Venture Bank stock likely has no value

DuPONT – Investors who owned stock in Venture Financial Group, the bank-holding company that operated Venture Bank until it was sold, have learned that those investments likely are worthless, according to a letter mailed to shareholders this week.

Longtime investor Ellen Munson of Lacey said she received the two-page letter Tuesday.

“We believe all value in the shares of the parent company, Venture Financial Group, has been irretrievably lost,” the letter states. “The corporation is insolvent and is unable to file financial reports for the fiscal years 2008 or 2009.”

The letter is dated Sept. 12, a day after Venture Bank was closed by state and federal regulators and sold to First-Citizens Bank and Trust Co. of North Carolina. The letter, mailed to shareholders on Venture Financial Group letterhead, is signed by Venture Financial Chairman Ken Parsons Sr. and Venture Bank President and CEO Jim Arneson. Arneson no longer is with the bank, and Parsons’ role with Venture Financial is unclear.

“I’m angry,” Munson said Wednesday. She and her husband, Gale, had planned to move next year, and the Venture investment was going to be cashed in to help pay for the move, Munson said. She estimated that she owned about 3,000 shares of stock and at one time it was valued at $14 a share, for a value of about $42,000. The letter goes on to say, “We recommend you consult your tax advisor to determine how this loss may impact you.”

Munson, who is in her 60s, said she thought that once First Citizens bought the bank, her investment in the company would be transferred to the new company.

Investments in Venture Financial Group didn’t transfer to First Citizens because the North Carolina bank bought only the bank and not the bank-holding company, First Citizens spokeswoman Barbara Thompson said this week.

The bank-holding company ceases to be a bank-holding company today because it’s primary asset, Venture Bank, is gone. The remaining assets held by Venture Financial Group, if any, are not known, although the letter states that “the disposition of liabilities of the holding company is yet to be determined.”

A total number of South Sound Venture Financial investors also couldn’t be determined Wednesday, although regulatory filings show Parsons owned about 594,000 shares of common stock and board members and executives owned about 1.8 million shares as a group, or about 25 percent, according to Security and Exchange Commission filings.

In addition to an update about Venture Financial, the letter also brings shareholders up to date about what has transpired in the past year and past few days, highlighting its Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae investment loss and its efforts to raise money. “We fought. We fought early. We fought intensely. In spite of this, it became clear that we were scheduled for a closure date on Sept. 11, 2009,” the letter states.

Some former Venture Bank customers still are adjusting to banking with First Citizens. Natalie Waters of Tenino, who does her banking by telephone, learned Wednesday about the change from Venture to First Citizens.

She said Wednesday she was concerned about possible changes to direct deposit and her Venture Bank debit card, but First Citizens spokeswoman Thompson said, “Everything still works as normal.” She said no decision has been made about when new debit cards will be reissued.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403