CertusBank in Greenville, S.C., lost nearly $70 million last year.

The $1.5 billion-asset bank lost $31 million in the fourth quarter as it sold off assets at a loss, according to a call report filed Monday. It was the bank's 13th straight quarterly loss.

Chief Executive John Poelker has sought to cut expenses and slim the bank down since taking the helm in April, and those efforts have proven costly. For the year, Certus recorded a $12 million loss on the sale of foreclosed real estate and a $10.4 million loss from its mortgage business, which it recently sold. The bank also recorded a $4.9 million credit-related expense, a $5.4 million charge for asset-impairment and $5.3 million in amortization costs.

The bank made "progress in our overarching plan to realign the business model more closely with that of a traditional community bank" in the fourth quarter, a Certus spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. "Steps taken in that process, including exiting the mortgage business and vacating excess office space in several markets, resulted in significant losses."

The bank said it has made improvements in small-business lending and expense control, partly through subleasing office space, and had reduced its lending.

In total, Certus recorded $118.2 million in annual noninterest expenses, against a total of $67.2 million in net interest income and noninterest income.

Certus' board fired its founding executives in April after two years of high expenses and massive losses. The executives later filed a lawsuit against the bank and a hedge-fund manager for libel and slander, alleging they were dismissed as part of a racially motivated conspiracy. The lawsuit was dismissed but is now on appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

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