Democrats strike populist tone against banker French Hill | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Democrats strike populist tone against banker French Hill

Posted By on Tue, Oct 14, 2014 at 4:47 PM

click to enlarge J. FRENCH HILL: He got his. $5 million. Some of his employees got the shaft.
  • J. FRENCH HILL: He got his. $5 million. Some of his employees got the shaft.
As expected, Republican millionaire banker J. French Hill's starchy debate appearance on AETN against Democratic congressional candidate Pat Hays produced irresistible fodder for the Arkansas Democratic Party.

The party praises a John Brummett column for his noting that Hill enriched himself in the sale of a community bank that has wound up costing employees their jobs. This is the same candidate who wants to dismantle the private option health plan that has provided insurance to a quarter-million Arkansans and who opposes a government minimum wage. A minimum wage just hurts poor folks,  he sniffed. Said the Democrats:

“While French Hill made millions for himself through the sale of his bank, his employees were hung out to dry and forced to find new jobs,” said Lizzy Price of the Arkansas Democratic Party. “This is a strikingly clear example showing how Hill’s self-interested values are out-of-touch with hardworking Arkansans, and why he can’t be trusted to look out for us in Washington.”
There's a bit of old news at the root of this and I've mentioned it before. But Hill's debate performance invites a recapitulation.

Arkansas Business reported in August on material from a prospectus about Simmons  First National Bank's acquisition of Delta Trust, led by Hill

Hill (or Milburn Drysdale as a blog reader snarkily called him) owned $2.1 million worth of the shares in the Delta Trust holding company being sold to Simmons. But that wasn't all. 

He also was to receive $1.5 million for other warrants and stock options he'd accrued as CEO and chairman. And he got $422,000 for his supplemental retirement plan.

And that still wasn't all: Hill also was entitled to $987,000 in severance "if he ceases for any reason to be employed by Simmons within a period of two years immediately following the closing of the merger. Nice door prize for election to Congress. A severance payment of nearly $1 million.

Add it all up and a victory in Congress would send a man who thinks the working poor don't benefit from a minimum wage with $5 million package in his back pocket. He won't worry where HIS next meal will come from.

Some of Hill's former colleagues at Delta Trust can't rest so easily. As Arkansas Business also has reported, a number of employees were notified in July that they might lose jobs, though a precise number wasn't revealed. More recently, AB reported that eight employees had left Delta's mortgage division rather than take 30 percent pay cuts.

You could look a little cynically at some of this — that Hill was looking out for himself, but not his employees. Investment News reported in August:

“The chairman and chief executive of Delta Trust & Banking Corp. in Little Rock is not taking anything for granted, but he has to consider the impact on his business of a possible win in November. “We have begun to lay in place those contingency plans, if, in fact, the people in the 2nd District give me their trust to represent them in Congress — both from a managerial point of view and from a client access and oversight point of view,” said Mr. Hill, 57. Internally, the transition includes mapping out a business operating system “that does not include me,” he said.”

Best I can tell, the transition plan was severance pay for J. French Hill.

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