CertusBank in Greenville, S.C., continues to lose money, largely because of high expenses.

The $1.6 billion-asset company lost $9 million in the first quarter, according to a call report filed with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. It was the tenth consecutive quarterly loss for Certus, which fired its top executives last month after a dispute with investors over the bank's related-party transactions and high expenses.

Overall expenses fell, but still outweighed the bank's revenue. Noninterest expense fell 9% from a year earlier, to $32.6 million, due largely to a sizeable decline in costs tied to loss-sharing agreements with the FDIC for failed-bank purchases. Still, the bank's noninterest expense in the quarter was more than double the $13.5 million average of nearly 100 banks with $1 billion to $2 billion in assets analyzed by American Banker.

The bank pledged in January to reduce costs by closing branches and cutting salaries, but those costs remained elevated. Salaries and benefits rose 6%, to $16.8 million, and costs for premises and equipment rose 58%, to $5.2 million. The bank did cut 80 full-time workers in the last year, including 56 in the first quarter.

Certus' revenue was stronger than that of a year earlier. Net interest income rose 6%, to $16 million, as the company was able to cut its deposit costs. Noninterest income jumped 21%, to $8 million, on increased servicing fees and larger gains from selling securities, loans and foreclosed properties.

The bank recorded $1.4 million in net chargeoffs, compared to $4.5 million a year earlier. Its loan-loss provision more than doubled, to $1.2 million.

Certus remains well-capitalized, but its Tier 1 capital ratio of 8.08% remains below the 10% level required by its charter. Certus received a national shelf charter in 2011 to buy failed banks.

The bank's board hired John Poelker as interim chief executive last month after firing three of the bank's founders; a fourth founder resigned on March 31.

The three ousted executives — Milton Jones, Walter Davis and Angela Webb — subsequently filed a lawsuit against the bank and a minority shareholder for libel and conspiracy, alleging that they had waged a campaign of public defamation in order to seize control of the bank.

Paul Davis contributed to this report.

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