Like those opening paragraphs, the piece manages to say a lot in not very many (about 700) words. And then, again a few days later, Moffeit gives us a wonderful, lengthy piece on the history of New Frontier (which “started in a double-wide trailer on Greeley’s west side”), its irresponsible business practices (“Greeley’s largest bank was so larded with troubled assets that, for the first time in three decades, federal officials couldn’t find another bank willing to do the liquidation.”) and its failure (“After the quick shutdown, some customers were so angry they were yanking deposits without transferring their money. One customer, $19,000 in hand, was escorted by a security guard to her car.”) If you read only one article on New Frontier, make it this one.
Still on the story in early June, Moffeit gives us a related piece, which the AP picked up, on the increase in phone calls by agricultural workers to crisis hotlines. It opens:
The phone calls usually come in the evening after the machinery goes silent on farms across the country. The callers speak of dwindling cash flows, crumbling marriages. Some admit they’re holding a loaded gun.
Then, after a handful of news stories, Moffeit wrote an investigative piece focusing on questionable loans New Frontier had made to an ex-director of the bank who “later was convicted of felony theft for a mortgage scheme.” Who said business news was boring? The AP picked up on this report as well.
Moffeit returns to the human side of the bank failure on August 18, with a story on that day’s auction by the federal government of 418 farm loans still left on New Frontier’s books:
The auction is believed to be the largest sale of farm notes since the aftermath of the 1980s savings-and-loan crisis, and it has many Colorado farmers fearful they will lose their property as a result.
Farmers suspect investors or banks will snap up their notes at fire-sale prices, then liquidate their collateral to score a quick profit.
There is obviously a lot to this story. What interested the national press? Well, wire services dipped in here and there—with the most attention coming the day of the bank’s closure—but these were mostly news blips. NPR brought some life to the story with a segment looking at the bank failure’s effect on farmers. But the most notable attention came from a substantial page-one piece in The Wall Street Journal on June16,
The piece does a nice job at putting the Greeley situation in larger financial context without adding much that is new. In fact, the WSJ’s cast of local characters overlaps almost exactly with a Greeley Tribune piece that had appeared May 31.
The opening paragraphs of the WSJ story give you a sense of it:
Larry Seastrom, the founder of New Frontier Bank, made it a mantra to invest in his community. That paid off big time, both for the bank and for this fast-growing college town on the broad plains of northeast Colorado. Founded a decade ago in a double-wide trailer, New Frontier hit $1 billion in assets in July of 2006 and, in a burst of growth, doubled to $2 billion in just 18 months. Then, just as quickly, it collapsed.