Reliance on commercial real estate loans, poor decisions by executives and excessive operating costs contributed to the failure of Telesis Community Credit Union, an inspector general’s report released Thursday concluded.
The National Credit Union Administration report detailed the demise of the Chatsworth-based financial institution, which was liquidated last year after several years of poor financial performance.
The credit union made commercial real estate loans in areas vulnerable to economic downturns and the institution’s management had not set aside enough money in reserve to cover loan losses, said the report, dated March 15.
“Management contributed to the Credit Union’s demise by using an inappropriate methodology for reserving for the (business loans) by using estimates that were dependent on historical factors that did not reflect rapid changes in economic conditions,” the report stated.
The California Department of Financial Institutions placed Telesis into conservatorship in March 2012 following a period of continuous losses due to the badly performing commercial real estate loans. Telesis suffered a 45 percent decline in its total assets in a three-year period.
An aggressive lending strategy had the Valley institution as the lead lender for a shopping center in Florida, office buildings in Oregon and Georgia, and other commercial developments in Tennessee and California. Some of the properties filed for bankruptcy.
Premier America Credit Union, also based in Chatsworth, assumed from Telesis assets valued at $301.3 million and accounts of 37,600 members.
The report also faulted management for excessive operating costs that were higher than the industry average and higher than total income, including a $1.7 million retirement package in 2009 for then-Chief Executive Grace Mayo and then-Executive Vice President Jean Faenza.
Infighting between Mayo and Faenza in 2011 resulted in “a failure to put the needs of the members first during a period when the credit union most needed clear leadership,” the report said.
The inspector general also said senior management contributed to excessive operating costs by constructing two buildings that were far bigger than necessary. Moreover, construction costs went far over budget, largely because steel costs were not locked in and increased dramatically during construction.