Banner cuts compensation for top executives

Banner reported a net loss of $61.9 million in 2010, up from the net loss of $35.8 million in 2009.

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WALLA WALLA - Compensation for Banner Corp.'s executive team has decreased over the last two years as the parent of Walla Walla-based Banner Bank made adjustments through the fall of the economy.

Banner spent about $1.96 million on its top five executives in 2010, according to preliminary proxy statements filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday. That figure does not include compensation for Banner President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Grescovich.

It was down from more than $2.4 million paid in base salary, stock awards, pension and other compensation to the same group of people in 2008.

Base salaries for most of the executive team members remained the same between 2009 and 2010. One received an increase.

Grescovich, hired effective last April 6 as a successor to Mike Jones, received $788,780 in compensation in 2010. His base salary was $496,154. Jones, whose retirement was effective Aug. 31, was awarded $407,661 in compensation, according to the filing.

The changes were first reported online Friday by the Puget Sound Business Journal, which attributed the decrease to Banner's struggle to return to profitability since the economic downturn that began in 2008.

Banner reported a net loss of $61.9 million in 2010, a jump from the net loss of $35.8 million reported the previous year.

In a release on Banner's fourth-quarter and year-end results issued late January, Grescovich said the company was making progress in strengthening its deposit portfolio, on-balance-sheet liquidity and capital base. But he said the company still had too many nonperforming assets and related credit costs.

"...(S)ignificantly improving our asset quality through aggressive management of our problem assets remains the primary focus for Banner that will allow us to return to profitability," Grescovich said in the end-of-year earnings report.

Banner Bank has 86 branches and $4.2 billion in assets. Its parent company also has Islanders Bank, which has about $239 million in assets.

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