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Missouri Trust purchase in holding pattern

Division of Finance has yet to receive acquisition paperwork, official says

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A planned acquisition by Missouri Trust & Investment Co. is in delay mode.

The Springfield-based, state-chartered independent trust company has been raising capital and negotiating with a previously announced but unnamed acquisition target. Missouri Trust CEO Richard Russell said the acquisition originally was hoped to close in the second quarter.

But longer-than-expected negotiations have pushed the deal’s closure well into the third quarter. In addition, there’s been a leadership change at the Missouri Division of Finance, the state agency that must approve the transaction. The newly appointed head of the office said he’s yet to see details of the plan.

Dave Doering, chief examiner at the state office, was appointed acting finance commissioner on Aug. 26 by Gov. Mike Parson. He replaced Lee Keith, who Doering said resigned from the position Aug. 2 to spend more time with his family in the Kansas City area.

“My interest is just in keeping the office running and making sure the banks are safe and sound,” Doering said.

The state Finance Division executes laws relating to banks, trust companies, savings and loans, consumer credit companies, credit service organizations and money order companies.

Doering said paperwork about the Missouri Trust transaction hasn’t come across his desk. He added the office currently has no acquisition applications awaiting approval or review. Citing state statue, he said the Division of Finance director must approve or deny the transfer of fiduciary assets within 30 days of the application receipt.

Russell declined comment about the acquisition delay or any adjusted timetable for the deal to close.

Doering said there are no limitations to what decisions he can make in an acting capacity, but he doesn’t intend to take any major actions at this time. Acquisition approvals are made on a case-by-case basis, he said. The process involves an analysis of the safety and soundness of the transaction, particularly of the acquiring company.

While Doering was uncertain how often the Division of Finance reviews acquisitions annually, he noted applications of this type involving trust companies are uncommon. He declined further comment related to the Missouri Trust request.

Doering said he would maintain his position as chief examiner while serving in the interim post.

“It is adding to my day-to-day duties. But on a temporary basis like this, it’s not so much,” he said.

Parson’s office currently is working to address the commissioner position for a long-term appointee, said Kelli Jones, communications director.

Jones said the acting designation allows someone to serve temporarily and does not subject the person to Missouri Senate confirmation.

The governor appoints the permanent position with the advice and consent of the state Senate. If an appointment is made when the Senate is not in session, the appointee can start serving immediately, Jones said. However, the person would have to be confirmed within the first 30 days of the Senate reconvening. The next state legislative session begins in January 2020.

Doering’s appointment makes him the fourth person in the commissioner position since 2014, when Rich Weaver retired and was replaced by then-deputy commissioner Debra Hardman. Taking over as acting commissioner, Hardman was succeeded by Keith, who was appointed to the role and confirmed by the Senate in early 2018.

In a May interview with Springfield Business Journal, Russell said the company manages 239 accounts and $122 million in assets. The firm, which received its state charter in July 2017, was in the process of raising additional capital from shareholders but declined to disclose the amount. The capital is intended to bring the firm into compliance with the Finance Division’s $2 million minimum capital requirement, according to past SBJ reporting.

Russell declined comment about the current status of capital raising efforts.

The firm reported $1.48 million in total equity capital as of June 30, according to its second quarter call report filed with the state. The total is a drop from its end of 2018 call report, which listed $1.52 million in capital. According to the June 30 call report, the company reported $1.57 million in assets and $1.57 million in total liabilities and equity capital.

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