MOORLACH UPDATE — LOOK BACKS — June 1, 2010

FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS

June 1

1990

An article of mine on employee benefits was printed in the June/July issue of Christian Management Report, an industry magazine for nonprofit managers.  The title was “Tax Sheltered Annuities.”  This topic covered defined contribution plans under Internal Revenue Service Code Section 403(b).  In 1978 some 84 percent of Fortune 100 employees were in defined benefit plans.  By 1998 it would be only 44 percent; this trend is continuing in the private sector.

After a mostly technical article, I concluded with advocating a defined contribution approach to retirement planning.

Retirement plans are becoming a critical employee benefit.  In fact, 96 percent of Fortune 100 and 500 companies surveyed offer a retirement plan . . . And they are wanted – as saving for retirement is the top personal financial goal for Americans . . .  Something has to be set aside each year in anticipation towards retirement. . .

1995

Laurie Wielenga wrote an article, titled “What Happens When You Lose a Partner During Busy Season?”  I have a copy of the piece, but I do not know in what publication it was printed.  My firm was interviewed on my abrupt transition to the County earlier that year.  Photos were included of Joanne Mahieu, Connie Askew, Jeff Gray, and Mike Peters.  I still feel the same way as I did in the closing paragraph.  Balser, Horowitz, Frank & Wakeling was a wonderful chapter in my career.  Here are a few portions of the article.

Late nights, migraine headaches, deadline pressure—these are a few of the things accounting firms experience during tax season.  Add to the list a media circus and the loss of a partner, and that’s what the firm of Balser, Horowitz, Frank & Wakeling went through in March when longtime partner John W. Moorlach was appointed Treasurer of Orange County.  “John was appointed on a Friday, started on a Monday, so we basically had Saturday to figure everything out,” said Mike Peters, a partner in the firm’s Costa Mesa office, who has worked with the firm since 1979.

Peters admitted he wasn’t very happy about Moorlach leaving.  “I wasn’t that thrilled about it.  It meant more responsibilities and hardships for me, personally.  I struggled with it,” Peters said.  “But I had to stand back and see it was something he had to do.”  For Peters, tax season was the greatest concern.  Moorlach had over 200 clients whose work had to be picked up by the other partners.  The firm brought in some temporary people to help out and to spread the work.

“We were able to get the work done, and we didn’t have to file any extensions,” Peters said.  “We had a short-term objective to get through tax season and now the long-term objective is to get a permanent partner.”

Peters, who began working for the firm under Moorlach’s supervision, said professionalism, responsibility and perfectionism are characteristics he associates with the acting Orange County Treasurer.  “John went in there because he had a real desire to improve the situation, and he isn’t one to do things halfway,” Peters said.  “I’d rather have him in there than anyone else.  He’s very conscientious, capable and qualified.  He will do the best he can.”

“Leaving was very hard emotionally,” [Moorlach] said.  “Eighteen years invested with hundreds of clients I’ve established relationships with – it’s very difficult.  I don’t even like to think about it.”

As you can imagine, I had a rather demanding speaking schedule.  I still do.  Clair Vitucci, a reporter for the Times Advocate in Escondido, came to listen to me speak to the Rotary Club of Vista.  One of their Rotarians was a long-time and dear friend,  so I made the trek to be the luncheon speaker.  The title of the piece was “Orange treasurer offers insights – Speech:  John Moorlach was in Vista to talk about his county’s financial woes.”  Here is most of the article.  It includes a little twist as my topic also hit a local nerve.

                Though he may be a few months late for Vista, Orange County Treasurer John Moorlach provided a little insight into municipality finances Wednesday at a local civic group meeting.

                At a luncheon hosted by the Vista Rotary Club, Moorlach entertained the crowd with humorous anecdotes from the events that led up to Orange County’s bankruptcy Dec. 1.

                “You can lead a reporter to water but you can’t make him think,” he said.

                While he warned the county was taking the highest risk in the nation, Citron boasted the county was receiving the highest returns.

                Citron pleaded guilty to six felony counts and faces trial as a result of his investment actions.

                As the county’s new head of finances, Moorlach said he has a new strategy in mind.

                “It has to be safety, liquidity, yield,” he said.  “With Citron, it was yield, yield, yield.  If you’re going to make a killing, you’d better be prepared to be killed.”

                Moorlach said he knew little about Vista’s investment loss of $1.3 million over the past year but suggested cities invest in liquid investments, as municipalities often need a large cash flow.

                Though Vista did not experience the same fiscal disaster Orange County did, the city did suffer after securities not scheduled to mature until a later date were sold early at a loss.

                City Manager Morris Vance said curiosity got the best of him.

                “It was very interesting,” he said.  “Orange County (investments) were different than ours in that they were leveraged and we didn’t get involved in leveraging, but it was interesting to see the chronology of what went on.”

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