updated 5/17/2011 9:17:07 AM ET 2011-05-17T13:17:07

EVERETT, Wash., May 17, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Cascade Financial Corporation ("Cascade Financial") (Nasdaq:CASB), the parent company of Cascade Bank, today announced that Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. ("ISS") and Glass Lewis & Co., two of the leading independent U.S. proxy advisory firms, have both recommended that the company's shareholders vote "FOR" the proposals in its proxy statement for the special meeting of shareholders to be held on May 31, 2011.

At the special meeting, Cascade Financial's shareholders will be asked to consider and vote on the approval of the Agreement and Plan of Reorganization (the "Merger Agreement"), entered into on March 3, 2011, among Cascade Financial, Cascade Bank and Opus Bank, Irvine, California, providing for Opus Bank to acquire Cascade Financial and its principal operating subsidiary, Cascade Bank, and for the merger of Cascade Bank into Opus Bank. Shareholders also will be asked to consider and vote on a proposal to adjourn the special meeting to a later date or dates to permit further solicitation of proxies in the event there are not sufficient votes at the time of the special meeting to approve and adopt the Merger Agreement.

"The economic recession severely impacted the Snohomish County area and Cascade Bank," stated Carol K. Nelson, President and CEO. "After carefully considering all options, the Board of Directors and management determined Cascade Bank needed to substantially increase its capital base to meet regulatory requirements and remain competitive. The merger with Opus Bank was the best option for our shareholders. By recommending a vote "FOR" the merger, we believe that ISS and Glass Lewis also agree with this assessment."

All shareholders of Cascade Financial are encouraged to vote. Because approval of the merger proposal requires the affirmative vote of at least two-thirds of the outstanding shares entitled to vote at the special meeting, failing to vote or abstaining from voting, either in person or by proxy, will have the same effect as a vote against approval of the merger proposal. Cascade Financial's special meeting of shareholders is scheduled to be held on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 3:00 p.m., Pacific Time, at the Edward D. Hansen Conference Center at Comcast Arena, 2000 Hewitt Avenue, Everett, Washington 98201.

About Cascade Financial

Established in 1916, Cascade Bank, the only operating subsidiary of Cascade Financial, is a state chartered commercial bank headquartered in Everett, Washington. Cascade Bank maintains an "Outstanding" CRA rating and has proudly served the Puget Sound region for over 90 years. Cascade Bank operates 22 full service branches in Everett, Lynnwood, Marysville, Mukilteo, Shoreline, Smokey Point, Issaquah, Clearview, Woodinville, Lake Stevens, Bellevue, Snohomish, North Bend, Burlington and Edmonds.  

Additional Information and Where to Find It

Cascade Financial has filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") a definitive proxy statement and other relevant materials in connection with the Merger described above. The definitive proxy statement has been sent to the shareholders of Cascade Financial.  Before making any voting decision with respect to the Merger, shareholders are urged to read the proxy statement and the other relevant materials because they contain important information about the Merger. The proxy statement and other relevant materials and any other documents filed by Cascade Financial with the SEC, may be obtained free of charge at the SEC's website at http://www.sec.gov or at Cascade Financial's website at http://www.cascadebank.com under the tab "Shareholder Information." In addition, shareholders may obtain free copies of the documents filed with the SEC by calling Advantage Proxy toll-free at (877) 870-8565.

Participants in the Solicitation

Cascade Financial and its directors and executive officers may be deemed to be participants in the solicitation of proxies from the shareholders of Cascade Financial in connection with the Merger. Information about the directors and executive officers of Cascade Financial is set forth in its proxy statement on Schedule 14A filed with the SEC on May 17, 2010 and Cascade Financial's Annual Report on Form 10-K filed on March 25, 2011. Additional information regarding the interests of participants in the solicitation of proxies in connection with the Merger is included in the definitive proxy statement filed by Cascade Financial with the SEC on April 18, 2011.

Forward-Looking Statements

This news release contains statements that are forward-looking as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements are provided to assist in the understanding of anticipated future financial results. However, such forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties relating to interest rates, approval and completion of the merger with Opus Bank, regulatory enforcement actions to which Cascade Financial and Cascade Bank are currently and may in the future be subject, inability to attract and retain deposits, changes in capital classifications, changes in the level of nonperforming assets and charge-offs, and general market risks. For a discussion of certain factors that may cause such forward-looking statements to differ materially from Cascade Financial's actual results, see the company's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2010, the Company's Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended March 31, 2011, and other reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Further, any forward-looking statement speaks only as of the date on which it is made, and we undertake no obligation to update any forward-looking statement to reflect events or circumstances after the date on which the statement is made or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events.

CONTACT: Investor Contacts:
         Carol K. Nelson, CEO
         Debra L. Johnson, CFO
         Cascade Bank

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