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TheStreet Open House

Bank CEO Channels Deceased Parents

Stocks in this article: TFSLKRECBACGSHCBK

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- When you spend your time tracking the every move of Citigroup (C), Bank of America (BAC) and Goldman Sachs (GS), trying to get an edge over all the other reporters, analysts and investors doing the same thing, it's easy to miss some of the stuff that might be going on with a bank in, say, Cleveland.

It's even easier to miss what's going on with a Cleveland-based bank that communicates with investors so rarely its CEO has to issue a disclaimer right off the bat.

"This meeting today may be a little clunky compared to what some of you are used to since this is our first investor call of this kind," said Marc Stefanski, President, Chairman and CEO of TFS Financial Corp. (TFSL), kicking off a highly unusual Aug. 9 conference call that appears to have gone unremarked-upon by the media.

Though TFS was founded by Stefanski's parents in 1938 and went public in 2007, bank management had apparently never felt the need to hold the kind of conference call that most public companies consider routine. But after a friendly visit from regulators at the newly-vigilant Office of Thrift Supervision that would eventually lead to a formal sanction called a memorandum of understanding, TFS suspended its dividend and halted share repurchases. The stock fell some 20% on the news.

"We are hopeful that we can eliminate or calm the fears of some of you," was how Stefanski explained the rationale for the call according to the transcript, noting the decision had left the bank's management team "a little excited, nervous and very hopeful."

Shareholders, too, seemed excited, though a couple of them scolded Stefanski for taking so long to open up.

"If you keep to yourself, you don't have the chance of learning. I would suggest that you reconsider how you have been running your investor relations business and how you deal with the Street," said an investor named Richard Lovin, according to a transcript of the call. Lovin could not be reached, and calls and an e-mail to Stefanski went unreturned.

Stefanski also heard from a man named George Tarbuck, who, as a depositor in the bank, is also theoretically a shareholder. That is because TFS is what's known as a mutual holding company (MHC)--an unusual ownership structure in which less than half a company's shares are publicly listed. Some investors see great potential benefits to mutual holding companies, and Hudson City Bancorp (HCBK), which was a mutual holding company until 2005, provides a great example of the bull case.

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