well as result in disruptions in general economic activity and the financial and real estate markets.

 

Societal responses to climate change could adversely affect our business and performance, including indirectly through impacts on our customers.

 

Concerns over the long-term impacts of climate change have led and will continue to lead to governmental efforts around the world to mitigate those impacts. Consumers and businesses also may change their behavior on their own as a result of these concerns. We and our customers will need to respond to new laws and regulations as well as consumer and business preferences resulting from climate change concerns. We and our customers may face cost increases, asset value reductions, operating process changes, and the like. The impact on our loan and other customers will likely vary depending on their specific attributes, including reliance on or role in carbon intensive activities and the impact of rising sea levels and other effects of climate change. Among the impacts to us could be a drop in demand for our products and services, particularly in certain sectors. In addition, we could face reductions in creditworthiness on the part of some customers or in the value of assets securing loans. Our efforts to take these risks into account in making lending and other decisions, including by increasing our business with climate-friendly companies, may not be effective in protecting us from the negative impact of new laws and regulations or changes in consumer or business behavior.

 

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Information, Information Technology and Privacy Risks

 

We depend on the accuracy and completeness of information about customers.

 

In deciding whether to extend credit, open a bank account or enter into other transactions with customers, we may rely on information furnished to us by or on behalf of customers, including financial statements and other financial information. We also may rely on representations of customers as to the accuracy and completeness of that information and, with respect to financial statements, on reports of independent auditors. We may further rely on invoices, contracts, and other supporting documentation provided by our customers, as well as our customers' representations that their financial statements conform to U.S. GAAP (or other applicable accounting standards in foreign markets) and present fairly, in all material respects, the financial condition, results of operations and cash flows of the customer. We also may rely on customer representations and certifications, or other audit or accountants' reports, with respect to the business and financial condition of our clients. Our financial condition, results of operations, financial reporting or reputation could be negatively affected if we rely on materially misleading, false, inaccurate or fraudulent information.

 

Our information systems may experience failures, interruptions, or breaches in security, which could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and the value of our common stock. 

 

We rely heavily on communications and information systems to conduct our business. Any failure, interruption, or breach or threatened breach of these systems could result in failures or disruptions in our customer relationship management, general ledger, deposit, loan, and other systems. In the course of providing financial services, we store personally identifiable data concerning customers and employees of customers. While we have policies and procedures designed to prevent or limit the effect of the failure, interruption, or breaches of our information systems, there can be no assurance that any such failures, interruptions, or breaches will not occur or, if they do occur, that they will be adequately addressed. Privacy laws and regulations are matters of growing public concern and are continually changing in the states in which we operate.

 

In recent periods, there has been a rise in electronic fraudulent activity, security breaches, and cyber-attacks within the financial services industry, especially in the banking sector. Fraudulent activity can take many forms and has evolved and escalated as more tools for accessing financial services emerge. Some financial institutions have reported breaches of their websites and systems, some of which have involved sophisticated and targeted attacks intended to misappropriate sensitive or confidential information, destroy or corrupt data, disable or degrade service, disrupt operations or sabotage systems. These breaches can remain undetected for an extended period of time. Other examples include debit card/credit card fraud, check fraud, mechanical devices attached to ATM machines, social engineering and phishing attacks to obtain personal information, impersonation of our clients through the use of falsified or stolen credentials, employee fraud, information theft and other malfeasance.

 

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The secure maintenance and transmission of confidential information, as well as the secure execution of transactions over our systems, are essential to protect us and our customers against fraud and security breaches and to maintain our customers’ confidence. Increases in criminal activity levels and sophistication, advances in computer capabilities, and other developments could result in a compromise or breach of the technology, processes, and controls that we use to prevent fraudulent transactions or to protect data about us, our customers, and underlying transactions, as well as the technology used by our customers to access our systems. Cyber security risks may also occur with our third-party service providers, and may interfere with their ability to fulfill their contractual obligations to us, with attendant potential for financial loss or liability that could adversely affect our financial condition or results of operations. These risks will likely continue to increase in the future as we continue to increase our offerings of mobile services and other Internet or web-based products.

 

The occurrence of any failures, interruptions, fraudulent activities or breaches could damage our reputation, result in a loss of customers, cause us to incur additional costs (including remediation and cyber security protection costs), disrupt our operations, affect our ability to grow our online and mobile banking services, subject us to additional regulatory scrutiny, or expose us to civil litigation and possible financial liability, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and the value of our common stock. 

 

Our need to continue to adapt our information technology systems to allow us to provide new and expanded service could present operational issues, require significant capital spending, and disrupt our business. 

 

The financial services market, including banking services, is continuing to undergo rapid changes with frequent introductions of new technology-driven products and services. In addition to better serving customers, the effective use of technology increases efficiency and may enable us to reduce costs. Our future success may depend, in part, on our ability to use technology to provide products and services that provide convenience to customers and to create additional efficiencies in our operations. As we continue to offer Internet banking and other online and mobile services to our customers, and continue to expand our existing conventional banking services, we will need to adapt our information technology systems to handle these changes in a way that meets constantly changing industry and regulatory standards. This can be very expensive and may require significant capital expenditures. In addition, our success will depend on, among other things, our ability to provide secure and reliable services, anticipate changes in technology, and efficiently develop and introduce services that are accepted by our customers and cost effective for us to provide. Some of our competitors have substantially greater resources to invest in technological improvements than we currently have. We may not be able to effectively implement new technology-driven products and services or be successful in marketing these products and services to our customers. As a result, our ability to effectively compete to retain or acquire new business may be impaired, and our business, financial condition or results of operations, may be adversely affected.

 

Managing reputational risk is important to attracting and maintaining customers, investors, and employees. 

 

Threats to our reputation can come from many sources, including adverse sentiment about financial institutions generally, unethical practices, employee misconduct, failure to deliver minimum standards of service or quality, compliance deficiencies, failure to protect confidential client information and questionable, illegal, or fraudulent activities of our customers. We have policies and procedures in place that seek to protect our reputation and promote ethical conduct, but these policies and procedures may not be fully effective. Negative publicity regarding our business, employees, or customers, with or without merit, may result in the loss of customers, investors, and employees, costly litigation, a decline in revenues, and increased governmental regulation. 

 

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Regulations relating to privacy, information security and data protection could increase our costs, affect or limit how we collect and use personal information and adversely affect our business opportunities.

 

We are subject to various privacy, information security and data protection laws, including requirements concerning security breach notification, and we could be negatively impacted by these laws. For example, our business is subject to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 which, among other things: (i) imposes certain limitations on our ability to share nonpublic personal information about our customers with nonaffiliated third parties; (ii) requires that we provide certain disclosures to customers about our information collection, sharing and security practices and afford customers the right to “opt out” of any information sharing by us with nonaffiliated third parties (with certain exceptions); and (iii) requires we develop, implement and maintain a written comprehensive information security program containing safeguards appropriate based on our size and complexity, the nature and scope of our activities, and the sensitivity of customer information we process, as well as plans for responding to data security breaches. Various state and federal banking regulators and states have also enacted data security breach notification requirements with varying levels of individual, consumer, regulatory or law enforcement notification in certain circumstances in the event of a security breach. Moreover, legislators and regulators in the United States are increasingly adopting or revising privacy, information security and data protection laws that potentially could have a significant impact on our current and planned privacy, data protection and information security-related practices, our collection, use, sharing, retention and safeguarding of consumer or employee information, and some of our current or planned business activities. This could also increase our costs of compliance and business operations and could reduce income from certain business initiatives. This includes increased privacy-related enforcement activity at the federal level, by the Federal Trade Commission, as well as at the state level, such as with regard to mobile applications.

 

Compliance with current or future privacy, data protection and information security laws (including those regarding security breach notification) affecting customer or employee data to which we are subject could result in higher compliance and technology costs and could restrict our ability to provide certain products and services, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial conditions or results of operations. Our failure to comply with privacy, data protection and information security laws could result in potentially significant regulatory or governmental investigations or actions, litigation, fines, sanctions and damage to our reputation, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

 

Regulatory, Compliance and Legal Risks

 

The banking industry is highly regulated, and the regulatory framework, together with any future legislative or regulatory changes, could limit or restrict our activities, hamper our ability to increase our assets and earnings, and materially and adversely affect our profitability.

 

We operate in a highly regulated industry and are or may become subject to regulation by federal, state, and local governmental authorities and various laws, regulations, regulatory guidelines, and judicial and administrative decisions imposing requirements or restrictions on part or all of our operations, capitalization, payment of dividends, mergers and acquisitions, investments, loans and interest rates charged, interest rates paid on deposits, and locations of offices. We also must comply with numerous federal anti-money laundering, tax withholding and reporting, and consumer protection statutes and regulations. A considerable amount of management time and resources has been devoted to the oversight of, and the development and implementation of controls and procedures relating to, compliance with these laws and regulations, and we expect that significant time and resources will be devoted to compliance in the future. These laws and regulations mandate certain disclosure and reporting requirements and regulate the manner in which we must deal with our customers when taking deposits, making loans, collecting loans, and providing other services. We also are, or may become subject to, examination, supervision, and additional comprehensive regulation by various federal, state, and local authorities with regard to compliance with these laws and regulations. Failure to comply with laws, regulations, or policies could result in sanctions by regulatory agencies, civil money penalties, and/or reputation damage, which could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and the value of our common stock.

 

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Because our business is highly regulated, the laws, rules, regulations, and supervisory guidance and policies applicable to us are subject to regular modification and change. Perennially, various laws, rules and regulations are proposed, which, if adopted, could impact our operations, increase our capital requirements or substantially restrict our growth and adversely affect our ability to operate profitably by making compliance much more difficult or expensive, restricting our ability to originate or sell loans, or further restricting the amount of interest or other charges or fees earned on loans or other products. The Dodd-Frank Act, for example, instituted major changes to the banking and financial institutions regulatory regimes, such as changes to Regulation Z promulgated by the CFPB that may make it more difficult for us to underwrite consumer mortgages and to compete with large national mortgage service providers. Further regulation could increase the assessment rate we are required to pay to the FDIC, adversely affecting our earnings. Other changes to statutes, regulations, or regulatory policies, including changes in interpretation or implementation of statutes, regulations, or policies, could affect us in substantial and unpredictable ways. It is very difficult to predict the competitive impact that any such changes would have on the banking and financial services industry in general or on our business in particular. Such changes may, among other things, increase the cost of doing business, limit permissible activities, or affect the competitive balance between banks and other financial institutions. See Part I — Item 1 — “Business — Regulation and Supervision.”

 

We are subject to stringent capital requirements, including those required by Basel III.  

 

The U.S. federal bank regulators have jointly adopted capital requirements on banks and bank holding companies as required by the Dodd-Frank Act, which incorporate the elements of Basel Committee’s Basel III accords and have the effect of raising our capital requirements and imposing new capital requirements beyond those previously required.  Increased regulatory capital requirements (and the associated compliance costs) whether due to the adoption of new laws and regulations, changes in existing laws and regulations, or more expansive or aggressive interpretations of existing laws and regulations, may require us to raise additional capital, or impact our ability to pay dividends or pay compensation to our executives, which could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and the value of our common stock.  If we do not meet minimum capital requirements, we will be subject to prompt corrective action by federal bank regulatory agencies. Prompt corrective action can include progressively more restrictive constraints on operations, management and capital distributions. For additional discussion regarding our capital requirements, please see “Item 1. Business – Regulation and Supervision – Capital Adequacy Requirements” above.

 

We may become subject to supervisory action by bank supervisory authorities that could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and the value of our common stock.

 

Under federal and state laws and regulations pertaining to the safety and soundness of financial institutions, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (the “FRB SF”) has authority over the Bancorp and separately the DFPI and FDIC have authority over the Bank to compel or restrict certain actions if the Bancorp or the Bank should violate any laws or regulations, if its capital should fall below adequate capital standards as a result of operating losses, or if these regulators otherwise determine that the Bancorp or the Bank have engaged in unsafe or unsound practices, including failure to exercise proper risk oversight over the many areas of the Bancorp’s and the Bank’s operations. These regulators, as well as the CFPB, also have authority over the Bancorp’s and the Bank’s compliance with various statutes and consumer protection and other regulations. Among other matters, the corrective actions that may be required of the Bancorp or the Bank following the occurrence of any of the foregoing may include, but are not limited to, requiring the Bancorp and/or the Bank to enter into informal or formal enforcement orders, including board resolutions, memoranda of understanding, written agreements, supervisory letters, commitment letters, and consent or cease and desist orders to take corrective action and refrain from unsafe and unsound practices; removing officers and directors; restricting expansion activities; assessing civil monetary penalties; and taking possession of, closing and liquidating the Bank. If we are unable to meet the requirements of any corrective actions, we could become subject to supervisory action. The terms of any such supervisory action could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and the value of our common stock.

 

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We face a risk of noncompliance and enforcement action with the Bank Secrecy Act and other anti-money laundering statutes and regulations.

 

The Bank Secrecy Act, the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, and other laws and regulations require financial institutions, among other duties, to institute and maintain an effective anti-money laundering program and file suspicious activity and currency transaction reports as appropriate. The federal Financial Crimes Enforcement Network is authorized to impose significant civil money penalties for violations of those requirements and has recently engaged in coordinated enforcement efforts with federal banking regulators, as well as with the U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Internal Revenue Service. We are also subject to increased scrutiny of compliance with the rules enforced by the Office of Foreign Assets Control and compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In addition, our Hong Kong Branch is subject to the anti-money laundering laws and regulations of Hong Kong. If our policies, procedures and systems are deemed deficient, we would be subject to liability, including fines and regulatory actions, which may include restrictions on our ability to pay dividends and the necessity to obtain regulatory approvals to proceed with certain aspects of our business plan, including our acquisition plans. Failure to maintain and implement adequate programs to combat money laundering and terrorist financing could also have serious reputational consequences for us. Any of these results could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and the value of our common stock.

 

We are subject to the CRA, fair lending and other laws and regulations, and our failure to comply with these laws and regulations could lead to material penalties.

 

The CRA, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Fair Housing Act and other fair lending laws and regulations impose nondiscriminatory lending and other requirements on financial institutions. The U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies, including the FDIC and CFPB, are responsible for enforcing these laws and regulations. A successful challenge to an institution’s performance under the CRA, fair lending and other compliance laws and regulations could result in a wide variety of sanctions, including the required payment of damages and civil money penalties, injunctive relief, imposition of restrictions on mergers and acquisitions activity and restrictions on expansion. Private parties may also have the ability to challenge an institution’s performance under fair lending laws in private class action litigation. The costs of defending, and any adverse outcome from, any such challenge could damage our reputation or could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.

 

Reforms to and uncertainty regarding LIBOR may adversely affect our business.

 

On July 27, 2017, the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”), which regulates LIBOR, announced that it will no longer persuade or compel banks to submit rates for the calculation of LIBOR after 2021. While Intercontinental Exchange Inc., the company that administers LIBOR plans to continue publishing LIBOR, liquidity in the interbank markets that those LIBOR estimates are based upon has been declining. Accordingly, there is considerable uncertainty regarding the publication of such rates beyond 2021. In April 2018, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in conjunction with the Alternative Reference Rates Committee, a steering committee comprised of large U.S. financial institutions, announced the replacement of U.S. LIBOR with a new index calculated by short-term repurchase agreements, backed by U.S. Treasury securities called the SOFR. The first publication of SOFR was released in April 2018. Whether or not SOFR attains market traction as a LIBOR replacement tool remains in question and the future of LIBOR at this time is uncertain. The uncertainty as to the nature and effect of such reforms and actions and the political discontinuance of LIBOR may adversely affect the value of and return on our financial assets and liabilities that are based on or are linked to LIBOR, our results of operations or financial condition. In addition, these reforms may also require extensive changes to the contracts that govern these LIBOR based products, as well as our systems and processes.

 

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Governmental monetary policies and intervention to stabilize the U.S. financial system may affect our business and are beyond our control.

 

The business of banking is affected significantly by the fiscal and monetary policies of the Federal government and its agencies. Such policies are beyond our control. We are particularly affected by the policies established by the Federal Reserve in relation to the supply of money and credit in the United States. The instruments of monetary policy available to the Federal Reserve can be used in varying degrees and combinations to directly affect the availability of bank loans and deposits, as well as the interest rates charged on loans and paid on deposits, and this can and does have a material effect on our business.

 

Our business and financial results could be impacted materially by adverse results in legal proceedings.

 

Various aspects of our operations involve the risk of legal liability. We have been, and expect to continue to be, named or threatened to be named as defendants in legal proceedings arising from our business activities. We establish accruals for legal proceedings when information related to the loss contingencies represented by those proceedings indicates both that a loss is probable and that the amount of the loss can be reasonably estimated, but we do not have accruals for all legal proceedings where we face a risk of loss. In addition, amounts accrued may not represent the ultimate loss to us from those legal proceedings. Thus, our ultimate losses may be higher or lower, and possibly significantly so, than the amounts accrued for loss contingencies arising from legal proceedings, and these losses could have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and the value of our common stock.

 

Liabilities from environmental regulations could materially and adversely affect our business and financial condition.

 

In the course of the Bank’s business, the Bank may foreclose and take title to real estate, and could be subject to environmental liabilities with respect to these properties. The Bank may be held liable to a governmental entity or to third parties for property damage, personal injury, investigation and clean-up costs incurred by these parties in connection with environmental contamination, or may be required to investigate or clear up hazardous or toxic substances, or chemical releases at a property. The costs associated with investigation or remediation activities could be substantial. In addition, as the owner or former owner of any contaminated site, the Bank may be subject to common law claims by third parties based on damages, and costs resulting from environmental contamination emanating from the property. If the Bank ever becomes subject to significant environmental liabilities, its business, financial condition, results of operations and the value of our common stock could be materially and adversely affected.  

 

Changes in accounting standards or tax laws and regulations could adversely affect our financial results.

 

From time to time, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (the “FASB”) and the SEC will change the financial accounting and reporting standards that govern the preparation of our financial statements. In addition, from time to time, federal and state taxing authorities will change the tax laws and regulations, and their interpretations. These changes and their effects can be difficult to predict and can materially and adversely impact how we record and report our financial condition and results of operations.  

 

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For example, the FASB recently issued an accounting standard update that will result in a significant change in how we recognize credit losses and may have a material impact on our financial condition or results of operations. This accounting standard update, “Financial Instruments-Credit Losses (Topic 326), Measurement of Credit Losses on Financial Instruments,” replaces the incurred loss impairment methodology under GAAP with a methodology that reflects lifetime expected credit losses (“CECL”) and requires consideration of a broader range of reasonable and supportable information for credit loss estimates. Under the CECL model, we are required to present certain financial assets carried at amortized cost, such as loans held for investment and held-to-maturity debt securities, at the net amount expected to be collected. The measurement of expected credit losses is to be based on information about past events, including historical experience, current conditions, and reasonable and supportable forecasts that affect the collectability of the reported amount. This measurement takes place at the time the financial asset is first added to the balance sheet and periodically thereafter. This differs significantly from the “incurred loss” model required under GAAP, which delays recognition until it is probable a loss has been incurred. Accordingly, we expect that the adoption of the CECL model will affect how we determine our allowance for loan losses and could require us to significantly increase our allowance. Moreover, the CECL model may create more volatility in the level of our allowance for loan losses. If we are required to materially increase our level of allowance for loan losses for any reason, such increase could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

As permitted by the CARES Act, and as extended by the CAA, we have chosen to continue to defer the adoption of the CECL model until the earlier of (i) the beginning of our fiscal year that begins after the date the COVID-19 national emergency comes to an end or (ii) January 1, 2022. We are continuing to evaluate the impact the CECL model will have on our accounting, but we expect to recognize a one-time cumulative-effect adjustment to our allowance for loan losses as of the beginning of the first reporting period in which the new standard is effective. Under the final interagency rule released on December, 21, 2018, banking organizations that experience a reduction in retained earnings due to the adoption of CECL at the beginning of the fiscal year in which it is adopted may elect to phase in the regulatory capital impact of adopting CECL over a three-year transition period. 

 

In addition, changes to tax law could increase our effective tax rates. These law changes may be retroactive to previous periods and as a result could negatively affect our current and future financial performance. For example, the recent changes in the tax laws may have an adverse effect on the market for, and valuation of, residential properties, and on the demand for such loans in the future, and could make it harder for borrowers to make their loan payments. In addition, these recent changes may also have a disproportionate effect on taxpayers in states with high residential home prices and high state and local taxes. If home ownership becomes less attractive, demand for mortgage loans could decrease. The value of the properties securing loans in our loan portfolio may be adversely impacted as a result of the changing economics of home ownership, which could require an increase in our provision for loan losses, which would reduce our profitability and could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

Risks Related to Ownership of Our Common Stock

 

The price of our common stock may fluctuate significantly, and this may make it difficult for you to sell shares of common stock owned by you at times or at prices you find attractive. 

 

The trading price of our common stock may fluctuate widely as a result of a number of factors, many of which are outside our control. In addition, the stock market is subject to fluctuations in the share prices and trading volumes that affect the market prices of the shares of many companies. These broad market fluctuations could adversely affect the market price of our common stock. Among the factors that could affect our stock price are: 

 

 

actual or anticipated quarterly fluctuations in our operating results and financial condition and prospects;

 

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changes in revenue or earnings estimates or publication of research reports and recommendations by financial analysts;

 

 

failure to meet analysts’ revenue or earnings estimates;

 

 

speculation in the press or investment community;

 

 

strategic actions by us or our competitors, such as acquisitions or restructurings;

 

 

acquisitions of other banks or financial institutions;

 

 

actions by institutional stockholders;

 

 

fluctuations in the stock price and operating results of our competitors;

 

 

general market conditions and, in particular, developments related to market conditions for the financial services industry;

 

 

proposed or adopted regulatory changes or developments;

 

 

anticipated or pending investigations, proceedings, or litigation that involve or affect us;

 

 

successful management of reputational risk; and

 

 

domestic and international economic factors, such as interest or foreign exchange rates, stock, commodity, credit, or asset valuations or volatility, unrelated to our performance.

 

The stock market and, in particular, the market for financial institution stocks, has experienced significant volatility. As a result, the market price of our common stock may be volatile. In addition, the trading volume in our common stock may fluctuate more than usual and cause significant price variations to occur. The trading price of the shares of our common stock and the value of our other securities will depend on many factors, which may change from time to time, including, without limitation, our financial condition, performance, creditworthiness and prospects, future sales of our equity or equity related securities, and other factors identified above in “Forward-Looking Statements,” and in this Item 1A — “Risk Factors.” The capital and credit markets can experience volatility and disruption. Such volatility and disruption can reach unprecedented levels, resulting in downward pressure on stock prices and credit availability for certain issuers without regard to their underlying financial strength. A significant decline in our stock price could result in substantial losses for individual stockholders and could lead to costly and disruptive securities litigation.

 

An investment in our common stock is not an insured deposit.

 

Our common stock is not a bank deposit and, therefore, is not insured against loss by the FDIC, any other deposit insurance fund or by any other public or private entity. Investment in our common stock is inherently risky for the reasons described in this “Risk Factors” section and elsewhere in this report and is subject to the same market forces that affect the price of common stock in any company. As a result, if you acquire our common stock, you could lose some or all of your investment.

 

Statutory restrictions and restrictions by our regulators on dividends and other distributions from the Bank may adversely impact us by limiting the amount of distributions the Bancorp may receive. Statutory and contractual restrictions and our regulators may also restrict the Bancorps ability to pay dividends. 

 

The ability of the Bank to pay dividends to us is limited by various regulations and statutes, including California law, and our ability to pay dividends on our outstanding stock is limited by various regulations and statutes, including Delaware law.

 

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Substantially all of the Bancorp’s cash flow comes from dividends that the Bank pays to us. Various statutory provisions restrict the amount of dividends that the Bank can pay to us without regulatory approval.

 

The Federal Reserve Board has previously issued Federal Reserve Supervision and Regulation Letter SR-09-4 that states that bank holding companies are expected to inform and consult with the Federal Reserve supervisory staff prior to taking any actions that could result in a diminished capital base, including any payment or increase in the rate of dividends. In addition, if we are not current in our payment of dividends on our Junior Subordinated Notes, we may not pay dividends on our common stock. Further, new capital conservation buffer requirements will limit the ability of the Bank to pay dividends to the Bancorp if we are not compliant with those capital cushions.

 

If the Bank were to liquidate, the Bank’s creditors would be entitled to receive distributions from the assets of the Bank to satisfy their claims against the Bank before the Bancorp, as a holder of the equity interest in the Bank, would be entitled to receive any of the assets of the Bank as a distribution or dividend.

 

The restrictions described above, together with the potentially dilutive impact of the warrant initially issued to the U.S. Treasury in connection with our participation in the TARP Capital Purchase Program and subsequently sold by the U.S. Treasury in a secondary public offering, could have a negative effect on the value of our common stock. Moreover, holders of our common stock are entitled to receive dividends only when, as and if declared by our Board of Directors. Although we have historically paid cash dividends on our common stock, we are not required to do so and our Board of Directors could reduce or eliminate our common stock dividend in the future, which could adversely affect the market price of our common stock.  

 

The issuance of preferred stock could adversely affect holders of common stock, which may negatively impact their investment. 

 

Our board of directors is authorized to issue preferred stock without any action on the part of the stockholders. Our board of directors also has the power, without stockholder approval, to set the terms of any such classes or series of preferred stock that may be issued, including voting rights, dividend rights and preferences over the common stock with respect to dividends or upon the liquidation, dissolution, or winding up of our business and other terms. If we issue preferred stock in the future that has a preference over the common stock with respect to the payment of dividends or upon liquidation, dissolution or winding up, or if we issue preferred stock with voting rights that dilute the voting power of the common stock, the rights of holders of the common stock or the market price of the common stock could be adversely affected.  

 

Certain provisions of our charter and bylaws could make the acquisition of our company more difficult. 

 

Certain provisions of our restated certificate of incorporation, as amended, and our restated bylaws, as amended, could make the acquisition of our company more difficult. These provisions include authorized but unissued shares of preferred and common stock that may be issued without stockholder approval; three classes of directors serving staggered terms; special requirements for stockholder proposals and nominations for director; and super-majority voting requirements in certain situations including certain types of business combinations.

 

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Our outstanding debt securities restrict our ability to pay dividends on our capital stock. 

 

We have issued an aggregate of $119.1 million in trust preferred securities (collectively, the “Trust Preferred Securities”). Payments to investors in respect of the Trust Preferred Securities are funded by distributions on certain series of securities issued by us, with similar terms to the relevant series of Trust Preferred Securities, which we refer to as the “Junior Subordinated Notes.” If we are unable to pay interest in respect of the Junior Subordinated Notes (which will be used to make distributions on the Trust Preferred Securities), or if any other event of default occurs, then we will generally be prohibited from declaring or paying any dividends or other distributions, or redeeming, purchasing or acquiring, any of our capital securities, including the common stock, during the next succeeding interest payment period applicable to any of the Junior Subordinated Notes. 

 

Moreover, any other financing agreements that we enter into in the future may limit our ability to pay cash dividends on our capital stock, including the common stock. In the event that any other financing agreements in the future restrict our ability to pay such dividends, we may be unable to pay dividends in cash on the common stock unless we can refinance amounts outstanding under those agreements. 

 

We may need to raise additional capital, which may dilute the interests of holders of our common stock or otherwise have an adverse effect on their investment. 

 

Should economic conditions deteriorate, particularly in the California commercial real estate and residential real estate markets where our business is concentrated, we may need to raise more capital to support any additional provisions for loan losses and loan charge-offs. In addition, we may need to raise more capital to meet other regulatory requirements, including new required capital standards, if our losses are higher than expected, if we are unable to meet our capital requirements, or if additional capital is required for our growth. There can be no assurance that we would succeed in raising any such additional capital, and any capital we obtain may dilute the interests of holders of our common stock, or otherwise have an adverse effect on their investment.

 

Item 1B.          Unresolved Staff Comments.

 

The Company has not received written comments regarding its periodic or current reports from the staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission that were issued not less than 180 days before the end of its 2020 fiscal year and that remain unresolved.

 

Item 2.         Properties.

 

Cathay General Bancorp

 

As of the date of the filing of this annual report, the Bancorp neither owns nor leases any real or personal property. The Bancorp uses the premises, equipment, and furniture of the Bank at 777 North Broadway, Los Angeles, California 90012 and at 9650 Flair Drive, El Monte, California 91731, in exchange for payment of a management fee to the Bank.

 

Cathay Bank

 

The Bank’s head office is located in a 36,727 square foot building in the Chinatown area of Los Angeles. The Bank owns both the building and the land upon which the building is situated. The Bank maintains certain of its administrative offices at a seven-story 102,548 square foot office building located at 9650 Flair Drive, El Monte, California 91731. The Bank also owns this building and land in El Monte.

 

The Bank owns its branch offices in Monterey Park, Alhambra, Westminster, San Gabriel, City of Industry, Cupertino, Artesia, New York City (2 locations), Flushing (3 locations), Chicago, and Rockville in the state of Maryland. In addition, the Bank has certain operating and administrative departments located at 4128 Temple City Boulevard, Rosemead, California, where it owns the building and land with approximately 27,600 square feet of space.

 

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The other branch and representative offices and other properties are leased by the Bank under leases with expiration dates ranging from June 2021 to May 2029, exclusive of renewal options. As of December 31, 2020, the Bank’s investment in premises and equipment totaled $103.0 million, net of accumulated depreciation. See Note 6 and Note 13 to the Consolidated Financial Statements.

 

Item 3.         Legal Proceedings.

 

See the information under section entitled “Legal Proceedings” in Note 12 to the Consolidated Financial Statements. That information is incorporated into this item by reference.

 

Item 4.         Mine Safety Disclosures.

 

Not Applicable.

 

PART II

 

Item 5.         Market for Registrants Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities.

 

Market Information

 

Bancorp’s common stock is listed on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol “CATY.” As of February 15, 2021, Bancorp had outstanding approximately 79,510,444 shares of common stock with approximately 1,737 holders of record. For information on Bancorp’s dividend policy and the statutory and regulatory limitations on the ability of Bancorp to pay dividends to its shareholders and on the Bank to pay dividends to Bancorp, see “Item 1. Business-Regulation and Supervision — Dividends” and “Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Capital Resources – Dividend Policy.”.

 

Securities Authorized for Issuance under Equity Compensation Plans

 

The information required by this item regarding equity compensation plans is incorporated by reference to the information set forth in Part III, Item 12 in this report.

 

Performance Graph

 

The graph and accompanying information furnished below shows the cumulative total shareholder return over the past five years assuming the investment of $100 on December 31, 2015 (and the reinvestment of dividends thereafter) in each of our common stock, the SNL Western Bank Index and the S&P 500 Index. The SNL Western Bank Index is a market-weighted index comprised of publicly traded banks and bank holding companies (including the Company) most of which are based in California and the remainder of which are based in eight other western states, including Oregon, Washington, and Nevada. We will furnish, without charge, on the written request of any person who is a stockholder of record as of the record date for the 2021 annual meeting of stockholders, a list of the companies included in the SNL Western Bank Index. Requests for this information should be addressed to May Chan, Secretary, Cathay General Bancorp, 777 North Broadway, Los Angeles, California 90012.

 

51

 

The comparisons in the graph below are based upon historical data and are not indicative of, or intended to forecast, the future performance of, or returns on, our common stock. Such information furnished herewith shall not be deemed to be incorporated by reference into any of our filings under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, and shall not be deemed to be “soliciting material” or to be “filed” under the Securities Act or the Securities Exchange Act with the Securities and Exchange Commission except to the extent that the Company specifically requests that such information be treated as soliciting material or specifically incorporates it by reference into a filing under the Securities Act or the Securities Exchange Act.

 

caty20201231_10kimg001.gif

 

 

 

       

Period Ending

 

Index

 

12/31/2015

   

12/31/2016

   

12/31/2017

   

12/31/2018

   

12/31/2019

   

12/31/2020

 

Cathay General Bancorp

    100.00       124.37       141.03       114.98       135.08       119.36  

S&P 500 Index

    100.00       111.96       136.40       130.42       171.49       203.04  

SNL Western Bank Index

    100.00       110.86       123.61       97.86       119.35       88.08  

 

52

 

Unregistered Sales of Equity Securities

 

There were no sales of any equity securities by the Company during the period covered by this Annual Report on Form 10-K that were not registered under the Securities Act.

 

Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

 

On May 7, 2019, the Board of Directors approved a stock repurchase program to buy back up to $50.0 million of Bancorp’s common stock. In 2019, the Company repurchased 741,934 shares for approximately $26.4 million at an average cost of $35.59 per share under the May 2019 repurchase program. In December 2020, the Company completed the May 2019 stock repurchase program with the repurchase of 1,541,912 shares in total for approximately $50.0 million at an average cost of $32.43 per share of Bancorp’s common stock.

 

Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

Period

(a) Total

Number of

Shares (or

Units)

Purchased

(b) Average

Price Paid

per Share

(or Unit)

(c) Total Number of

Shares (or Units)

Purchased as Part of

Publicly Announced

Plans or Programs

(d) Maximum Number

(or Approximate Dollar

Value) of Shares (or

Units) that May Yet Be

Purchased Under the

Plans or Programs

(October 1, 2020 -

October 31, 2020)

30,000

$23.50

30,000

$10,008,812

(November 1, 2020 -

November 30, 2020)

270,000

$26.07

270,000

$2,970,719

(December 1, 2020 -

December 31, 2020)

99,978

$29.71

99,978

$0

Total

399,978

$26.79

399,978

$0

 

Item 6.         Selected Financial Data.

 

The following table presents our selected historical consolidated financial data at or for each of the years presented and is derived in part from our audited Consolidated Financial Statements. The selected historical consolidated financial data should be read in conjunction with the Consolidated Financial Statements and the Notes thereto included elsewhere herein and with Part II — Item 7 — “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.”

 

53

 

Selected Consolidated Financial Data

 

   

Year Ended December 31,

 
   

2020

   

2019

   

2018

   

2017

   

2016

 
   

(Dollars in thousands, except share and per share data)

 

Income Statement

                                       

Interest income 

  $ 700,574     $ 769,267     $ 687,955     $ 576,151     $ 499,070  

Interest expense 

    148,464       194,361       122,056       80,442       81,200  

Net interest income before reversal for credit losses 

    552,110       574,906       565,899       495,709       417,870  

Provision/(reversal) for credit losses 

    57,500       (7,000 )     (4,500 )     (2,500 )     (15,650 )

Net interest income after provision/(reversal) for credit losses 

    494,610       581,906       570,399       498,209       433,520  
                                         

Net (losses)/gains from equity securities, net 

    (1,148 )     5,736       (2,787 )            

Securities gains

    1,695       211       22       1,006       4,898  

Other non-interest income 

    42,273       38,804       34,472       35,291       28,472  

Non-interest expense 

    283,465       277,288       264,419       236,199       224,690  
                                         

Income before income tax expense 

    253,965       349,369       337,687       298,307       242,200  

Income tax expense

    25,105       70,234       65,802       122,265       67,101  

Net income attributable to common stockholders

  $ 228,860     $ 279,135     $ 271,885     $ 176,042     $ 175,099  

Net income attributable to common stockholders per common share

                         

Basic 

  $ 2.88     $ 3.49     $ 3.35     $ 2.19     $ 2.21  

Diluted 

  $ 2.87     $ 3.48     $ 3.33     $ 2.17     $ 2.19  

Cash dividends paid per common share 

  $ 1.24     $ 1.24     $ 1.03     $ 0.87     $ 0.75  

Weighted-average common shares

                                       

Basic 

    79,584,560       79,999,703       81,131,269       80,262,782       79,153,762  

Diluted 

    79,777,847       80,247,893       81,607,346       81,004,550       79,929,262  
                                         

Statement of Condition

                                       

Investment securities 

  $ 1,036,550     $ 1,451,842     $ 1,242,509     $ 1,333,626     $ 1,314,345  

Net loans (1) 

    15,475,364       14,951,631       13,871,832       12,743,766       11,077,315  

Total assets 

    19,043,134       18,094,144       16,784,737       15,640,186       14,520,769  

Deposits 

    16,109,401       14,692,308       13,702,340       12,689,893       11,674,726  

Federal funds purchased and securities sold under agreements to repurchase 

                      100,000       350,000  

Advances from the Federal Home Loan

                                       

Bank 

    150,000       670,000       530,000       430,000       350,000  

Long-term debt 

    119,136       119,136       189,448       194,136       119,136  

Total equity 

    2,418,144       2,294,283       2,121,866       1,973,304       1,828,539  
                                         

Common Stock Data

                                       

Shares of common stock outstanding 

    79,508,265       79,729,419       80,501,948       80,893,379       79,610,277  

Book value per common share 

  $ 30.41     $ 28.78     $ 26.36     $ 24.26     $ 22.80  
                                         

Profitability Ratios

                                       

Return on average assets 

    1.22 %     1.61 %     1.70 %     1.19 %     1.31 %

Return on average stockholders' equity 

    9.70       12.63       13.18       9.10       9.88  

Dividend payout ratio 

    43.12       35.51       30.69       39.70       33.85  

Average equity to average assets ratio 

    12.59       12.75       12.89       13.14       13.29  

Efficiency ratio 

    47.65       44.75       44.25       44.40       49.79  

 

(1)

Net loans represent gross loans net of loans held for sale, loan participations sold, allowance for loan losses, and unamortized deferred loan fees.

 

54

 

Item 7.         Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.

 

General

 

The following discussion is intended to provide information to facilitate the understanding and assessment of the consolidated financial condition and results of operations of the Bancorp and its subsidiaries. It should be read in conjunction with this Annual Report and the audited Consolidated Financial Statements and Notes appearing elsewhere in this Annual Report. The following discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations contains forward-looking statements. These statements are based on current expectations and assumptions, which are subject to risks and uncertainties. See “Forward-Looking Statements” and "Risk Factors Summary." Actual results could differ materially because of various factors, including but not limited to those discussed in “Risk Factors,” under Part I, Item 1A of this Annual Report.

 

The Bank offers a wide range of financial services. As of the filing date of this report, the Bank operates 25 branches in Southern California, 13 branches in Northern California, 10 branches in New York State, four branches in Washington State, three branches in Illinois, two branches in Texas, one branch in Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, and New Jersey, one branch in Hong Kong, and a representative office in Beijing, in Shanghai, and in Taipei. The Bank is a commercial bank, servicing primarily individuals, professionals, and small to medium-sized businesses in the local markets in which its branches are located.

 

The financial information presented herein includes the accounts of the Bancorp, its subsidiaries, including the Bank, and the Bank’s consolidated subsidiaries. All material transactions between these entities are eliminated.

 

Critical Accounting Policies

 

The discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations are based upon our Consolidated Financial Statements, which have been prepared in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America. The preparation of the Consolidated Financial Statements requires management to make estimates and judgments that affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities, revenues and expenses, and related disclosures of contingent assets and liabilities at the date of our Consolidated Financial Statements. Actual results may differ from these estimates under different assumptions or conditions.

 

Certain accounting policies that are fundamental to understanding our financial condition and results of operations involve significant judgments and assumptions by management that have a material impact on the carrying value of certain assets and liabilities. Management considers such accounting policies to be critical accounting policies. The judgments and assumptions used by management are based on historical experience and other factors that are believed to be reasonable under the circumstances.

 

Management believes the following are critical accounting policies that require the most significant judgments and estimates used in the preparation of the Consolidated Financial Statements:

 

Allowance for Credit Losses

 

The determination of the amount of the provision for credit losses charged to operations reflects management’s current judgment about the credit quality of the loan portfolio and takes into consideration changes in lending policies and procedures, changes in economic and business conditions, changes in the nature and volume of the portfolio and in the terms of loans, changes in the experience, ability, and depth of lending management, changes in the volume and severity of past due, non-accrual, and adversely classified or graded loans, changes in the quality of the loan review system, changes in the value of underlying collateral for collateral-dependent loans, the existence and effect of any concentrations of credit and the effect of competition, legal and regulatory requirements, and other factors. The nature of the process by which we determine the appropriate allowance for loan losses requires the exercise of considerable judgment. The allowance is increased by the provision for loan losses and decreased by charge-offs when management believes the collectability of a loan is confirmed. Subsequent recoveries, if any, are credited to the allowance. A weakening of the economy or other factors that adversely affect asset quality could result in an increase in the number of delinquencies, bankruptcies, or defaults, and a higher level of non-performing assets, net charge-offs, and provision for loan losses in future periods.

 

55

 

The total allowance for credit losses consists of two components: specific allowances and general allowances. To determine the adequacy of the allowance in each of these two components, we employ two primary methodologies, the individual loan review analysis methodology and the classification migration methodology. These methodologies support the basis for determining allocations between the various loan categories and the overall adequacy of our allowance to provide for probable losses inherent in the loan portfolio. These methodologies are further supported by additional analysis of relevant factors such as the historical losses in the portfolio, and environmental factors which include trends in delinquency and non-accrual, and other significant factors, such as the national and local economy, the volume and composition of the portfolio, the strength of management and loan staff, underwriting standards, and the concentration of credit.

 

The Bank’s management allocates a specific allowance for “Impaired Credits,” in accordance with Accounting Standard Codification (“ASC”) Section 310-10-35. For non-Impaired Credits, a general allowance is established for those loans internally classified and risk graded Pass, Watch, Special Mention, or Substandard based on historical losses in the specific loan portfolio and a reserve based on environmental factors determined for that loan group. The level of the general allowance is established to provide coverage for management’s estimate of the credit risk in the loan portfolio by various loan segments not covered by the specific allowance. The allowance for credit losses is discussed in more detail in “Risk Elements of the Loan Portfolio — Allowance for Credit Losses” below. Management has reviewed the foregoing critical accounting policies and related disclosures with the Audit Committee of the Company’s Board of Directors.

 

Recent Developments: Impact of and Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

 

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant disruption in the United States and international economies and financial markets. The spread of COVID-19 in the United States has caused illness, quarantines, cancellation of events and travel, business and school shutdowns, reduction in commercial activity and financial transactions, supply chain interruptions, increased unemployment, and overall economic and financial market instability. Many states, including California, New York, Washington, Illinois, Texas, Massachusetts, Nevada and other states in which we have significant operations, have imposed restrictions on leisure, business, commercial and other activities and gatherings to seek to slow the spread of COVID-19.

 

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly heightened the level of challenges, risks and uncertainties facing our Company and its operations, including the following:

 

 

Market interest rates have declined significantly and these reductions, especially if prolonged, could adversely affect our net interest income, net interest margin and earnings.

 

 

We anticipate a potential slowdown in demand for our products and services, including the demand for traditional loans, although we believe the decline may be partially offset due to the new volume of PPP loans under the CARES Act and other governmental programs established in response to the pandemic.

 

56

 

 

The inability of our customers to meet their loan commitments due to job and other losses resulting from the pandemic could result in increased risk of delinquencies, defaults, foreclosures, and declining collateral values, resulting in losses to our Company.

 

Additional potential impacts arising from, and our anticipated responses to, the COVID-19 pandemic are set forth below. See also Item 1A Risk Factors.

 

Financial position and results of operations

 

Our financial position and results of operations as of and for the year ended December 31, 2020 have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The economic environment and uncertainty related to the pandemic, higher specific reserves for impaired loans and net charge-offs of $14.2 million during the year contributed to a $57.5 million provision for credit losses recognized during the year ended December 31, 2020. While we have not yet experienced significant write-offs related to the COVID-19 pandemic as of December 31, 2020, the continued uncertainty regarding the severity and duration of the pandemic and related economic effects will continue to affect our estimate of our allowance for credit losses and resulting provision for credit losses. To the extent the impact of the pandemic is prolonged and economic conditions worsen or persist longer than forecast, such estimates may be insufficient and change significantly in the future. Our interest income may also be negatively impacted in future periods as we continue to work with our affected borrowers to defer payments, interest, and fees. Additionally, net interest margin may be reduced generally as a result of the low rate environment. These uncertainties and the economic environment will continue to affect earnings, slow growth, and may result in deterioration of asset quality in our loan and investment portfolios.

 

The below table details our exposure to borrowers in industries generally considered to be the most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic:

 

December 31, 2020

 

Industry (1)

 

Loan Balance

   

Percent of Total

Loan Portfolio

 
   

($ in millions)

 

Restaurants

  $ 160.3       1

%

Hotels/motels

    298.9       2