Royal Trustco Sued by Former Thrift Chairman

The former chairman and chief executive of Pacific First Financial Corp., Jerry E. Pohlman, has filed a lawsuit against the Seattle thrift company and its Canadian owner for allegedly undermining his position.

In a suit filed in Washington State superior court, Mr. Pohlman contented that Toronto-based Royal Trustco Ltd. had breached a contract dating from 1989, when the Canadian company bought Pacific First.

Despite what he said was a promise that he would be kept on without loss of power or pay, Mr. Pohlman contended that Royal Trustco waged a "coercive campaign" against him by inserting "Canadian overseers" who "secretly report[ed] to Toronto."

Mr. Pohlman, 48, joined Pacific First in 1985 and, two years later, was named chairman and chief executive of the Seattle-based thrift. Two months ago, he quit his posts at the $7.5 billion-asset thrift "as a result of defendants' direct attack," according to the complaint.

Mr. Pohlman's complaint also suggested, without citing evidence, that Pacific First might have been operated to boost Royal Trustco's short-term stock price.

A Pacific First spokesman said that, as a matter of policy, the company does not comment on personnel matters. When Mr. Pohlman's resignation was made public in July, the company described it as "strictly a personal decision."

Canadian analysts said that, whatever promises might have been made to Mr. Pohlman, they were not surprised by his departure. Senior Royal Trustco officials "between the lines always said that Jerry Pohlman's role was titular and nominal," said Alain Tuchmaier, an analyst with McLean McCarthy Ltd., Toronto.

Mr. Pohlman and his attorney declined to comment.

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