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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: 000-33063

SIERRA BANCORP

(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)

California

33-0937517

(State of incorporation)

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

86 North Main Street, Porterville, California

93257

(Address of principal executive offices)

(Zip Code)

(559) 782-4900

Registrant’s telephone number, including area code

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

Title of each class

Trading Symbol

Name of each exchange on which registered

Common Stock, No Par Value

BSRR

The NASDAQ Stock Market LLC (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 Section 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 the 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 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

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.            

As of June 30, 2020, the last business day of the registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter, the aggregate market value of the voting stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant was approximately $262 million, based on the closing price reported to the registrant on that date of $18.88 per share. Shares of Common Stock held by each officer and director and each person or control group owning more than ten percent of the outstanding Common Stock have been excluded in that such persons may be deemed to be affiliates. This determination of affiliate status is not necessarily a conclusive determination for other purposes.

The number of shares of common stock of the registrant outstanding as of March 1, 2021 was 15,389,023.

Documents Incorporated by Reference:  Portions of the definitive proxy statement for the 2020 Annual Meeting of Shareholders to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission pursuant to SEC Regulation 14A are incorporated by reference in Part III, Items 10-14.

Table of Contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS

ITEM

PAGE

PART I

1

Item 1.

Business

1

Item 1A.

Risk Factors

15

Item 1B.

Unresolved Staff Comments

28

Item 2.

Properties

28

Item 3.

Legal Proceedings

28

Item 4.

Mine Safety Disclosures

28

PART II

29

Item 5.

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

29

Item 6.

Selected Financial Data

32

Item 7.

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

34

Item 7A.

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risk

66

Item 8.

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

67

Item 9.

Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

131

Item 9A.

Controls and Procedures

131

Item 9B.

Other Information

132

PART III

133

Item 10.

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

133

Item 11.

Executive Compensation

133

Item 12.

Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Shareholder Matters

133

Item 13.

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions and Director Independence

133

Item 14.

Principal Accounting Fees and Services

133

PART IV

134

Item 15.

Exhibits and Financial Statement Schedules

134

Item 16.

Form 10-K Summary

135

SIGNATURES

136

Table of Contents

PART I

ITEM 1.       BUSINESS

General

The Company

Sierra Bancorp (the “Company”) is a California corporation headquartered in Porterville, California, and is a registered bank holding company under federal banking laws. The Company was formed to serve as the holding company for Bank of the Sierra (the “Bank”), and has been the Bank’s sole shareholder since August 2001. The Company exists primarily for the purpose of holding the stock of the Bank and of such other subsidiaries it may acquire or establish. As of December 31, 2020, the Company’s only other subsidiaries were Sierra Statutory Trust II, Sierra Capital Trust III, and Coast Bancorp Statutory Trust II, which were formed solely to facilitate the issuance of capital trust pass-through securities (“TRUPS”). Pursuant to the Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”) standard on the consolidation of variable interest entities, these trusts are not reflected on a consolidated basis in the financial statements of the Company. References herein to the “Company” include Sierra Bancorp and its consolidated subsidiary, the Bank, unless the context indicates otherwise. At December 31, 2020, the Company had consolidated assets of $3.2 billion (including gross loans of $2.5 billion), liabilities totaling $2.9 billion (including deposits of $2.6 billion), and shareholders’ equity of $343.9 million. The Company’s liabilities include $35.1 million in debt obligations due to its trust subsidiaries, related to TRUPS issued by those entities.

The Bank

Bank of the Sierra, a California state-chartered bank headquartered in Porterville, California, offers a wide range of retail and commercial banking services via branch offices located throughout California’s South San Joaquin Valley, the Central Coast, Ventura County, and neighboring communities. The Bank was incorporated in September 1977, and opened for business in January 1978 as a one-branch bank with $1.5 million in capital. Our growth in the ensuing years has largely been organic in nature but includes four whole-bank acquisitions: Sierra National Bank in 2000, Santa Clara Valley Bank in 2014, Coast National Bank in 2016, and Ojai Community Bank in October 2017. See the Recent Developments section below for details on our latest acquisitions.

Our recent business activity included the establishment of a Sacramento-area (Rocklin, CA) loan production office in 2020, the Fresno-Palm branch and the purchase of the Lompoc branch in 2018, and opening de novo branches in Bakersfield and Pismo Beach and the acquisition of the Woodlake branch in 2017.  With our latest acquisitions and branching activity, the Bank now maintains administrative offices, a loan production office, and operates 40 full-service branches in the following California locations:

Porterville:

Administrative Headquarters
86 North Main Street

Main Office
90 North Main Street

West Olive Branch
1498 West Olive Avenue

Arroyo Grande:

Arroyo Grande Office
1360 East Grand Avenue

Atascadero:

Atascadero Office
7315 El Camino Real

Bakersfield:

Bakersfield California Office
4456 California Ave

Bakersfield Riverlakes Office
4060 Coffee Road

Bakersfield Ming Office
8500 Ming Avenue

Bakersfield East Hills Office
2501 Mt. Vernon Avenue

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California City:

California City Office
8031 California City Blvd.

Clovis:

Clovis Office
1835 East Shaw Avenue

Delano:

Delano Office
1126 Main Street

Dinuba:

Dinuba Office
401 East Tulare Street

Exeter:

Exeter Office
1103 West Visalia Road

Farmersville:

Farmersville Office
400 West Visalia Road

Fillmore:

Fillmore Office
527 Sespe Avenue

Fresno:

Fresno Palm Office
7391 North Palm Avenue

Fresno Shaw Office
636 East Shaw Avenue

Fresno Sunnyside Office
5775 E. Kings Canyon Rd.

Hanford:

Hanford Office
427 West Lacey Boulevard

Lindsay:

Lindsay Office
142 South Mirage Avenue

Lompoc:

Lompoc Office
705 West Central Avenue

Ojai:

Ojai Office
402 West Ojai Avenue

Paso Robles:

Paso Robles Office
1207 Spring Street

Pismo Beach:

Pismo Beach Office
1401 Dolliver Street

Rocklin:

Loan Production Office
5701 Lonetree Blvd., Ste. 113

Reedley:

Reedley Office
1095 West Manning Ave.

San Luis Obispo:

San Luis Obispo Office
500 Marsh Street

Sanger:

Sanger Office
1500 7th Street

Santa Barbara:

Santa Barbara Office
21 East Carrillo Street

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Santa Clarita:

Santa Clarita Office
26328 Citrus Street

Santa Paula:

Santa Paula Office
901 East Main Street

Selma:

Selma Office
2450 McCall Avenue

Tehachapi:

Tehachapi Downtown Office
224 West “F” Street

Tehachapi Old Town Office
21000 Mission Street

Three Rivers:

Three Rivers Office
40884 Sierra Drive

Tulare:

Tulare Office
246 East Tulare Avenue

Tulare Prosperity Office
1430 East Prosperity Avenue

Ventura:

Ventura Office
89 South California Street

Visalia:

Visalia Mooney Office
2515 South Mooney Blvd.

Visalia Downtown Office
128 East Main Street

Woodlake:

Woodlake Office
232 N. Valencia Boulevard

Complementing the Bank’s stand-alone offices are specialized lending units which include our Agricultural, SBA and Mortgage Warehouse lending divisions. We also have ATMs at all but one of our branch locations and seven non-branch locations. Furthermore, the Bank is a member of the Allpoint network, which provides our deposit customers with surcharge-free access to over 55,000 ATMs across the United States, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, and customers have access to electronic point-of-sale payment alternatives nationwide via the Pulse network. To ensure that account access preferences are addressed for all customers, we provide the following options: an internet branch which provides the ability to open deposit accounts online; an online banking option with bill-pay and mobile banking capabilities, including mobile check deposit; online lending solutions for consumers and small businesses; a customer service center that is accessible by toll-free telephone during business hours; and an automated telephone banking system that is generally accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We offer a variety of other banking products and services to complement and support our lending and deposit products, including remote deposit capture and payroll services for business customers.

Our chief products and services relate to extending loans and accepting deposits. Our lending activities cover real estate, commercial (including small business), mortgage warehouse, agricultural, and consumer loans. The bulk of our real estate loans are secured by commercial, professional office and agricultural properties, but we also offer commercial construction loans and multifamily credit facilities among other types of loans. As noted above, gross loans totaled $2.5 billion at December 31, 2020, and the percentage of our total loan and lease portfolio for each of the principal types of credit we extend was as follows: (i) loans secured by real estate (77.0%); (ii) agricultural production loans (1.8%); (iii) commercial and industrial loans and leases, including SBA loans and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans (8.5%); (iv) mortgage warehouse loans (12.5%); and (v) consumer loans (0.2%). Interest, fees, and other income on real-estate secured loans, which is by far the largest segment of our portfolio, totaled $79.2 million, or 60% of net interest plus other income in 2020, and $79.8 million, or 66% of net interest plus other income in 2019.

In addition to loans, we offer a wide range of deposit products and services for individuals and businesses including checking accounts, savings accounts, money market demand accounts, time deposits, retirement accounts, and sweep accounts. The Bank’s deposit accounts are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (the “FDIC”) up to

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maximum insurable amounts. We attract deposits throughout our market area via referrals from other customers, direct-mail campaigns, a customer-oriented product mix, and competitive pricing, and by offering convenient locations, drive-through banking, and various other delivery channels. We strive to retain our deposit customers by providing a consistently high level of service. At December 31, 2020, the consolidated Company had 123,200 deposit accounts totaling $2.6 billion, compared to 125,100 deposit accounts totaling $2.2 billion at December 31, 2019.

We have not engaged in any material research activities related to the development of new products or services during the last two fiscal years. However, our officers and employees are continually searching for ways to increase public convenience, enhance customer access to payment systems, and enable us to improve our competitive position. The cost to the Bank for these development, operations, and marketing activities cannot be calculated with any degree of certainty. We hold no patents or licenses (other than licenses required by bank regulatory agencies), franchises, or concessions. Our business has a modest seasonal component due to the heavy agricultural orientation of the Central Valley, but as our branch network has expanded to include more metropolitan areas, we have become less reliant on the agriculture-related base. We are not dependent on a single customer or group of related customers for a material portion of our core deposits, but our time deposit balances at December 31, 2020 include $120 million in deposits from the State of California, comprising less than 5% of total deposits. Furthermore, loan categories that could be considered to be concentrations include loans to lessors of non-residential buildings (32% of total loans); loans to facilitate real estate credit, including mortgage warehouse lending (13% of total loans); and loans in the hotel industry (9% of total loans).

Our efforts to comply with government and regulatory mandates on consumer protection and privacy, anti-terrorism, and other initiatives have resulted in significant ongoing expense to the Bank, including compliance staffing costs and other expenses associated with compliance-related software. However, as far as can be determined there has been no material effect upon our capital expenditures, earnings, or competitive position as a result of environmental regulation at the federal, state, or local level. The Company is not involved with chemicals or toxins that might have an adverse effect on the environment, thus its primary exposure to environmental legislation is through lending activities. The Company’s lending procedures include steps to identify and monitor this exposure in an effort to avoid any related loss or liability.

Recent Developments

On February 1, 2020, the Company added two new loan production teams – one in Northern California and the second one in Southern California.  The Northern team is based in a newly-opened dedicated loan production office in Rocklin, located in the County of Sacramento.  The Southern team is based out of our Santa Clarita Bank branch office located in Los Angeles County. These two new business development groups created an expansion of the Bank’s footprint throughout Northern and Southern California, offering business loan services not covered by a branch.

On May 18, 2018, the Company purchased most of the deposits of the Lompoc branch of Community Bank of Santa Maria, located in Santa Barbara County. The purchase also included the Lompoc branch building, the real property on which the building is located, and certain other equipment and fixed assets at their aggregate fair value of $1.7 million. The Lompoc branch is now operating as a full-service branch of Bank of the Sierra. Lompoc branch deposits totaled $38 million at the time of purchase, consisting of $32 million in non-maturity deposits and $6 million in time deposits. In accordance with GAAP, the Company recorded a $1.2 million deposit purchase premium in connection with the transaction and is amortizing that amount on a straight line basis over eight years.

Recent Accounting Pronouncements

Information on recent accounting pronouncements is contained in Note 2 to the consolidated financial statements.

Competition

The banking business in California is generally highly competitive, including in our market areas. Continued consolidation within the banking industry has heightened competition in recent periods, following on the heels of a relatively large number of FDIC-assisted takeovers of failed banks and other acquisitions of troubled financial institutions in the aftermath

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of the Great Recession. There are also a number of unregulated companies competing for business in our markets, with financial products targeted at profitable customer segments. Many of those companies are able to compete across geographic boundaries and provide meaningful alternatives to banking products and services. These competitive trends are likely to continue.

With respect to commercial bank competitors, our business is dominated by a relatively small number of major banks that operate a large number of offices within our geographic footprint. Based on June 30, 2020 FDIC combined market share data for the 31 cities within which the Company currently maintains branches, the largest portion of deposits belongs to Wells Fargo Bank with 22.2% of total combined deposits, followed by Bank of America (16.9%), JPMorgan Chase (11.8%), and Union Bank (7.8%). Bank of the Sierra ranks sixth on the 2020 market share list with 4.6% of total deposits.

In Tulare County, however, where the Bank was originally formed, we rank first for deposit market share with 19.8% of total deposits at June 30, 2020 and had the largest number of branch locations (13, including our online branch). The larger banks noted above have, among other advantages, the ability to finance wide-ranging advertising campaigns and allocate their resources to regions of highest yield and demand. They can also offer certain services that we do not provide directly but may offer indirectly through correspondent institutions, and by virtue of their greater capitalization those banks have legal lending limits that are substantially higher than ours. For loan customers whose needs exceed our legal lending limits, we may arrange for the sale, or participation, of some of the balances to financial institutions that are not within our geographic footprint.

In addition to other banks our competitors include savings institutions, credit unions, and numerous non-banking institutions such as finance companies, leasing companies, insurance companies, brokerage firms, asset management groups, mortgage banking firms and internet companies. Innovative technologies have lowered traditional barriers of entry and enabled many of these companies to offer services that were previously considered traditional banking products, and we have witnessed increased competition from companies that circumvent the banking system by facilitating payments via the internet, mobile devices, prepaid cards, and other means.

Strong competition for deposits and loans among financial institutions and non-banks alike affects interest rates and terms on which financial products are offered to customers. Mergers between financial institutions have created additional pressures within the financial services industry to streamline operations, reduce expenses, and increase revenues in order to remain competitive. Competition is also impacted by federal and state interstate banking laws which permit banking organizations to expand into other states. The relatively large California market has been particularly attractive to out-of-state institutions.

For years we have countered rising competition by offering a broad array of products with flexibility in structure and terms that cannot always be matched by our competitors. We also offer our customers community-oriented, personalized service, and rely on local promotional activity and personal contact by our employees. As noted above, layered onto our traditional personal-contact banking philosophy are technology-driven initiatives that improve customer access and convenience.

Human Capital

As of December 31, 2020 the Company had 446 full-time and 66 part-time employees. On a full-time equivalent (“FTE”) basis staffing stood at 501 at December 31, 2020, down from 513 FTE employees at December 31, 2019.

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At December 31, 2020, the population of our workforce was as follows:

Gender

% of Total

Women

75%

Men

25%

Ethnicity

% of Total

Asian

3%

Black or African American

1%

Hispanic or Latino

45%

Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander

1%

Two or more races

5%

White

45%

The Company recognizes that a diverse workforce brings fresh perspectives that can help strengthen and improve how we serve our communities.  

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic the Company established remote work arrangements with staff in an effort to consider the health and safety of its employees. At December 31, 2020, the Company had 120 employees working remotely. The Company is monitoring the current environment surrounding the pandemic and is evaluating all remote work arrangements. It is anticipated that certain positions may continue with a remote work arrangement once the pandemic is over due to efficiencies gained from such arrangements. There were no known adverse effects on financial reporting systems, internal controls over financial reporting and disclosure control and procedures from the remote work arrangements.

No employees were terminated or suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although certain branch positions that became vacant because of attrition were not immediately replaced due to temporary lobby closures and limited lobby hours. It is anticipated that approximately 20 staff vacancies will be filled after branches return to normal lobby hours sometime in March of 2021,  although the exact timing of such cannot be currently determined with any degree of certainty.

The Company has long been committed to comprehensive and competitive compensation and benefits programs as the Company recognizes that it operates in intensely competitive environments for talent. Retention of skilled and highly trained employees is critical to the Company’s strategy of being a trusted resource to its communities and strengthening relationships with its clients through employees. Community banking is often considered a relationship banking model rather than a purely transactional banking model. The Company’s employees are critical to the Company’s ability to develop and grow relationships with its clients. Recruiting talent within the Company’s footprint has always been a fundamental strategy whenever possible and is facilitated by actively participating in and holding community job fairs.  Furthering the Company’s philosophy to attract and retain a pool of talented and motivated employees who will continue to advance the purpose and contribute to the Company’s overall success, compensation and benefits programs include: equity based compensation plan, health/dental/vision insurances, supplemental insurance, life insurance, 401(K) plan, benefits under the Family Medical Leave Act, workers’ compensation, paid vacation and sick days, holiday pay, training/education, leave for bereavement, military service and jury duty.

The Company invests in its employees’ future by sponsoring and prioritizing continued education throughout its employee ranks. The Company encourages its employees to participate in educational activities, which improve or maintain their skills in their current position, as well as to enhance future opportunities at the Company. The Company's employees are notified periodically of available internal course offerings and educational seminars run by outside parties, including but not limited to the American Bankers Association and Bankers Compliance Group. Employees are also encouraged to continue their higher education at accredited colleges and universities and may receive assistance from the Company for their participation.

In order to develop a workforce that aligns with the Company’s corporate values, it regularly sponsors local community events so that its employees can better integrate themselves in communities. The Company believes that employees’ well-

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being and personal and professional development is fostered by outreach to the communities it serves. The Company’s employees’ desire for active community involvement enables the Company to sponsor a number of local community events and initiatives, including food drives that resulted in 20,000 pounds of food and resources for local food pantries during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Regulation and Supervision

Banks and bank holding companies are heavily regulated by federal and state laws and regulations. Most banking regulations are intended primarily for the protection of depositors and the deposit insurance fund and not for the benefit of shareholders. The following is a summary of certain statutes, regulations and regulatory guidance affecting the Company and the Bank. This summary is not intended to be a complete explanation of such statutes, regulations and guidance, all of which are subject to change in the future, nor does it fully address their effects and potential effects on the Company and the Bank.

Regulation of the Company Generally

The Company is a legal entity separate and distinct from the Bank and its other subsidiaries. As a bank holding company, the Company is regulated under the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956 (the “BHC Act”), and is subject to supervision, regulation and inspection by the Federal Reserve Board. The Company is also subject to certain provisions of the California Financial Code which are applicable to bank holding companies. In addition, the Company is under the jurisdiction of the SEC and is subject to the disclosure and regulatory requirements of the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, each administered by the SEC. The Company’s common stock is listed on the NASDAQ Global Select market (“NASDAQ”) with “BSRR” as its trading symbol, and the Company is subject to the rules of NASDAQ for listed companies.

The Company is a bank holding company within the meaning of the BHC Act and is registered as such with the Federal Reserve Board. A bank holding company is required to file annual reports and other information with the Federal Reserve regarding its business operations and those of its subsidiaries. In general, the BHC Act limits the business of bank holding companies to banking, managing or controlling banks and other activities that the Federal Reserve has determined to be so closely related to banking as to be a proper incident thereto, including securities brokerage services, investment advisory services, fiduciary services, and management advisory and data processing services, among others. A bank holding company that also qualifies as and elects to become a “financial holding company” may engage in a broader range of activities that are financial in nature or complementary to a financial activity (as determined by the Federal Reserve or Treasury regulations), such as securities underwriting and dealing, insurance underwriting and agency, and making merchant banking investments. The Company has not elected to become a financial holding company but may do so at some point in the future if deemed appropriate in view of opportunities or circumstances at the time.

The BHC Act requires the prior approval of the FRB for the direct or indirect acquisition of more than five percent of the voting shares of a commercial bank or its parent holding company. Acquisitions by the Bank are subject instead to the Bank Merger Act, which requires the prior approval of an acquiring bank’s primary federal regulator for any merger with or acquisition of another bank. Acquisitions by both the Company and the Bank also require the prior approval of the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (the “DFPI”) pursuant to the California Financial Code.

The Company and the Bank are deemed to be “affiliates” of each other and thus are subject to Sections 23A and 23B of the Federal Reserve Act as well as related Federal Reserve Regulation W which impose both quantitative and qualitative restrictions and limitations on transactions between affiliates. The Bank is also subject to laws and regulations requiring that all extensions of credit to our executive officers, directors, principal shareholders and related parties must, among other things, be made on substantially the same terms and follow credit underwriting procedures no less stringent than those prevailing at the time for comparable transactions with persons not related to the Bank.

Under certain conditions, the Federal Reserve has the authority to restrict the payment of cash dividends by a bank holding company as an unsafe and unsound banking practice, and may require a bank holding company to obtain the approval of the Federal Reserve prior to purchasing or redeeming its own equity securities. The Federal Reserve also has the authority to regulate the debt of bank holding companies.

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A bank holding company is required to act as a source of financial and managerial strength for its subsidiary banks and must commit resources as necessary to support such subsidiaries. The Federal Reserve may require a bank holding company to contribute additional capital to an undercapitalized subsidiary bank and may disapprove of the holding company’s payment of dividends to the shareholders in such circumstances.

Regulation of the Bank Generally

As a state chartered bank, the Bank is subject to broad federal regulation and oversight extending to all its operations by the FDIC and to state regulation by the DFPI. The Bank is also subject to certain regulations of the Federal Reserve Board.

Capital Simplification for Qualifying Community Banking Organization

The federal banking agencies published a final rule on November 13, 2019, that provided a simplified measure of capital adequacy for qualifying community banking organizations. A qualifying community banking organization that opts into the community bank leverage ratio framework and maintains a leverage ratio greater than 9 percent will be considered to have met the minimum capital requirements, the capital ratio requirements for the well capitalized category under the Prompt Corrective Action framework, and any other capital or leverage requirements to which the qualifying banking organization is subject (see below for further discussion of the requirements for well capitalized and the Prompt Corrective Action framework).  

A qualifying community banking organization with a leverage ratio of greater than 9 percent may opt into the community bank leverage ratio framework if it has average consolidated total assets of less than $10 billion, has off-balance-sheet exposures of 25% or less of total consolidated assets, and has total trading assets and trading liabilities of 5 percent or less of total consolidated assets. Further, the bank must not be an advance approaches banking organization. The final rule became effective January 1, 2020 and banks that meet the qualifying criteria can elect to use the community bank leverage framework starting with the quarter ended March 31, 2020. The Company and the Bank met the criteria outlined in the final rule and opted into the community bank leverage ratio framework in the first quarter 2020.

On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) became law. Section 4012 of the CARES Act directs the agencies to issue an interim final rule providing that, for purposes of section 201 of Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (EGRRCPA), the community bank leverage ratio shall be 8 percent, and a qualifying community banking organization whose leverage ratio falls below the community bank leverage ratio requirement established under the CARES Act shall have a reasonable grace period to satisfy the requirement.  Section 4012 of the CARES Act specifies that the interim final rule is effective during the period beginning on the date on which the agencies issue the interim final rule and ending on the sooner of the termination date of the national emergency concerning the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak declared by the President on March 13, 2020, under the National Emergencies Act, or December 31, 2020 (termination date). Since the statutory interim final rule could cease to be effective at any time before December 31, 2020, the agencies issued a separate interim final rule pursuant to section 201(b) of EGRRCPA that provides a graduated transition from the temporary 8-percent community bank leverage ratio requirement to the 9-percent community bank leverage ratio requirement as established under the 2019 final rule (transition interim final rule). Specifically, the transition interim final rule provides that, once the statutory interim final rule ceases to apply, the community bank leverage ratio will be 8 percent in the second quarter through fourth quarter of calendar year 2020, 8.5 percent in calendar year 2021, and 9 percent thereafter. The transition interim final rule also modifies the two-quarter grace period for a qualifying community banking organization to account for the graduated increase in the community bank leverage ratio requirement. The interim final rules do not make any changes to the other qualifying criteria in the community bank leverage ratio framework. The transition interim final rule extends the 8-percent community bank leverage ratio through December 31, 2020, in the event the statutory interim final rule terminates before December 31, 2020. Thus, even if the statutory interim final rule had terminated prior to December 31, 2020, the community bank leverage ratio would have continued to be set at 8 percent for the remainder of 2020. Section 201 of EGRRCPA requires a qualifying community banking organization to exceed the community bank leverage ratio established by the agencies in order to be considered to have met the generally applicable rule, any other applicable capital or leverage requirements, and, if applicable, the “well capitalized” capital ratio requirements, whereas section 4012 of the CARES Act requires that a qualifying community banking organization meet or exceed an 8 percent community bank leverage ratio to be considered the same.

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Capital Adequacy Requirements

The Company and the Bank are subject to the regulations of the Federal Reserve Board and the FDIC, respectively, governing capital adequacy. These agencies have adopted risk-based capital guidelines to provide a systematic analytical framework that imposes regulatory capital requirements based on differences in risk profiles among banking organizations, considers off-balance sheet exposures in evaluating capital adequacy, and minimizes disincentives to holding liquid, low-risk assets. Capital levels, as measured by these standards, are also used to categorize financial institutions for purposes of certain prompt corrective action regulatory provisions.

Pursuant to the adoption of final rules implementing the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision’s capital guidelines for all U.S. banks and bank holding companies with more than $500 million in assets, minimum regulatory requirements for both the quantity and quality of capital held by the Company and the Bank increased effective January 1, 2015. Furthermore, a capital class known as Common Equity Tier 1 capital was established in addition to Tier 1 capital and Tier 2 capital, and most financial institutions were given the option of a one-time election to continue to exclude accumulated other comprehensive income (“AOCI”) from regulatory capital. The Company has exercised its option to exclude AOCI from regulatory capital. The final rules also increased capital requirements for certain categories of assets, including higher-risk construction and real estate loans, certain past-due or nonaccrual loans, and certain exposures related to securitizations. The final rules permanently grandfather non-qualifying capital instruments (such as trust preferred securities and cumulative perpetual preferred stock) issued before May 19, 2010 for inclusion in the Tier 1 capital of banking organizations with total consolidated assets of less than $15 billion at December 31, 2009, subject to a limit of 25% of Tier 1 capital. All of the Company’s trust preferred securities were issued prior to that date and continue to qualify as Tier 1 capital.

Our Common Equity Tier 1 capital includes common stock, additional paid-in capital, and retained earnings, less the following: disallowed goodwill and intangibles, disallowed deferred tax assets, and any insufficient additional capital to cover the deductions. Tier 1 capital is generally defined as the sum of core capital elements, less the following: goodwill and other intangible assets, accumulated other comprehensive income, disallowed deferred tax assets, and certain other deductions. The following items are defined as core capital elements: (i) common shareholders’ equity; (ii) qualifying non-cumulative perpetual preferred stock and related surplus (and, in the case of holding companies, senior perpetual preferred stock issued to the U.S. Treasury Department pursuant to the Troubled Asset Relief Program); (iii) minority interests in the equity accounts of consolidated subsidiaries; and (iv) “restricted” core capital elements (which include qualifying trust preferred securities) up to 25% of all core capital elements. Tier 2 capital includes the following supplemental capital elements: (i) allowance for loan and lease losses (but not more than 1.25% of an institution’s risk-weighted assets); (ii) perpetual preferred stock and related surplus not qualifying as core capital; (iii) hybrid capital instruments, perpetual debt and mandatory convertible debt instruments; and, (iv) term subordinated debt and intermediate-term preferred stock and related surplus. The maximum amount of Tier 2 capital is capped at 100% of Tier 1 capital.

The final rules established a regulatory minimum of 4.5% for common equity Tier 1 capital to total risk weighted assets (“Common Equity Tier 1 RBC Ratio”), a minimum of 6.0% for Tier 1 capital to total risk weighted assets (“Tier 1 Risk-Based Capital Ratio” or “Tier 1 RBC Ratio”), a minimum of 8.0% for qualifying Tier 1 plus Tier 2 capital to total risk weighted assets (“Total Risk-Based Capital Ratio” or “Total RBC Ratio”), and a minimum of 4.0% for the Leverage Ratio, which is defined as Tier 1 capital to adjusted average assets (quarterly average assets less the disallowed capital items noted above). In addition to the other minimum risk-based capital standards, the final rules also require a Common Equity Tier 1 capital conservation buffer which became fully phased in at 2.5% of risk-weighted assets beginning on January 1, 2019. Effective January 1, 2019, the buffer effectively raises the minimum required Common Equity Tier 1 RBC Ratio to 7.0%, the Tier 1 RBC Ratio to 8.5%, and the Total RBC Ratio to 10.5%. Institutions that do not maintain the required capital buffer will become subject to progressively more stringent limitations on the percentage of earnings that can be paid out in dividends or used for stock repurchases, and on the payment of discretionary bonuses to executive management.

Based on our capital levels at December 31, 2020 and 2019, the Company and the Bank met all capital adequacy requirements to which they are subject, including utilizing the Capital Simplification for Qualifying Community Bank Organization as applicable. For more information on the Company’s capital, see Part II, Item 7, Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operation – Capital Resources. Risk-based capital ratio (“RBC”) requirements are discussed in greater detail in the following section.

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Prompt Corrective Action Provisions

Federal law requires each federal banking agency to take prompt corrective action to resolve the problems of insured financial institutions, including but not limited to those that fall below one or more of the prescribed minimum capital ratios. The federal banking agencies have by regulation defined the following five capital categories: “well capitalized” (Total RBC Ratio of 10%; Tier 1 RBC Ratio of 8%; Common Equity Tier 1 RBC Ratio of 6.5%; and Leverage Ratio of 5%); “adequately capitalized” (Total RBC Ratio of 8%; Tier 1 RBC Ratio of 6%; Common Equity Tier 1 RBC Ratio of 4.5%; and Leverage Ratio of 4%); “undercapitalized” (Total RBC Ratio of less than 8%; Tier 1 RBC Ratio of less than 6%; Common Equity Tier 1 RBC Ratio of less than 4.5%; or Leverage Ratio of less than 4%); “significantly undercapitalized” (Total RBC Ratio of less than 6%; Tier 1 RBC Ratio of less than 4%; Common Equity Tier 1 RBC Ratio of less than 3%; or Leverage Ratio less than 3%); and “critically undercapitalized” (tangible equity to total assets less than or equal to 2%). A bank may be treated as though it were in the next lower capital category if, after notice and the opportunity for a hearing, the appropriate federal agency finds an unsafe or unsound condition or practice merits a downgrade, but no bank may be treated as “critically undercapitalized” unless its actual tangible equity to assets ratio warrants such treatment. As of December 31, 2020 and 2019, both the Company and the Bank qualified as well capitalized for regulatory capital purposes, including utilizing the Capital Simplification for Qualifying Community Bank Organization, as applicable.

At each successively lower capital category, an insured bank is subject to increased restrictions on its operations. For example, a bank is generally prohibited from paying management fees to any controlling persons or from making capital distributions if to do so would cause the bank to be “undercapitalized.” Asset growth and branching restrictions apply to undercapitalized banks, which are required to submit written capital restoration plans meeting specified requirements (including a guarantee by the parent holding company, if any). “Significantly undercapitalized” banks are subject to broad regulatory authority, including among other things capital directives, forced mergers, restrictions on the rates of interest they may pay on deposits, restrictions on asset growth and activities, and prohibitions on paying bonuses or increasing compensation to senior executive officers without FDIC approval. Even more severe restrictions apply to “critically undercapitalized” banks. Most importantly, except under limited circumstances, not later than 90 days after an insured bank becomes critically undercapitalized the appropriate federal banking agency is required to appoint a conservator or receiver for the bank.

In addition to measures taken under the prompt corrective action provisions, insured banks may be subject to potential actions by the federal regulators for unsafe or unsound practices in conducting their businesses or for violations of any law, rule, regulation or any condition imposed in writing by the agency or any written agreement with the agency. Enforcement actions may include the issuance of cease and desist orders, termination of insurance on deposits (in the case of a bank), the imposition of civil money penalties, the issuance of directives to increase capital, formal and informal agreements, or removal and prohibition orders against “institution-affiliated” parties.

Safety and Soundness Standards

The federal banking agencies have also adopted guidelines establishing safety and soundness standards for all insured depository institutions. Those guidelines relate to internal controls, information systems, internal audit systems, loan underwriting and documentation, compensation, and liquidity and interest rate exposure. In general, the standards are designed to assist the federal banking agencies in identifying and addressing problems at insured depository institutions before capital becomes impaired. If an institution fails to meet the requisite standards, the appropriate federal banking agency may require the institution to submit a compliance plan and could institute enforcement proceedings if an acceptable compliance plan is not submitted or followed.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act

Legislation and regulations enacted and implemented since 2008 in response to the U.S. economic downturn and financial industry instability continue to impact most institutions in the banking sector. Most provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”), which was enacted in 2010, are now effective and have been fully implemented.

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Some aspects of Dodd-Frank are still subject to rulemaking, making it difficult to anticipate the ultimate financial impact on the Company, its customers or the financial services industry more generally. However, many provisions of Dodd-Frank are already affecting our operations and expenses, including but not limited to changes in FDIC assessments, the permitted payment of interest on demand deposits, and enhanced compliance requirements. Some of the rules and regulations promulgated or yet to be promulgated under Dodd-Frank will apply directly only to institutions much larger than ours, but could indirectly impact smaller banks, either due to competitive influences or because certain required practices for larger institutions may subsequently become expected “best practices” for smaller institutions. We could see continued attention and resources devoted by the Company to ensure compliance with the statutory and regulatory requirements engendered by Dodd-Frank.

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

On December 22, 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the “Act”) was signed into law. The Act made significant changes that impact corporate taxation, including the reduction of the maximum federal income tax rate for corporations from 35% to 21% and changes or limitations to certain tax deductions. The reduced tax rate had a favorable impact on our tax expense beginning in 2018, as our blended marginal income tax rate dropped to 29.6% in 2018 from 42.1% in 2017. The tax rate reduction also resulted in an adjustment to our deferred tax assets and liabilities to reflect their value to the Company at the lower federal tax rate of 21%, with such revaluation required in the period in which the legislation was enacted. As a result of this change, we reduced our net deferred tax asset by $2.71 million via a charge to our income tax provision in December 2017.

Deposit Insurance

The Bank’s deposits are insured up to maximum applicable limits under the Federal Deposit Insurance Act, and the Bank is subject to deposit insurance assessments to maintain the FDIC’s Deposit Insurance Fund (the “DIF”). In October 2010, the FDIC adopted a revised restoration plan to ensure that the DIF’s designated reserve ratio (“DRR”) reaches 1.35% of insured deposits by September 30, 2020, the deadline mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act. In August 2016 the FDIC announced that the DIF reserve ratio had surpassed 1.15% as of June 30, 2016 and assessment rates for most institutions were adjusted downward, but institutions with $10 billion or more in assets were assessed a quarterly surcharge which will continue until the reserve ratio reaches the statutory minimum of 1.35%. Furthermore, the restoration plan proposed an increase in the DRR to 2% of estimated insured deposits as a long-term goal for the fund. On September 30, 2018, the DIF ratio reached 1.36 percent. Because the ratio exceeded 1.35 percent, two deposit insurance assessment changes occurred under FDIC regulations: surcharges on large banks (total consolidated assets of $10 billion or more) ended, with the last surcharge on large banks being collected on December 28, 2018; and, banks with total consolidated assets of less than $10 billion were awarded credits for the portion of their assessments that contributed to the growth in the reserve ratio from 1.15 percent to 1.35 percent, to be applied when the reserve ratio is at least 1.38 percent. Bank of the Sierra received credits to reduce our FDIC assessments.

As noted above, the Dodd-Frank Act provided for a permanent increase in FDIC deposit insurance per depositor from $100,000 to $250,000 retroactive to January 1, 2008. Furthermore, effective in the second quarter of 2011, FDIC deposit insurance premium assessment rates were adjusted, and the assessment base was established as an institution’s total assets less tangible equity. We are generally unable to control the amount of premiums that we are required to pay for FDIC deposit insurance. If there are additional bank or financial institution failures or if the FDIC otherwise determines, we may be required to pay higher FDIC premiums, which could have a material adverse effect on our earnings and/or on the value of, or market for, our common stock.

In addition to DIF assessments, banks were required to pay quarterly assessments that were applied to the retirement of Financing Corporation bonds issued in the 1980’s to assist in the recovery of the savings and loan industry. The Financing Corporation bonds matured in September 2019, with a final assessment of 0.12 basis points of insured deposits in March 2019.

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Community Reinvestment Act

The Bank is subject to certain requirements and reporting obligations involving Community Reinvestment Act (“CRA”) activities. The CRA generally requires federal banking agencies to evaluate the record of a financial institution in meeting the credit needs of its local communities, including low and moderate income neighborhoods. The CRA further requires the agencies to consider a financial institution’s efforts in meeting its community credit needs when evaluating applications for, among other things, domestic branches, mergers or acquisitions, or the formation of holding companies. In measuring a bank’s compliance with its CRA obligations, the regulators utilize a performance-based evaluation system under which CRA ratings are determined by the bank’s actual lending, service, and investment performance, rather than on the extent to which the institution conducts needs assessments, documents community outreach activities or complies with other procedural requirements. In connection with its assessment of CRA performance, the FDIC assigns a rating of “outstanding,” “satisfactory,” “needs to improve” or “substantial noncompliance.” The Bank most recently received a “needs to improve” CRA assessment rating in December 2020.  

On September 21, 2020, the FDIC issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking on updating the agency’s three-decade-old CRA regulations. The objectives of the new rules include, more effectively meeting the needs of low-to-moderate-income communities and address disparities in credit access, increasing the clarity consistency and transparency of supervisory expectations and standards regarding where activities are assessed, which activities count and how eligible activities are assessed, while minimizing data collection burden, tailoring CRA supervision based on size, business model, local market conditions, etc., updating standards to reflect changes in banking over time, including the increased use of mobile and internet delivery channels, promoting community engagement, strengthening the special treatment of minority depository institutions, and recognizing that CRA and fair lending responsibilities are mutually reinforcing. The Company intends to monitor this proposal so that our CRA efforts are in compliance with any changes to the old rules once implemented.

Privacy and Data Security

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, also known as the Financial Modernization Act of 1999 (the “Financial Modernization Act”), imposed requirements on financial institutions with respect to consumer privacy. Financial institutions, however, are required to comply with state law if it is more protective of consumer privacy than the Financial Modernization Act. The Financial Modernization Act generally prohibits disclosure of consumer information to non-affiliated third parties unless the consumer has been given the opportunity to object and has not objected to such disclosure. The statute also directed federal regulators, including the Federal Reserve and the FDIC, to establish standards for the security of consumer information, and requires financial institutions to disclose their privacy policies to consumers annually.

Overdrafts

The Electronic Funds Transfer Act, as implemented by the Federal Reserve’s Regulation E, governs transfers initiated through automated teller machines (“ATMs”), point-of-sale terminals, and other electronic banking services. Regulation E prohibits financial institutions from assessing an overdraft fee for paying ATM and one-time point-of-sale debit card transactions, unless the customer affirmatively opts in to the overdraft service for those types of transactions. The opt-in provision establishes requirements for clear disclosure of fees and terms of overdraft services for ATM and one-time debit card transactions. The rule does not apply to other types of transactions, such as check, automated clearinghouse (“ACH”) and recurring debit card transactions. Additionally, in November 2010 the FDIC issued its Overdraft Guidance on automated overdraft service programs, to ensure that a bank mitigates the risks associated with offering automated overdraft payment programs and complies with all consumer protection laws and regulations.

Consumer Financial Protection and Financial Privacy

Dodd-Frank created the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (the “CFPB”) as an independent entity 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

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institutions, including the Bank, although only banks with $10 billion or more in assets are subject to examination by the CFPB. Banks with less than $10 billion in assets, including the Bank, are examined for compliance by their primary federal banking agency.

In January 2013, the CFPB issued final regulations governing consumer mortgage lending. Certain rules which became effective in January 2014 impose additional requirements on lenders, including the directive that lenders need to ensure the ability of their borrowers to repay mortgages. The CFPB also finalized a rule on escrow accounts for higher priced mortgage loans and a rule expanding the scope of the high-cost mortgage provision in the Truth in Lending Act. The CFPB also issued final rules implementing provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act that relate to mortgage servicing. In November 2013 the CFPB issued a final rule on integrated and simplified mortgage disclosures under the Truth in Lending Act and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, which became effective in October 2015.

The CFPB has broad rulemaking authority for a wide range of consumer financial laws that apply to all banks, including, among other things, the authority to prohibit “unfair, deceptive or abusive” acts and practices. Abusive acts or practices are defined as those that materially interfere with a consumer’s ability to understand a term or condition of a consumer financial product or service or take unreasonable advantage of a consumer’s: (i) lack of financial savvy, (ii) inability to protect himself in the selection or use of consumer financial products or services, or (iii) reasonable reliance on a covered entity to act in the consumer’s interests.

The Bank continues to be subject to numerous other federal and state consumer protection laws that extensively govern its relationship with its customers. Those laws include the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Truth in Lending Act, the Truth in Savings Act, the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, the Expedited Funds Availability Act, the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, the Fair Housing Act, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Right to Financial Privacy Act, the Service Members Civil Relief Act, and respective state-law counterparts to these laws, as well as state usury laws and laws regarding unfair and deceptive acts and practices. These and other laws require disclosures including the cost of credit and terms of deposit accounts, provide substantive consumer rights, prohibit discrimination in credit transactions, regulate the use of credit report information, provide financial privacy protections, prohibit unfair, deceptive and abusive practices, restrict the Company’s ability to raise interest rates and otherwise subject the Company to substantial regulatory oversight.

In addition, as is the case with all financial institutions, the Bank is required to maintain the privacy of its customers’ non-public, personal information. Such privacy requirements direct financial institutions to: (i) provide notice to customers regarding privacy policies and practices; (ii) inform customers regarding the conditions under which their non-public personal information may be disclosed to non-affiliated third parties; and (iii) give customers an option to prevent disclosure of such information to non-affiliated third parties.

Identity Theft

Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (the “FACT Act”), the Bank is required to develop and implement a written Identity Theft Prevention Program to detect, prevent and mitigate identity theft “red flags” in connection with certain existing accounts or the opening of certain accounts. Under the FACT Act, the Bank is required to adopt reasonable policies and procedures to (i) identify relevant red flags for covered accounts and incorporate those red flags into the program; (ii) detect red flags that have been incorporated into the program; (iii) respond appropriately to any red flags that are detected to prevent and mitigate identity theft; and (iv) ensure the program is updated periodically, to reflect changes in risks to customers or to the safety and soundness of the financial institution or creditor from identity theft. The Bank maintains a program to meet the requirements of the FACT Act and the Bank believes it is currently in compliance with these requirements.

Interstate Banking and Branching

The Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act of 1994 (the “Interstate Act”), together with Dodd-Frank, relaxed prior interstate branching restrictions under federal law by permitting, subject to regulatory approval, state and federally chartered commercial banks to establish branches in states where the laws permit banks chartered in such states to establish branches. The Interstate Act requires regulators to consult with community organizations before

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permitting an interstate institution to close a branch in a low-income area. Federal banking agency regulations prohibit banks from using their interstate branches primarily for deposit production and the federal banking agencies have implemented a loan-to-deposit ratio screen to ensure compliance with this prohibition. Dodd-Frank effectively eliminated the prohibition under California law against interstate branching through de novo establishment of California branches. Interstate branches are subject to certain laws of the states in which they are located. The Bank presently does not have any interstate branches.

USA Patriot Act of 2001

The impact of the USA Patriot Act of 2001 (the “Patriot Act”) on financial institutions of all kinds has been significant and wide ranging. The Patriot Act substantially enhanced anti-money laundering and financial transparency laws, and required certain regulatory authorities to adopt rules that promote cooperation among financial institutions, regulators, and law enforcement entities in identifying parties that may be involved in terrorism or money laundering. Under the Patriot Act, financial institutions are subject to prohibitions regarding specified financial transactions and account relationships, as well as enhanced due diligence and “know your customer” standards in their dealings with foreign financial institutions and foreign customers. The Patriot Act also requires all financial institutions to establish anti-money laundering programs. The Bank expanded its Bank Secrecy Act compliance staff and intensified due diligence procedures concerning the opening of new accounts to fulfill the anti-money laundering requirements of the Patriot Act, and also implemented systems and procedures to identify suspicious banking activity and report any such activity to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

Incentive Compensation

In June 2010, the FRB and the FDIC issued comprehensive final guidance on incentive compensation policies intended to help ensure that banking organizations do not undermine their own safety and soundness by encouraging excessive risk-taking. The guidance, which covers all employees who have the ability to materially affect the risk profile of an organization, either individually or as part of a group, is based upon the key principles that incentive compensation arrangements should (i) provide incentives that do not encourage risk-taking beyond the organization’s ability to effectively identify and manage risks, (ii) be compatible with effective internal controls and risk management, and (iii) be supported by strong corporate governance, including active and effective oversight by the organization’s board of directors. The regulatory agencies will review, as part of their regular risk-focused examination process, the incentive compensation arrangements of banking organizations, such as the Company, that are not “large, complex banking organizations.”  Where appropriate, the regulatory agencies will take supervisory or enforcement action to address perceived deficiencies in an institution’s incentive compensation arrangements or related risk-management, control, and governance processes. The Company believes that it is in full compliance with the regulatory guidance on incentive compensation policies.

Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002

The Company is subject to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (“Sarbanes-Oxley”) which addresses, among other issues, corporate governance, auditing and accounting, executive compensation, and enhanced and timely disclosure of corporate information. Among other things, Sarbanes-Oxley mandates chief executive and chief financial officer certifications of periodic financial reports, additional financial disclosures concerning off-balance sheet items, and accelerated share transaction reporting for executive officers, directors and 10% shareholders. In addition, Sarbanes-Oxley increased penalties for non-compliance with the Exchange Act. SEC rules promulgated pursuant to Sarbanes-Oxley impose obligations and restrictions on auditors and audit committees intended to enhance their independence from Management, and include extensive additional disclosure, corporate governance and other related rules.

Commercial Real Estate Lending Concentrations

As a part of their regulatory oversight, the federal regulators have issued guidelines on sound risk management practices with respect to a financial institution’s concentrations in commercial real estate (“CRE”) lending activities. These guidelines were issued in response to the agencies’ concerns that rising CRE concentrations might expose institutions to unanticipated earnings and capital volatility in the event of adverse changes in the commercial real estate market. The guidelines identify certain concentration levels that, if exceeded, will expose the institution to additional supervisory

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analysis with regard to the institution’s CRE concentration risk. The guidelines, as amended, are designed to promote appropriate levels of capital and sound loan and risk management practices for institutions with a concentration of CRE loans. In general, the guidelines, as amended, establish the following supervisory criteria as preliminary indications of possible CRE concentration risk: (1) the institution’s total construction, land development and other land loans represent 100% or more of Tier 1 risk-based capital plus allowance for loan and lease losses; or (2) total CRE loans as defined in the regulatory guidelines represent 300% or more of Tier 1 risk-based capital plus allowance for loan and lease losses, and the institution’s CRE loan portfolio has increased by 50% or more during the prior 36 month period.  At December 31, 2020, the Bank’s total construction, land development and other land loans represented 36% of Tier 1 risk-based capital plus allowance for loan and lease losses.  At December 31, 2020, the Bank’s total CRE loans as defined in the regulatory guidelines represented 378% of Tier 1 risk-based capital plus allowance for loan and lease losses, and the Bank’s CRE loan portfolio has increased by more than 50% during the prior 36 month period.  Therefore, the Bank believes that the guidelines are applicable to it as it has a potential concentration in CRE loans. The Bank and its board of directors have discussed the guidelines and believe that the Bank’s underwriting policies, management information systems, independent credit administration process, and monitoring of real estate loan concentrations are sufficient to address the risk management of CRE under the guidelines.

Other Pending and Proposed Legislation

Other legislative and regulatory initiatives which could affect the Company, the Bank and the banking industry in general are pending, and additional initiatives may be proposed or introduced before the United States Congress, the California legislature and other governmental bodies in the future. Such proposals, if enacted, may further alter the structure, regulation and competitive relationship among financial institutions, and may subject the Bank to increased regulation, disclosure and reporting requirements. In addition, the various banking regulatory agencies often adopt new rules and regulations to implement and enforce existing legislation. It cannot be predicted whether, or in what form, any such legislation or regulations may be enacted or the extent to which the business of the Company or the Bank would be affected thereby.

Article I. ITEM 1A.    RISK FACTORS

You should carefully consider the following risk factors and all other information contained in this Annual Report before making investment decisions concerning the Company’s common stock. The risks and uncertainties described below are not the only ones the Company faces. Additional risks and uncertainties not presently known to the Company, or that the Company currently believes are immaterial, may also adversely impact the Company’s business. If any of the events described in the following risk factors occur, the Company’s business, results of operations and financial condition could be materially adversely affected. In addition, the market price of the Company’s common stock could decline due to any of the events described in these risks.

Section 1.01 Risks Relating to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Our business has been and may in the future be adversely affected by volatile conditions in the financial markets and unfavorable economic conditions generally, including continued impact from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. National and global economies are constantly in flux, as evidenced by market volatility both recently and in years past. Future economic conditions cannot be predicted, and recurrent deterioration in the economies of the nation as a whole or in the Company’s markets could have an adverse effect, which could be material, on our business, financial condition, results of operations and future prospects, and could cause the market price of the Company’s stock to decline.

California’s San Joaquin Valley, where the Company is headquartered and has many of its branch locations, was particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on the  economy. Unemployment levels have historically been elevated in the San Joaquin Valley, including Tulare County which is our geographic center, but recessionary conditions, precipitated by the COVID-19 Great Lockdown, pushed unemployment rates to exceptionally high levels in 2020. The highest unemployment rate for Tulare County pre-pandemic was 19.3% in March 2010; the unemployment rate reached that same high of 19.3% again in April 2020. The Tulare county unemployment rate declined to 8.8% by December 2020, an uptick from the 8.1% unemployment rate for November 2020. In addition, as discussed below in connection with challenges facing the agricultural industry, the persistence of a California drought could have a significant

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negative impact on unemployment rates in our market areas. Furthermore, a drop in oil prices like the decline experienced in recent years could also negatively impact unemployment rates, particularly in Kern County.

These conditions have impacted and are expected in the future to impact-our business, results of operations, and financial condition negatively, including through lower revenue from certain of our fee-based businesses; lower net interest income resulting from lower interest rates and increased loan delinquencies; increased provisions for credit losses; impairments on the securities we hold; and decreased demand for certain of our products and services. Additionally, our liquidity and regulatory capital could be adversely impacted by volatility and disruptions in the capital and credit markets; deposit flows; and continued client draws on lines of credit as well as our participation in the Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program. Our business operations may also be disrupted if significant portions of our workforce are unable to work effectively, including because of illness, quarantines, government actions, or other restrictions in connection with the pandemic. Negative impacts from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may include:

Collateral securing our loans may decline in value, which could increase credit losses in our loan portfolio and increase the allowance for loan and lease losses.
Demand for our products and services may decline, and deposit balances may decrease making it difficult to grow assets and income.
The decline in the target federal funds rate could decrease yields on our existing and new assets that exceed the decline in our cost of interest-bearing liabilities, which may reduce our net interest margin.
Our borrowers’ actual payment performance may be worse than anticipated as loan deferrals related to the COVID-19 pandemic expire, and we may experience potential adverse impact from loan modifications and payment deferrals despite their implementation consistent with recent regulatory guidance.
The impact of the adoption of the CECL standard in 2022, which is highly dependent on unemployment rate forecasts over the life of our loans, could significantly increase the allowance for credit losses and decrease net income.

While governmental authorities have taken unprecedented measures to provide economic assistance to individual households and businesses, stabilize the markets, and support economic growth, the success of these measures is unknown, and they may not be sufficient to mitigate fully the negative impact of the ongoing pandemic. Further, some measures, such as a suspension of mortgage and other loan payments and foreclosures, may have a negative impact on our business, while our participation in other measures could result in reputational harm, litigation, or regulatory and government actions, proceedings, or penalties.

The extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic impacts our business, results of operations and financial condition will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and are difficult to predict, including, but not limited to, the duration and spread of the outbreak, its severity, the actions to contain the virus or treat its impact, and how quickly and to what extent normal economic and operating conditions can resume, particularly in California.

Our Traditional Service Delivery Channels may be Impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic. In light of the external COVID-19 threat, the Board of Directors and senior management are continuously monitoring the situation, providing frequent communications, and making adjustments and accommodations for both external clients and our employees. For the most part, branches remain open to serve our customers and local communities, with modified hours and strict social distancing protocols in place as well as limiting most of our branches to walk-up or drive-up visits. Our customers have been encouraged to utilize branch alternatives such as our ATMs, online banking, and mobile banking application in lieu of in-branch transactions. In addition, many employees are working remotely.  Travel, as well as face-to-face meeting restrictions are in effect for Bank personnel. Further, given the increase of the risk of cyber-security incidents during the pandemic, we have enhanced our cyber-security protocols. If the pandemic worsens, resurges or lasts for an extended period of time, to protect the health of the Company’s workforce and our customers, we may need to enact further precautionary measures to help minimize the risks to our employees and customers, thus potentially altering our service delivery channels and operations over a prolonged period. These changes to our traditional service delivery channels may

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negatively impact our customers’ experience of banking with us, result in loss of service fees, and increase costs through equipment and services needed to support a remote workforce, and therefore negatively impact our financial condition and results of operation.

Section 1.02 Risks Relating to the Bank and our Business

Our business has been and may in the future be adversely affected by volatile conditions in the financial markets and unfavorable economic conditions generally. National and global economies are constantly in flux, as evidenced by market volatility both recently and in years past. Future economic conditions cannot be predicted, and recurrent deterioration in the economies of the nation as a whole or in the Company’s markets could have an adverse effect, which could be material, on our business, financial condition, results of operations and future prospects, and could cause the market price of the Company’s stock to decline.

Until the recent recession caused by COVID-19, the U.S. economy had undergone a continued and gradual expansion since 2009. Financial stress on borrowers as a result of an uncertain future economic environment could still have an unfavorable effect on the ability of the Company’s borrowers to repay their loans, which could adversely affect the Company’s business, financial condition and results of operations.

Economic conditions are currently stressed although appear relatively stable in most of our local markets. The State of California has imposed mandatory restrictions on travel and prescribed rules and protocols that have directly and indirectly impacted many sectors in our local economy. The hospitality segment which is strained due to the stay at home order in place off and on throughout 2020 and the first 25 days of 2021. Adverse developments, such as, among other things, health epidemics or pandemics (or expectations about them) like the novel coronavirus, international trade disputes, inflation risks, oil price volatility, the level of U.S. debt and global economic conditions, could depress business and/or consumer confidence levels, negatively impact real estate values, and otherwise lead to economic weakness which could have one or more of the following undesirable effects on our business:

a lack of demand for loans, or other products and services offered by us;
a decline in the value of our loans or other assets secured by real estate;
a decrease in deposit balances due to increased pressure on the liquidity of our customers;
an impairment of our investment securities; or
an increase in the number of borrowers who become delinquent, file for protection under bankruptcy laws or default on their loans or other obligations to us, which in turn could result in higher levels of nonperforming assets, net charge-offs and provisions for credit losses.

Changes in interest rates could adversely affect our profitability, business and prospects. Net interest income, and therefore earnings, can be adversely affected by differences or changes in the interest rates on, or the repricing frequency of, our financial instruments.  In a period of low-interest rates, yields on new investments or loans may be lower than existing yields or lower than yields on earning assets that have prepaid or matured.  In addition, fluctuations in interest rates can affect the demand of customers for products and services, and an increase in the general level of interest rates may adversely affect the ability of certain borrowers to make variable-rate loan payments. The speed and absolute level of increase or decrease in interest rates can have a material impact on the net interest income and economic value of equity of the Bank depending on the asset liability profile at any point in time. Changes in market interest rates could have a material adverse effect on the Company’s asset quality, loan origination volume, financial condition, results of operations, and cash flows. This interest rate risk can arise from Federal Reserve Board monetary policies, as well as other economic, regulatory and competitive factors that are beyond our control.

Challenges in the agricultural industry could have an adverse effect on our customers and their ability to make payments to us, particularly in view of recent drought conditions in California and disruptions involving international trade. Difficulties experienced by the agricultural industry have led to relatively high levels of

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nonperforming assets in previous economic cycles. This is due to the fact that a considerable portion of our borrowers are involved in, or are impacted to some extent by, the agricultural industry. While a great number of our borrowers are not directly involved in agriculture, they would likely be impacted by difficulties in the agricultural industry since many jobs in our market areas are ancillary to the regular production, processing, marketing and sale of agricultural commodities.

The markets for agricultural products can be adversely impacted by increased supply from overseas competition, a drop in consumer demand, tariffs and numerous other factors. In recent periods in particular, retaliatory tariffs levied by certain countries in response to tariffs imposed by the US Government on imports from those countries have created a high degree of uncertainty and disruption in the agricultural community in California, due to the level of goods that are exported. The ripple effect of any resulting drop in commodity prices could lower borrower income and depress collateral values. Weather patterns are also of critical importance to row crop, tree fruit, and citrus production. A degenerative cycle of weather has the potential to adversely affect agricultural industries as well as consumer purchasing power, and could lead to higher unemployment throughout the San Joaquin Valley.  In recent years, the state of California experienced the worst drought in its recorded history, and it is difficult to predict if the drought will resume and how long it might last. Another looming issue that could have a major impact on the agricultural industry involves water availability and distribution rights. If the amount of water available to agriculture becomes increasingly scarce as a result of diversion to other uses, farmers may not be able to continue to produce agricultural products at a reasonable profit, which has the potential to force many out of business. Such conditions have affected and may continue to adversely affect our borrowers and, by extension, our business, and if general agricultural conditions decline our level of nonperforming assets could increase.

Another significant drop in oil prices could have an adverse impact on our customers and their ability to make payments to us, particularly in areas such as Kern County where oil production is a key economic driver. As we have experienced in the past, a drop in oil prices could lead to declines in property values and property taxes, particularly in Kern County, which is home to about three quarters of California’s oil production. The Company does not have direct exposure to oil producers, and our exposure via loans outstanding to borrowers involved in servicing oil companies totaled only $10.1 million at December 31, 2020. However, if cash flows are disrupted for our energy-related borrowers, or if other borrowers are indirectly impacted and/or non-oil property values decline, our level of nonperforming assets and loan charge-offs could increase. Furthermore, economic multipliers to a contracting oil industry include the prospects of a depressed residential housing market and a drop in commercial real estate values.

We may not be able to continue to attract and retain banking customers, and our efforts to compete may reduce our profitability. The banking business in our market areas is highly competitive with respect to virtually all products and services, which may limit our ability to attract and retain banking customers. In California generally, and in our service areas specifically, major banks dominate the commercial banking industry. Such banks have substantially greater lending limits than we have, offer certain services we cannot offer directly, and often operate with economies of scale that result in relatively low operating costs. We also compete with numerous financial and quasi-financial institutions for deposits and loans, including providers of financial services via the internet. Recent advances in technology and other changes have allowed parties to effectuate financial transactions that previously required the involvement of banks. For example, consumers can maintain funds in brokerage accounts or mutual funds that would have historically been held as bank deposits. Consumers can also complete transactions such as paying bills and transferring funds directly without the assistance of banks. The process of eliminating banks as intermediaries, known as disintermediation, could result in the loss of customer deposits and the fee income generated by those deposits. The loss of these revenue streams and access to lower cost deposits as a source of funds could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.

Moreover, with the large number of bank failures in the past decade, some customers continue to be concerned about the extent to which their deposits are insured by the FDIC. Customers may withdraw deposits in an effort to ensure that the amount they have on deposit with their bank is fully insured. Decreases in deposits may adversely affect our funding costs and net income. Ultimately, competition can and does increase our cost of funds, reduce loan yields and drive down our net interest margin, thereby reducing profitability. It can also make it more difficult for us to continue to increase the size of our loan portfolio and deposit base, and could cause us to rely more heavily on wholesale borrowings which are generally more expensive than retail deposits.

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The value of the securities in our investment portfolio may be negatively affected by market disruptions, adverse credit events or fluctuations in interest rates, which could have a material adverse impact on capital levels. Our available-for-sale investment securities are reported at their estimated fair values, and fluctuations in fair values can result from changes in market interest rates, rating agency actions, issuer defaults, illiquid markets and limited investor demand, among other things.  Under current accounting rules, as long as the change in the fair value of a security is not considered to be “other than temporary,” we directly increase or decrease accumulated other comprehensive income in shareholders’ equity by the amount of the change in fair value, net of the tax effect. Because of the size of our fixed income bond portfolio relative to total assets, a relatively large increase in market interest rates, in particular, could result in a material drop in fair values and, by extension, our capital. Investment securities that have an amortized cost in excess of their current fair value at the end of a reporting period are also evaluated for other-than-temporary impairment. If such impairment is indicated, the difference between the amortized cost and the fair value of those securities will be recorded as a charge in our income statement, which could also have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and capital levels.

We are exposed to the risk of environmental liabilities with respect to properties to which we obtain title. Approximately 77.0% of our loan portfolio at December 31, 2020 consisted of real estate loans. In the normal course of business we may foreclose and take title to real estate collateral, and could be subject to environmental liabilities with respect to those properties. We 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 clean up hazardous or toxic substances, or chemical releases at a property. The costs associated with investigation or remediation activities could be substantial. In addition, if we are the owner or former owner of a contaminated site, we may be subject to common law claims by third parties based on damages and costs resulting from environmental contamination emanating from the property. These costs and claims could adversely affect our business and prospects.

Section 1.03 Risks Related to our Loans

Concentrations of real estate loans have negatively impacted our performance in the past, and could subject us to further risks in the event of another real estate recession or natural disaster. Our loan portfolio is heavily concentrated in real estate loans, particularly commercial real estate. At December 31, 2020, 77.0% of our loan portfolio consisted of real estate loans, and a sizeable portion of the remaining loan portfolio had real estate collateral as a secondary source of repayment or as an abundance of caution. Loans on commercial buildings represented approximately 74.1% of all real estate loans, while construction/development and land loans were 3.8%, loans secured by residential properties accounted for 15.2%, and loans secured by farmland were 6.9% of real estate loans. The Company’s $8.6 million balance of nonperforming assets at December 31, 2020 includes nonperforming real estate loans totaling $6.3 million, and $1.0 million in OREO.

In past recessionary periods, the residential real estate market experienced significant deflation in property values and foreclosures occurred at relatively high rates during and after the recession. While residential real estate values in our market areas appear to have stabilized, if they were to slide again, or if commercial real estate values were to decline materially, the Company could experience additional migration into nonperforming assets. An increase in nonperforming assets could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations by reducing our income and increasing our expenses. Deterioration in real estate values might also further reduce the amount of loans the Company makes to businesses in the construction and real estate industry, which could negatively impact our organic growth prospects. Similarly, the occurrence of more natural disasters like those California has experienced recently, including fires, flooding, and earthquakes, could impair the value of the collateral we hold for real estate secured loans and negatively impact our results of operations.

Our concentration of commercial real estate, construction and land development, and commercial and industrial loans exposes us to increased lending risks. Commercial and agricultural real estate, commercial construction and land development, and commercial and industrial loans and leases (including agricultural production loans but excluding mortgage warehouse loans), which comprised approximately 75.6% of our total loan portfolio as of December 31, 2020, expose the Company to a greater risk of loss than residential real estate and consumer loans, which were a smaller percentage of the total loan portfolio. Commercial real estate and land development loans typically involve relatively large balances to a borrower or a group of related borrowers, and an adverse development with respect to a larger

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commercial loan relationship would expose us to greater risk of loss than would issues involving a smaller residential mortgage loan or consumer loan.

Moreover, banking regulators give commercial real estate loans extremely close scrutiny due to risks relating to the cyclical nature of the real estate market and risks for lenders with high concentrations of such loans. The regulators require banks with relatively high levels of CRE loans to implement enhanced underwriting standards, internal controls, risk management policies and portfolio stress testing.  If the CRE concentration risk is not properly managed, it could result in higher allowances for possible loan and lease losses. Expectations for higher capital levels have also emerged. Any required increase in our allowance for loan and lease losses could adversely affect our net income, and any requirement that we maintain higher capital levels could adversely impact financial performance measures including earnings per share and return on equity.

Repayment of our commercial loans is often dependent on the cash flows of the borrowers, which may be unpredictable, and the collateral securing these loans may fluctuate in value. At December 31, 2020, we had $253.9 million, or 10.3% of total loans, in commercial loans and leases (including SBA PPP loans, agricultural production loans but excluding mortgage warehouse loans). Commercial lending involves risks that are different from those associated with real estate lending. Real estate lending is generally considered to be collateral based lending with loan amounts based on predetermined loan to collateral values, and liquidation of the underlying real estate collateral being viewed as the primary source of repayment in the event of borrower default. Our commercial loans are primarily extended based on the cash flows of the borrowers, and secondarily on any underlying collateral provided by the borrowers. A borrower’s cash flows may be unpredictable, and collateral securing those loans may fluctuate in value. Although commercial loans are often collateralized by equipment, inventory, accounts receivable, or other business assets, the liquidation of such collateral in the event of default is often an insufficient source of repayment for a number of reasons, including uncollectible accounts receivable and obsolete or special-purpose inventories, among others.

Nonperforming assets adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition, and can take significant time to resolve. Our nonperforming loans may return to elevated levels, which would negatively impact earnings, possibly in a material way depending on the severity. We do not record interest income on non-accrual loans, thereby adversely affecting income levels. Furthermore, when we receive collateral through foreclosures and similar proceedings we are required to record the collateral at its fair market value less estimated selling costs, which may result in charges against our allowance for loan and lease losses if that value is less than the book value of the related loan. Additionally, our noninterest expense has risen materially in adverse economic cycles due to the costs of reappraising adversely classified assets, write-downs on foreclosed assets resulting from declining property values, operating costs related to foreclosed assets, legal and other costs associated with loan collections, and various other expenses that would not typically be incurred in a normal operating environment. A relatively high level of nonperforming assets also increases our risk profile and may impact the capital levels our regulators believe is appropriate in light of such risks. We have utilized various techniques such as loan sales, workouts and restructurings to manage our problem assets. Deterioration in the value of these problem assets, the underlying collateral, or in the borrowers’ performance or financial condition, could adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition. In addition, the resolution of nonperforming assets requires a significant commitment of time from Management and Staff, which can be detrimental to their performance of other responsibilities. There can be no assurance that we will avoid increases in nonperforming loans in the future.

We may experience loan and lease losses in excess of our allowance for such losses. We endeavor to limit the risk that borrowers might fail to repay; nevertheless, losses can and do occur. We have established an allowance for estimated loan and lease losses in our accounting records based on:

historical experience with our loans;
our evaluation of economic conditions;
regular reviews of the quality, mix and size of the overall loan portfolio;
a detailed cash flow analysis for nonperforming loans;

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regular reviews of delinquencies; and
the quality of the collateral underlying our loans.

At any given date, we maintain an allowance for loan and lease losses that we believe is adequate to absorb specifically identified probable losses as well as any other losses inherent in our loan portfolio as of that date. While we strive to carefully monitor credit quality and to identify loans that may become nonperforming, at any given time there may be loans in our portfolio that could result in losses but have not been identified as nonperforming or potential problem loans. We cannot be sure that we will identify deteriorating loans before they become nonperforming assets, or that we will be able to limit losses on loans that have been so identified. Changes in economic, operating and other conditions which are beyond our control, including interest rate fluctuations, deteriorating collateral values, and changes in the financial condition of borrowers may lead to an increase in our estimate of probable losses, or could cause actual loan and lease losses to exceed our current allowance. In addition, the FDIC and the DFPI, as part of their supervisory functions, periodically review our allowance for loan and lease losses. Such agencies may require us to increase our provision for loan and lease losses or to recognize further losses based on their judgment, which may be different from that of our Management. Any such increase in the allowance required by regulators could also hurt our business.

Our use of appraisals in deciding whether to make a loan on or secured by real property does not ensure the value of the collateral. In considering whether to make a loan secured by real property, we generally 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, and an error in fact or judgment could adversely affect the reliability of the appraisal. In addition, events occurring after the initial appraisal may cause the value of the real estate to decrease. As a result of any of these factors the value of the collateral backing a loan may be less than supposed, and if a default occurs we may not recover the entire outstanding balance of the loan via the liquidation of such collateral.

Section 1.04 Risks Related to our Management

We depend on our executive officers and key personnel to implement our business strategy, and could be harmed by the loss of their services. We believe that our continued growth and success depends in large part upon the skills of our management team and other key personnel. The competition for qualified personnel in the financial services industry is intense, and the loss of key personnel or an inability to attract, retain or motivate key personnel could adversely affect our business. If we are not able to retain our existing key personnel or attract additional qualified personnel, our business operations could be impaired.

Section 1.05 Risks Related to our Other Accounting Estimates

We may experience future goodwill impairment. In accordance with GAAP, we record assets acquired and liabilities assumed at their fair value with the excess of the purchase consideration over the net assets acquired resulting in the recognition of goodwill. We perform a goodwill evaluation at least annually to test for potential impairment. As part of our testing, we assess quantitative factors to determine whether it is more likely than not that the fair value of a reporting unit is less than its carrying amount. If we determine that the fair value of a reporting unit is less than its carrying amount using these quantitative factors, we must record a goodwill impairment charge based on that difference. Adverse conditions in our business climate, including a significant decline in future operating cash flows, a significant change in our stock price or market capitalization, or a deviation from our expected growth rate and performance may significantly affect the fair value of the Company and may trigger goodwill impairment losses, which could be materially adverse to our operating results and financial position. We cannot provide assurance that we will not be required to take an impairment charge in the future. Any impairment charge would have an adverse effect on our shareholders’ equity and financial results and could cause a decline in our stock price.

Changes in accounting standards may affect our performance. Our accounting policies and methods are fundamental to how we record and report our financial condition and results of operations. From time to time the FASB and SEC change the financial accounting and reporting standards that govern the preparation of our financial statements. These changes can be difficult to predict and can materially impact how we report and record our financial condition and results of operations. In some cases, we could be required to apply a new or revised standard retroactively, resulting in a retrospective adjustment to prior financial statements.

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One significant pronouncement is ASU 2016-13, which was released by the FASB in 2016 and which the Company was initially required to adopt no later than January 1, 2020 (before statutory optional deferrals as described below). ASU 2016-13 included changes to the methodology for determining the amount of the allowance for credit losses, among other things. The new credit loss model is a substantial change from the previous standard in place, as it required the Company to calculate its allowance on the basis of current expected credit losses over the lifetime of its loans (commonly referred to as the “CECL” model), instead of losses inherent in the portfolio as of a point in time. Upon implementation, institutions are required to record a cumulative-effect balance sheet adjustment for financial assets carried at amortized cost for any change in the related allowance for loan and lease losses generated by the adoption of the new standard. The Company’s preliminary evaluation indicates that when adopted, the provisions of ASU 2016-13 would impact our consolidated financial statements, particularly the level of our reserve for credit losses and shareholders’ equity, which could materially affect our financial condition and future results of operations.  In March 2020, the Company initially elected under Section 4014 of the CARES Act to defer the implementation of CECL until the earlier of when the national emergency related to the outbreak of COVID-19 ends or December 31, 2020. In December 2020, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 extended the deferral of implementation of CECL from December 31, 2020, to the earlier of the first day of the fiscal year, beginning after the national emergency terminates or January 1, 2022. The Company will continue to postpone implementation in order to provide additional time to assess better the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the expected lifetime credit losses. See Note 2 to the consolidated financial statements under “Recent Accounting Pronouncements” for additional details on ASU 2016-13 and its expected impact on the Company.

Section 1.06 Risks Related to our Growth Strategy

Growing by acquisition entails integration and certain other risks, and our financial condition and results of operations could be negatively affected if our expansion efforts are unsuccessful or we fail to manage our growth effectively. In addition to organic growth and the establishment of de novo branches, over the past several years we have engaged in expansion through acquisitions of branches and whole institutions. We may continue to pursue this growth strategy, within our current footprint and/or via geographic expansion, but there are risks associated with any such expansion. Those 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, being unable to profitably deploy assets acquired in the transaction, and regulatory compliance risks. 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. 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 potential acquisitions. We cannot predict if or when we will be able to identify and attract acquisition candidates or make acquisitions on favorable terms.

Section 1.07 Legislative and Regulatory Risks

We are subject to extensive government regulation that could limit or restrict our activities, which in turn may adversely impact our ability to increase our assets and earnings. We operate in a highly regulated environment and are subject to supervision and regulation by a number of governmental regulatory agencies, including the Federal Reserve, the DFPI and the FDIC. Regulations adopted by these agencies, which are generally intended to provide protection for depositors and customers rather than for the benefit of shareholders, govern a comprehensive range of matters relating to ownership and control of our shares, our acquisition of other companies and businesses, permissible activities for us to engage in, maintenance of adequate capital levels, and other aspects of our operations. These bank regulators possess broad authority to prevent or remedy unsafe or unsound practices or violations of law. The laws and regulations applicable to the banking industry could change at any time and we cannot predict the effects of these changes on our business, profitability or growth strategy. Increased regulation could increase our cost of compliance and adversely affect profitability.

Moreover, certain of these regulations contain significant punitive sanctions for violations, including monetary penalties, as well as imposing limitations on a bank’s ability to implement components of its business plan, such as expansion through mergers and acquisitions or the opening of new branch offices. In addition, changes in regulatory requirements may add

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costs associated with compliance efforts. Furthermore, government policy and regulation, particularly as implemented through the Federal Reserve, significantly affect credit conditions. Negative developments in the financial industry and the impact of new legislation and regulation in response to those developments could negatively impact our business operations and adversely impact our financial performance.

Our expenses could increase as a result of increases in FDIC insurance premiums or other regulatory assessments. The FDIC charges insured financial institutions a premium to maintain the DIF at a certain level. In the event that deteriorating economic conditions increase bank failures, the FDIC ensures payments of deposits up to insured limits from the DIF. Although the Bank’s FDIC insurance assessments have not increased as a result of changes in recent periods, and could possibly even be reduced in the near term, there can be no assurance that the FDIC will not increase assessment rates in the future or that the Bank will not be subject to higher assessment rates as a result of a change in its risk category, either of which could have an adverse effect on the Bank’s earnings.

Previously enacted and potential future regulations could have a significant impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Dodd-Frank, which was enacted in 2010, is having a broad impact on the financial services industry, including significant regulatory and compliance changes. Many of the requirements called for in Dodd-Frank will be implemented over time, and most will be facilitated by the enactment of regulations over the course of several years. Given the uncertainty associated with the manner in which the provisions of Dodd-Frank will be implemented, the full extent to which they will impact our operations is unclear. The changes resulting from Dodd-Frank may impact the profitability of business activities, require changes to certain business practices, impose more stringent capital, liquidity and leverage requirements or otherwise adversely affect our business. In particular, the potential impact of Dodd-Frank on our operations and activities, both currently and prospectively, include, among others:

an increase in our cost of operations due to greater regulatory oversight, supervision and examination of banks and bank holding companies, and higher deposit insurance premiums;
the limitation of our ability to expand consumer product and service offerings due to more stringent consumer protection laws and regulations;
a negative impact on our cost of funds in a rising interest rate environment, since financial institutions can now pay interest on business checking accounts;
a potential reduction in fee income, due to limits on interchange fees applicable to larger institutions which could ultimately lead to a competitive-driven reduction in the fees we receive; and
a potential increase in competition due to the elimination of the remaining barriers to de novo interstate branching.

Further, we may be required to invest significant management attention and resources to evaluate and make any changes necessary to comply with new statutory and regulatory requirements under the Dodd-Frank Act, which could negatively impact our results of operations and financial condition. We cannot predict whether there will be additional laws or reforms that would affect the U.S. financial system or financial institutions, when such changes may be adopted, how such changes may be interpreted and enforced or how such changes may affect us. However, the costs of complying with any additional laws or regulations could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.

Federal and state regulators periodically examine our business, and we may be required to remediate adverse examination findings. The Federal Reserve, the FDIC and the DFPI periodically examine our business, including our compliance with laws and regulations. If, as a result of an examination, a banking agency were to determine that our financial condition, capital resources, asset quality, earnings prospects, management, liquidity or other aspects of any of our operations had become unsatisfactory, or that we were in violation of any law or regulation, they may take a number of different remedial actions as they deem appropriate. These actions include the power to enjoin “unsafe or unsound” practices, to require affirmative action to correct any conditions resulting from any violation or practice, to issue an administrative order that can be judicially enforced, to direct an increase in our capital, to restrict our growth, to assess civil money penalties, to fine or remove officers and directors and, if it is concluded that such conditions cannot be

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corrected or there is an imminent risk of loss to depositors, to terminate our deposit insurance and place us into receivership or conservatorship. Any regulatory action against us could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

We are subject to numerous laws designed to protect consumers, including the Community Reinvestment Act and fair lending laws, and failure to comply with these laws could lead to a wide variety of sanctions. The CRA, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Fair Housing Act and other fair lending laws and regulations prohibit discriminatory lending practices by financial institutions. The U.S. Department of Justice, federal banking agencies and other federal agencies are responsible for enforcing these laws and regulations. A challenge to an institution’s compliance with fair lending laws and regulations, or receiving a less than satisfactory CRA rating, could result in a wide variety of sanctions, including damages and civil money penalties, injunctive relief, restrictions on mergers and acquisitions activity, restrictions on expansion and restrictions on entering new business lines. Private parties may also challenge an institution’s performance under fair lending laws in private class action litigation. Such actions could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and growth prospects. In addition, federal, state and local laws have been adopted that are intended to eliminate certain lending practices considered “predatory.” These laws prohibit practices such as steering borrowers away from more affordable products, selling unnecessary insurance to borrowers, repeatedly refinancing loans and making loans without a reasonable expectation that the borrowers will be able to repay the loans irrespective of the value of the underlying property. It is our policy not to make predatory loans, but these laws create the potential for liability with respect to our lending and loan investment activities. They increase our cost of doing business and, ultimately, may prevent us from making certain loans and cause us to reduce the average percentage rate or the points and fees on loans that we do make.

Section 1.08 Risks Related to our Common Stock

You may not be able to sell your shares at the times and in the amounts you want if the price of our stock fluctuates significantly or the trading market for our stock is not active. The market price of our common stock could be impacted by a number of factors, many of which are outside our control. Although our stock has been listed on NASDAQ for many years and our trading volume has increased in recent periods, trading in our stock does not consistently occur in high volumes and the market for our stock cannot always be characterized as active. Thin trading in our stock may exaggerate fluctuations in the stock’s value, leading to price volatility in excess of that which would occur in a more active trading market. In addition, the stock market in general is subject to fluctuations that affect the share prices and trading volumes of many companies, and these broad market fluctuations could adversely affect the market price of our common stock. Factors that could affect our common stock price in the future include but are not necessarily limited to the following:

actual or anticipated fluctuations in our operating results and financial condition;
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;
actions by shareholders;
sales of our equity or equity-related securities, or the perception that such sales may occur;
fluctuations in the trading volume of our common stock;
fluctuations in the stock prices, trading volumes, and operating results of our competitors;
market conditions in general and, in particular, for the financial services industry;

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proposed or adopted regulatory changes or developments;
regulatory action against us;
actual, anticipated or pending investigations, proceedings, or litigation that involve or affect us; and
domestic and international economic factors unrelated to our performance.

The stock market and, more specifically, the market for financial institution stocks, has experienced significant volatility in the past including all of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021. As a result, the market price of our common stock has at times been unpredictable and could be in the future, as well. The capital and credit markets have also experienced volatility and disruption over the past several years, at times reaching unprecedented levels. In some cases, the markets have produced downward pressure on stock prices and adversely impacted credit availability for certain issuers without regard to the issuers’ underlying financial strength.

We could pursue additional capital in the future, which may or may not be available on acceptable terms, could dilute the holders of our outstanding common stock, and may adversely affect the market price of our common stock. Our ability to raise additional capital, if needed, will depend on, among other things, conditions in the capital markets at the time, which are outside of our control, and our financial performance. Furthermore, any capital raising activity could dilute the holders of our outstanding common stock, and may adversely affect the market price of our common stock and performance measures such as return on equity and earnings per share.

Future acquisitions may dilute shareholder ownership and value, especially tangible book value per share. We periodically evaluate opportunities to acquire other financial institutions and/or bank branches, and could incorporate such acquisitions as part of our future growth strategy. Such acquisitions may involve cash, debt, and/or equity securities. Acquisitions typically involve the payment of a premium over book and market values, and, therefore, some dilution of our tangible book value per common share may occur in connection with any future acquisitions. To the extent we issue capital stock in connection with such transactions, the share ownership of our existing shareholders may be diluted.

The Company relies heavily on the payment of dividends from the Bank. Other than $12.0 million in cash available at the holding company level at December 31, 2020, the Company’s ability to meet debt service requirements and pay dividends depends on the Bank’s ability to pay dividends to the Company, as the Company has no other source of significant income. However, the Bank is subject to regulations limiting the amount of dividends it may pay. For example, the payment of dividends by the Bank is affected by the requirement to maintain adequate capital pursuant to the capital adequacy guidelines issued by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. If (i) any capital requirements are increased; and/or (ii) the total risk-weighted assets of the Bank increase significantly; and/or (iii) the Bank’s income declines significantly, the Bank’s Board of Directors may decide or be required to retain a greater portion of the Bank’s earnings to achieve and maintain the required capital or asset ratios. This would reduce the amount of funds available for the payment of dividends by the Bank to the Company. Further, one or more of the Bank’s regulators could prohibit the Bank from paying dividends if, in their view, such payments would constitute unsafe or unsound banking practices. The Bank’s ability to pay dividends to the Company is also limited by the California Financial Code. Whether dividends are paid, and the frequency and amount of such dividends will also depend on the financial condition and performance of the Bank and the decision of the Bank’s Board of Directors. Information concerning the Company’s dividend policy and historical dividend practices is set forth in Item 5 below under “Dividends.” However, no assurance can be given that our future performance will justify the payment of dividends in any particular year.

Your investment may be diluted because of our ability to offer stock to others, and from the exercise of stock options. The shares of our common stock do not have preemptive rights, which means that you may not be entitled to buy additional shares if shares are offered to others in the future. We are authorized to issue up to 24,000,000 shares of common stock, and as of December 31, 2020 we had 15,388,423 shares of common stock outstanding. Except for certain limitations imposed by NASDAQ, nothing restricts our ability to offer additional shares of stock for fair value to others in the future. Any issuances of common stock would dilute our shareholders’ ownership interests and may dilute the per share book value of our common stock. Furthermore, when our directors and officers exercise in-the-money stock options or receive restricted stock units, your ownership in the Company is diluted. As of December 31, 2020, there were outstanding options

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to purchase an aggregate of 495,489 shares of our common stock with an average exercise price of $23.67 per share. There were also 148,885 shares of restricted stock units outstanding which vest over periods ranging from 1 year to 5 years from initial issuance. At the same date there were an additional 408,515 shares available to grant under our 2017 Stock Incentive Plan.

The holders of our debentures have rights that are senior to those of our shareholders. In 2004 we issued $15,464,000 of junior subordinated debt securities due March 17, 2034, and in 2006 we issued an additional $15,464,000 of junior subordinated debt securities due September 23, 2036 in order to supplement regulatory capital. Moreover, the Coast Bancorp acquisition included $7,217,000 of junior subordinated debt securities due December 15, 2037. All of these junior subordinated debt securities are senior to the shares of our common stock. As a result, we must make interest payments on the debentures before any dividends can be paid on our common stock, and in the event of our bankruptcy, dissolution or liquidation, the holders of debt securities must be paid in full before any distributions may be made to the holders of our common stock. In addition, we have the right to defer interest payments on the junior subordinated debt securities for up to five years, during which time no dividends may be paid to holders of our common stock. In the event that the Bank is unable to pay dividends to us, we may be unable to pay the amounts due to the holders of the junior subordinated debt securities and thus would be unable to declare and pay any dividends on our common stock.

Provisions in our articles of incorporation could delay or prevent changes in control of our corporation or our management. Our articles of incorporation contain provisions for staggered terms of office for members of the board of directors; no cumulative voting in the election of directors; and the requirement that our board of directors consider the potential social and economic effects on our employees, depositors, customers and the communities we serve as well as certain other factors, when evaluating a possible tender offer, merger or other acquisition of the Company. These provisions make it more difficult for another company to acquire us, which could cause our shareholders to lose an opportunity to be paid a premium for their shares in an acquisition transaction and reduce the current and future market price of our common stock.

Shares of any preferred stock issued in the future could have dilutive and other effects on our common stock. Our Articles of Incorporation authorize us to issue 10,000,000 shares of preferred stock, none of which is presently outstanding. Although our Board of Directors has no present intention to authorize the issuance of shares of preferred stock, such shares could be authorized in the future. If such shares of preferred stock are made convertible into shares of common stock, there could be a dilutive effect on the shares of common stock then outstanding. In addition, shares of preferred stock may be provided a preference over holders of common stock upon our liquidation or with respect to the payment of dividends, in respect of voting rights, or in the redemption of our common stock. The rights, preferences, privileges and restrictions applicable to any series or preferred stock would be determined by resolution of our Board of Directors.

Section 1.09 Risks Related to the Business of Banking in General

If we are not able to successfully keep pace with technological changes in the industry, our business could be hurt. The financial services industry is constantly undergoing technological change, with the frequent introduction of new technology-driven products and services. The effective use of technology increases efficiency and enables financial institutions to better serve clients and reduce costs. Our future success depends, in part, upon our ability to respond to the needs of our clients by using technology to provide desired products and services and create additional operating efficiencies. Some of our competitors have substantially greater resources to invest in technological improvements. 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 clients. Failure to keep pace with technological change in the financial services industry could have a material adverse impact on our business and, in turn, on our financial condition and results of operations.

Unauthorized disclosure of sensitive or confidential customer information, whether through a cyber-attack, other breach of our computer systems or any other means, could severely harm our business. In the normal course of business we collect, process and retain sensitive and confidential customer information. Despite the security measures we have in place, our facilities and systems may be vulnerable to cyber-attacks, security breaches, acts of vandalism, computer viruses, misplaced or lost data, programming and/or human errors, or other similar events.

In recent periods there has been a rise in fraudulent electronic activity, security breaches, and cyber-attacks, including in the banking sector. Some financial institutions have reported breaches of their websites and systems which have involved

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sophisticated and targeted attacks intended to misappropriate sensitive or confidential information, destroy or corrupt data, disable or degrade service, disrupt operations and/or sabotage systems. These breaches can remain undetected for an extended period of time. Furthermore, our customers and employees have been, and will continue to be, targeted by parties using fraudulent e-mails and other communications that may appear to be legitimate messages sent by the Bank, in attempts to misappropriate passwords, card numbers, bank account information or other personal information or to introduce viruses or malware to personal computers. Information security risks for financial institutions have increased in part because of new technologies, mobile services and other web-based products used to conduct financial and other business transactions, as well as the increased sophistication and activities of organized crime, perpetrators of fraud, hackers, terrorists and others. The secure maintenance and transmission of confidential information, as well as the secure and reliable execution of transactions over our systems, are essential to protect us and our customers and to maintain our customers’ confidence. Despite our efforts to identify, contain and mitigate these threats through detection and response mechanisms, product improvement, the use of encryption and authentication technology, and customer and employee education, such attempted fraudulent activities directed against us, our customers, and third party service providers remain a serious issue. The pervasiveness of cyber security incidents in general and the risks of cyber-crime are complex and continue to evolve.

We also face risks related to cyber-attacks and other security breaches in connection with debit card transactions, which typically involve the transmission of sensitive information regarding our customers through various third parties. Some of these parties have in the past been the target of security breaches and cyber-attacks, and because the transactions involve third parties and environments that we do not control or secure, future security breaches or cyber-attacks affecting any of these third parties could impact us through no fault of our own, and in some cases we may have exposure and suffer losses for breaches or attacks relating to them. We also rely on third party service providers to conduct certain other aspects of our business operations, and face similar risks relating to them. While we require regular security assessments from those third parties, we cannot be sure that their information security protocols are sufficient to withstand a cyber-attack or security breach.

Any cyber-attack or other security breach involving the misappropriation or loss of Company assets or those of its customers, or unauthorized disclosure of confidential customer information, could severely damage our reputation, erode confidence in the security of our systems, products and services, expose us to the risk of litigation and liability, disrupt our operations, and have a material adverse effect on our business.

If our information systems were to experience a system failure, our business and reputation could suffer. We rely heavily on communications and information systems to conduct our business. The computer systems and network infrastructure we use could be vulnerable to unforeseen problems. Our operations are dependent upon our ability to minimize service disruptions by protecting our computer equipment, systems, and network infrastructure from physical damage due to fire, power loss, telecommunications failure or a similar catastrophic event. We have protective measures in place to prevent or limit the effect of the failure or interruption of our information systems, and will continue to upgrade our security technology and update procedures to help prevent such events. However, if such failures or interruptions were to occur, they could result in damage to our reputation, a loss of customers, increased regulatory scrutiny, or possible exposure to financial liability, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.

We are subject to a variety of operational risks, including reputational risk, legal risk, compliance risk, the risk of fraud or theft by employees or outsiders, and the risk of clerical or record-keeping errors, which may adversely affect our business and results of operations. If personal, non-public, confidential or proprietary customer information in our possession were to be mishandled or misused, we could suffer significant regulatory consequences, reputational damage and financial loss. This could occur, for example, if information was erroneously provided to parties who are not permitted to have the information, either by fault of our systems, employees, or counterparties, or where such information is intercepted or otherwise inappropriately taken by third parties.

Because the nature of the financial services business involves a high volume of transactions, certain errors may be repeated or compounded before they are discovered and successfully remediated. Our necessary dependence upon automated systems to record and process transactions and our large transaction volume may further increase the risk that technical flaws or employee tampering or manipulation of those systems could result in losses that are difficult to detect. We also may be subject to disruptions of our operating systems arising from events that are wholly or partially beyond our control

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(for example, computer viruses or electrical or telecommunications outages, or natural disasters, disease pandemics or other damage to property or physical assets) which may give rise to disruption of service to customers and to financial loss or liability. We are further exposed to the risk that our external vendors may be unable to fulfill their contractual obligations (or will be subject to the same risk of fraud or operational errors by their employees) and to the risk that our (or our vendors’) business continuity and data security efforts might prove to be inadequate. The occurrence of any of these risks could result in a diminished ability to operate our business (for example, by requiring us to expend significant resources to correct the defect), as well as potential liability to clients, reputational damage and regulatory intervention, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations, perhaps materially.

We may be adversely affected by the financial stability of other financial institutions. Our ability to engage in routine transactions could be adversely affected by the actions and liquidity of other financial institutions. Financial institutions are often interconnected as a result of trading, clearing, counterparty, or other business relationships. We have exposure to many different industries and counterparties, and routinely execute transactions with counterparties in the financial services industry, including commercial banks, brokers and dealers, investment banks, and other institutional clients. Many of these transactions expose us to credit risk in the event of a default by a counterparty or client. Even if the transactions are collateralized, credit risk could exist if the collateral held by us cannot be liquidated at prices sufficient to recover the full amount of the credit or derivative exposure due to us. Any such losses could adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.

ITEM 1B.   UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS

Not applicable.

ITEM 2.      PROPERTIES

The Company’s administrative headquarters is housed in a 37,000 square foot, three-story office building located at 86 North Main Street, Porterville, California, and our main office consists of a one-story brick building located at 90 N. Main Street, Porterville, California, adjacent to our administrative headquarters. Both of those buildings are situated on unencumbered property owned by the Company. The Company also owns unencumbered property on which 18 of our other offices are located, namely the following branches: Bakersfield Ming, California City, Dinuba, Exeter, Farmersville, Fresno Shaw, Hanford, Lindsay, Lompoc, Porterville West Olive, San Luis Obispo, Santa Paula, Tehachapi Downtown, Tehachapi Old Town, Three Rivers, Tulare, Visalia Mooney and Woodlake. The remaining branches, as well as our technology center, loan production office in Rocklin, and remote ATM locations, are leased from unrelated parties. Management believes that existing back-office facilities are adequate to accommodate the Company’s operations for the immediately foreseeable future.

ITEM 3.      LEGAL PROCEEDINGS

From time to time the Company is a party to claims and legal proceedings arising in the ordinary course of business. After taking into consideration information furnished by counsel to the Company as to the current status of these claims or proceedings to which the Company is a party, Management is of the opinion that the ultimate aggregate liability represented thereby, if any, will not have a material adverse effect on the financial condition of the Company.

ITEM 4.      MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES

Not applicable.

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PART II

ITEM 5.       MARKET FOR REGISTRANT’S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED SHAREHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES

(a)     Market Information

Sierra Bancorp’s Common Stock trades on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol BSRR, and the CUSIP number for our stock is #82620P102. Trading in the Company’s Common Stock has not consistently occurred in high volumes, and such trading activity cannot always be characterized as an active trading market.

The following table summarizes trades of the Company’s Common Stock, setting forth the approximate high and low sales prices and volume of trading for the periods indicated, based upon information available via public sources:

Sale Price Of The Company's

Approximate Trading

Calendar

Common Stock

Volumes

Quarter End

    

High

    

Low

    

Shares

March 31, 2019

$

27.81

$

22.68

$

1,928,277

June 30, 2019

27.98

24.01

1,385,742

September 30, 2019

27.36

23.75

1,851,314

December 31, 2019

30.15

25.78

2,064,085

March 31, 2020

29.37

13.05

2,721,500

June 30, 2020

21.87

14.86

3,491,600

September 30, 2020

20.13

15.84

2,434,100

December 31, 2020

24.72

16.47

2,416,100

(b)     Holders

As of January 31, 2021 there were an estimated 6,292 shareholders of the Company’s Common Stock. There were 757 registered holders of record on that date, and per Broadridge, an investor communication company, there were 5,535 beneficial holders with shares held under a street name, including “objecting beneficial owners” whose names and addresses are unavailable. Since some holders maintain multiple accounts, it is likely that the above numbers overstate the actual number of the Company’s shareholders.

(c)     Dividends

The Company paid cash dividends totaling $12.2 million, or $0.80 per share in 2020 and $11.3 million, or $0.74 per share in 2019, which represents 34% of annual net earnings for 2020 and 32% for 2019. The Company’s general dividend policy is to pay cash dividends within the range of typical peer payout ratios, provided that such payments do not adversely affect the Company’s financial condition and are not overly restrictive to its growth capacity. However, in the past when many of our peers elected to suspend dividend payments, the Company’s Board determined that we should continue to pay a certain level of dividends without regard to peer payout ratios, as long as our core operating performance was adequate and policy or regulatory restrictions did not preclude such payments. That said, no assurance can be given that our financial performance in any given year will justify the continued payment of a certain level of cash dividend, or any cash dividend at all.

As a bank holding company that currently has no significant assets other than its equity interest in the Bank, the Company’s ability to declare dividends depends upon cash on hand as supplemented by dividends from the Bank. The Bank’s dividend practices in turn depend upon the Bank’s earnings, financial position, regulatory standing, ability to meet current and anticipated regulatory capital requirements, and other factors deemed relevant by the Bank’s Board of Directors. The authority of the Bank’s Board of Directors to declare cash dividends is also subject to statutory restrictions. Under California banking law, the Bank may at any time declare a dividend in an amount not to exceed the lesser of (i) its retained earnings, or (ii) its net income for the last three fiscal years reduced by distributions to the Bank’s shareholder during such

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period. However, with the prior approval of the California Commissioner of Department of Financial Protection and Innovation, the Bank may declare a larger dividend, in an amount not exceeding the greatest of (i) the 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.

The Company’s ability to pay dividends is also limited by state law. California law allows a California corporation to pay dividends if its retained earnings equal at least the amount of the proposed dividend plus any preferred dividend arrears amount. If a California corporation does not have sufficient retained earnings available for the proposed dividend, it may still pay a dividend to its shareholders if immediately after the dividend the value of the company’s assets would equal or exceed the sum of its total liabilities plus any preferred dividend arrears amount. In addition, during any period in which the Company has deferred the payment of interest otherwise due and payable on its subordinated debt securities, it may not pay any dividends or make any distributions with respect to its capital stock (see “Item 7, Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Capital Resources”).

(d)     Securities Authorized for Issuance under Equity Compensation Plans

The following table provides information as of December 31, 2020 with respect to stock options and restricted stock units outstanding, and available under our 2017 Stock Incentive Plan and the now-terminated 2007 Stock Incentive Plan, which are our only equity compensation plans other than an employee benefit plan meeting the qualification requirements of Section 401(a) of the Internal Revenue Code:

Plan Category

    

Number of Securities to be Issued Upon Vesting of Restricted Stock Units

Number of Securities
to be Issued Upon Exercise
of Outstanding Options

    

Weighted-Average
Exercise Price of
Outstanding Options

    

Number of Securities
Remaining Available
for Future Issuance

Equity compensation plans approved by security holders

148,885

495,489

$

23.67

408,515

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(e)     Performance Graph

Below is a five-year performance graph comparing the cumulative total return on the Company’s common stock to the cumulative total returns of the NASDAQ Composite Index (a broad equity market index), the SNL Bank Index, and the SNL $1 billion to $5 billion Bank Index (the latter two qualifying as peer bank indices), assuming a $100 investment on December 31, 2014 and the reinvestment of dividends.

Graphic

Period Ending

Index

    

12/31/2015

    

12/31/2016

    

12/31/2017

    

12/31/2018

    

12/31/2019

    

12/31/2020

Sierra Bancorp

100.00

154.87

157.99

146.24

182.19

155.42

NASDAQ Composite

100.00

108.87

141.13

137.12

187.44

271.64

SNL Bank $1B-$5B

100.00

143.87

153.37

134.37

163.35

138.81

SNL Bank

100.00

126.35

149.21

124.00

167.93

145.49

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence

(f)     Stock Repurchases

In September 2016 the Board authorized an additional 500,000 shares of common stock for repurchase under the Company’s existing stock buyback plan initially adopted in 2003.  The 2003 repurchase plan has no expiration date, but from time-to-time, the Company will authorize additional shares to be repurchased if all previous authorizations have b