ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- The NCUA Board voted 2-1 March 15 to reject two credit unions' community charter applications, prompting the board members to say they will be looking into clarifying the Field of Membership and Chartering Manual.
Cinfed Federal Credit Union and Emery Federal Credit Union were both turned down by the region for community charters encompassing eight counties in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana with a population of 1.9 million people. The NCUA Board last week denied their appeal of the regional directors' decision on a 2-1 vote with Board Member Gigi Hyland voting to approve the community charter application and Vice Chairman Rodney Hood stating he was inclined to do so, but thought better of it in order to "do more for the credit union system...at this time."
While the region denied the application "due to a lack of sufficient evidence of interaction and similar interests," Hyland--a lawyer in her previous life--strongly disagreed. Despite the community spanning into three states and residents' ties to their individual towns, she said, "I am satisfied that the record reflects considerable evidence of social and economic interaction and common interests among the eight counties contained in the application centered around the city of Cincinnati." She noted the ties of employment and commuter patterns, professional sports teams based in Cincinnati, and a single airport, among others.
Board Member Hyland also cited the Office of Management and Budget's definition of MSA meaning "a core area containing a large populated nucleus that has a high degree of social and economic integration with that core and has a contained economy. It is an area where a preponderance of the residents live, work, earn and spend."
Hood began his remarks that he was inclined to approve the charter packages himself, but instead said he would like to work with the other board members to clarify the existing Field of Membership and Chartering Manual. He told Credit Union Times, "There is still a little room there for ambiguity...I don't want my hunch in any way, shape, or form to injure the credit union system." Field of membership has been a hot button issue for lawsuits from the American Bankers Association. The vice chairman said he did not have any specific ideas for modifications to share publicly at this time.
Hyland's office also said it was too early for specifics. In concluding her remarks during the open board meeting last week, Hyland said, "Lastly on the broader issue of community charter applications, I am concerned that our existing rule is confusing both in its requirements and application regarding what types and amounts of evidence are required when the community involved is an MSA or a portion of an MSA with a population in excess of one million." She asked Chairman JoAnn Johnson to request agency staff to study the issue. "I will ask the staff to put full attention on this matter," Johnson replied. In a separate action, the NCUA Board unanimously approved a $52 million, or 1%, dividend from the NCUSIF for federally insured credit unions. This means a $100 million credit union would receive approximately $2,000 back, according to NCUA Chief Financial Officer Dennis Winans. If the fund's equity ratio exceeds the board set 1.3%, the NCUSIF must declare a dividend, which can take the form of cash out or premium waivers or rebates. By law, the NCUA Board must set the equity ratio target between 1.2% and 1.5%. Since the NCUSIF was recapitalized in 1985, just one premium has been assessed and nearly $700 million has been returned to credit unions. The last dividend was in 2001. According to the Board Action Memorandum, projections are that the fund will reach an equity ratio of 1.31%-1.32% by yearend 2007, making another dividend likely for 2007. NCUA is jointly issuing with the other federal financial regulators for public comment a model privacy form to help comply with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act requirements. NCUA Staff Attorney Ross Kendall explained that the model was optional and was intended as a "safe harbor" for credit unions and other financial services providers. The Financial Service Regulatory Relief Act required the model language, due out in proposed form by April 11, 2007.
The models are intended to simplify the disclosures for financials and consumers, including boxes with brief text and bullet points. There are different versions for financials that do and do not share information with outside entities; those that do not share personal information, do not need to provide opt-out notices to consumers, according to the Board Action Memorandum. Finally, the NCUA Board voted 3-0 to send out proposed changes to the agency's disaster preparedness requirements and guidance. The Board Action Memorandum read, "The proposed changes establish minimum standard for preserving vital records and include recommendations concerning restoring member services considered vital to a credit union's continued operation." NCUA Director of Examination and Insurance Dave Marquis pointed out that the agency had some difficulty contacting credit unions after Hurricane Katrina and then had some situations where information could have been--but was not--permanently lost. The proposal would clarify the definition of catastrophic act to include interruptions of vital member services lasting more than two business days. It would also change the definition of vital records to cover share, deposit, and loan balances, which should be available as of the most recent business day and the credit unions financial reports should be available as of the most recent month's end. All other records must be changed as events occur. A new paragraph is being proposed to require credit unions to maintain emergency contact information.
NCUA is not proposing a change to "vital records center", which is separate from the primary site and unlikely to be affected by the same event, but would like to clarify that it could be another federally insured credit union.
The proposal includes recommendations for maintaining duplicate vital records and storage. Additionally, a new Appendix B would highlight all the previous letters to credit unions on disaster recovery and business continuity that NCUA has put out. --email@example.com