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Harris to replace Barry as Echo CEO; Field becomes chairman, Alikian general counsel

22 May 2007  |  2329 views  |  0 Source: Electronic Clearing House

Electronic Clearing House, Inc. (NASDAQ:ECHO), a leading provider of electronic payment and transaction processing services, today announced the upcoming retirement of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Joel M. ("Jody") Barry, effective July 2, 2007, the anticipated date of the Company's Annual Meeting of Shareholders.

Upon Barry's retirement, President and Chief Operating Officer Charles J. ("Chuck") Harris will assume the position of Chief Executive Officer, and independent Board member Richard D. Field will assume the role of non-executive Chairman of the Board of Directors.

"It has been an honor to serve ECHO since 1986 in various capacities throughout an exciting two decades of growth and development for the Company," said Jody Barry, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Electronic Clearing House, Inc. "On behalf of the Board, we are pleased that we have Chuck Harris, a proven veteran of the payments and financial services industries, to take the helm, along with a strong and dedicated management team in place. In their capable hands, ECHO is ready and well positioned to execute our plans and regain growth momentum in our core businesses."

Mr. Barry's retirement ends a 20-year span of ECHO leadership. Jody Barry has been a Director of ECHO since 1987 and Chairman of the Board since December 1987. Mr. Barry served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of ECHO from 1987 to 1990 at the time of his appointment as Chief Executive Officer. Since 1990, Mr. Barry has also been a Director and the Chief Executive Officer of ECHO's MerchantAmerica, Inc. and XPRESSCHEX, Inc. wholly owned subsidiaries, roles which Mr. Harris will also assume. The Company expects to finalize a retirement separation arrangement with Mr. Barry prior to the anticipated Annual Meeting.

"On behalf of Richard Field and the Board of Directors, along with the entire ECHO team, we deeply appreciate Jody Barry's many years of service to our Company," said Chuck Harris. "Jody has been paramount to the Company's accomplishments over the past 20 years, and we intend to continue his legacy and vision for ECHO. We wish him the very best in his retirement."

Chuck Harris joined ECHO in September 2005 as President, Chief Operating Officer and Director. Prior to joining the Company, Mr. Harris served in executive, operational and sales leadership positions at prominent organizations including Paymentech and Electronic Data Systems. Most recently, from 2002 to 2005, he was President and Chief Executive Officer of Merchant Link, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Paymentech and a supplier of electronic payment technologies and outsourced services to the point-of-sale market.

Richard Field became a Director of ECHO in July 2004. Mr. Field has worked in the financial services industry for over 40 years as an executive of the Bank of New York, Chase, and Citigroup, and a director of MasterCard International and Chairman of its U.S. Board of Directors. Since his retirement from full time employment in 1997, Mr. Field has continued his career in the specialty financial services sector as a co-founder and director of LendingTree, Inc. and as a board member of Providian Financial Corporation and HPSC, Inc.

ECHO's Annual Meeting of Shareholders is tentatively scheduled for July 2, 2007 and will be held at the Company's offices.

Separately, Electronic Clearing House, Inc. (NASDAQ:ECHO), a leading provider of electronic payment and transaction processing services, today announced the appointment of Shawn Alikian as in-house General Counsel.

Mr. Alikian served as division counsel and vice president of corporate development for Homestore, Inc., Westlake Village, California, where he was a legal strategist and executive responsible for business transactions, corporate matters and legal issues. Earlier in his legal career, Mr. Alikian was a corporate and business transaction attorney for Sideman & Bancroft LLP, San Francisco, California, and a business transaction and litigation attorney for Lang, Richert & Patch, Fresno, California.

Mr. Alikian holds a Juris Doctor degree from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, an MBA from Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, and a Bachelor of Arts, Business Economics from University of California at Los Angeles.

"We are delighted to welcome Shawn to our executive team," stated Chuck Harris, President and Chief Operating Officer of ECHO. "Shawn brings impressive credentials in corporate counsel and legal strategy, and his perspectives will add a positive dimension to our business operations."

As an inducement to Mr. Alikian's decision to enter into employment with ECHO, the Company entered into a restricted stock grant agreement whereby Mr. Alikian was issued 10,000 shares of restricted stock. The shares vest over a period of five years, with 2,000 shares vesting on the first anniversary of the effective date of the restricted stock grant agreement, and the remainder vesting annually over a period of four years. The vesting provisions accelerate to the extent ECHO is acquired, merges with another company, sells all or substantially all of its assets, or otherwise enters into another similar transaction, in each case as set forth in the restricted stock grant agreement. Mr. Alikian will forfeit any portion of the shares not vested at the time that he ceases providing services to ECHO. The grant of shares was approved by the Compensation Committee of ECHO's Board of Directors.

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