Sunday, October 15, 2023

SECU - Playing Fair?

   Had hoped that things at SECU might settle down after the Annual Meeting and Board election, so decided to "go coastal" with a very good friend... 

But then the CEO of SECU in-artfully decided to pour a bucket of gas on the results with a wide variety of less than diplomatic remarks to reporters after the Annual Meeting... one was “Jim Blaine doesn’t play fair,” quoted by David Mildenberg in BusinessNC (10/10/23 - link) .

One member, a decades-long volunteer, took Ms. Brady to task for her comments and received a sharp and lengthy rebuke. Here's part:

"From: BRADY, LEIGH <>
Date: Fri, Oct 13, 2023, 5:58 PM
Subject: Statement on Jim Blaine"

"Good afternoon Ms. [long term SECU Advisory Board member] –"

"I understand that you had concerns about my statement regarding Mr. Blaine providing misinformation and not playing fair. My comments do stand and I had provided the reporter [Mildenberg] with some context, but he did not publish the items." [Ms. Brady then proceeds at length with her concerns].

😎 But let's focus on this one:

"Playing fair would be allowing differing views in order to provide for healthy debate on a topic, but that is just not happening. Playing fair would have been Mr. Blaine agreeing to meet with McKinley Wooten, Bob Brinson and Jo Anne Sanford last year to discuss his concerns (he refused)."

First, I agree with Ms. Brady that a healthy debate has not occurred about the unhealthy performance of SECU over the last two years - risk-based lending tops the list as most destructive, but its a long and growing list. Ms. Brady feels that her unsuccessful, anonymous attempts to post on this blog was unfair. Perhaps, but a $50 billion institution with numerous hired-gun crisis managers, PR folks, and with evidently unlimited member dollars to spend should give Ms. Brady a pretty "bully pulpit" from which to debate.

But, as has so often occurred over the last two years, the flat out untruth of the second part of the quote is what has made a "healthy debate" so difficult. Ms. Sanford, whom I've known for years, did email me after the 2022 Annual Meeting resolution and asked that I  meet with the 3 board members as Ms. Brady noted. Here was my response:

✅ Jim Blaine

Nov 19, 2022, 1:55 PM
to Jo,,, bcc: Mike Lord
"Dear Miz J, [Sanford]

Thanks very much for the response.

First, I would like to be sure to reaffirm that the invitation to meet came from you and the SECU Board, not me. The resolution approved at the annual meeting requests a response to the full membership, not a discussion with me.  My concern with meeting with a small "committee" of the Board (composed of the only 3 folks on the Board I have worked with - not exactly a random sample!) is that it is widely believed that the SECU Board is split on many of the issues being discussed.

If in fact divided - which wouldn't be at all unusual for most boards -, I would not feel comfortable in having any remarks I might make not subject to challenge nor inquiry by each of the individual SECU Board members. Perhaps the best route at this point is to defer a potential meeting until after your meetings with the Advisory Board chairs next week. A full explanation from the Board of the reasoning behind your decisions may hopefully resolve all questions and concerns.

I do understand that the SECU Board has a difficult task in responding fully in a reasonable time frame. Would note that many of the more thoughtful member letters being emailed directly to the SECU Board are being widely circulated, which is increasing the importance of a timely response. If your group wishes to meet with a former CEO, you might want to contact Mike Lord, particularly given his strong condemnation of the Board's approval of risk-based lending.

I remain entirely willing to meet with the Board if it would be beneficial. Hopefully, the official SECU Board response to the member approved annual meeting resolution will suffice to clarify the questions asked.

Wishing you the best,

Jim Blaine" 
[Ms. Sanford did not respond further]
😎 Ms. Brady, a copy of the full email string with Ms. Sanford, has been sent to Mr. Mildenberg at BNC, so he can work on getting his quotes from you right in the future. Know you won't want to imply that the 3 SECU Board members who received the email were...well, whatever, but if you want to "walk back" a few of your recent high-octane, low fact remarks - even apologize maybe? - Would be more than happy to post them under your name on this blog....
... C'mon let's play fair!