WASHINGTON -- Costly and anti-competitive: that's the opinion of the credit union industry's three largest trade associations about two of the key recommendations of the NCUA's Outreach Task Force.
CUNA and NAFCU recently submitted to NCUA's task force that its recommendations are too expensive and might hurt their competitive situation for credit unions to disclose a summary of their members financial and income information or the salaries of their top executives.
The panel issued a report earlier this year as a result of public hearings and staff research that highlighted those possible proposals as a way to improve credit unions' service to their communities.
In their response letters and interviews with Credit Union Times, the association officials said they see the task force's findings as solutions in search of a problem.
NAFCU President Fred Becker wrote the agency that his group believes NCUA has no congressional or statutory authority to collect the data on credit union members.
Doing so would "not only have a fundamentally negative impact on the way credit unions conduct business, but would also have significant detrimental consequences for the strength and vitality of the federal credit union charter," he wrote.
CUNA President Dan Mica echoed Becker's concerns about NCUA's authority to collect data and wrote that he feared the agency could use the data to "micromanage credit union affairs."
The task force had concluded that collecting such data was "accurate but not burdensome to federal credit unions.''
The data is necessary for NCUA to determine how well credit unions are meeting a key purpose of their existence, serving low-income areas, the report added.
The task force, chaired by NCUA Board Member Gigi Hyland, issued its report in February and the public comment period ended on April 30. NCUA Director of Public and Congressional Affairs John McKechnie said the board is reviewing the recommendations but there is no timetable for when it will respond or take action.
CUNA, NAFCU and representatives of state credit union leagues also expressed strong concern about the task force's recommendation that NCUA require federal credit unions to send their members reports on the compensation of their top executives.
Several officials of the American Association of Credit Union Leagues and CUNA executives told NCUA Chairman JoAnn Johnson during a meeting last week that the requirements would be an additional expense for credit unions during a difficult economic period and there are almost no abusive practices in this area among credit unions.
Becker wrote the agency that each credit union should decide whether to report such data to their members "and not have a specific regulatory requirement imposed."
He also said mandating reporting of executive compensation would force federal credit unions to disclose more salary data than state-chartered credit unions are required to. State-chartered credit unions only have to disclose summary data of the salary of their top executives to the IRS on the form they file annually to keep their tax-exempt status.
Mica wrote that "there are no precedents to require or support such reporting under a credit union board's fiduciary duty."
He also noted that while the SEC requires publicly held companies to disclose the salaries of their top executives because it has specific statutory authority to require such data, the NCUA does not.
Also, he contended that "there is no evidence that consumers need or would even benefit from the information on the compensation of the credit union's top three senior executive officials."
NCUA's task force report was the culmination of a more than two-year process that started at a Nov. 3, 2005 House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the tax-exempt status of credit unions.
Johnson told lawmakers that day that the tax-exempt status had enabled credit unions to "provide Americans from all walks of life greater access to affordable financial services."
Representatives of the banking industry, such as Independent Community Bankers of America Chairman David E. Hayes countered that the credit union industry "has become quite similar to any other financial services provider, except for their special regulatory treatment and tax subsidy."
At that session, then-Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) said he wouldn't push to repeal credit unions' tax-exempt status but asked the Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm, to examine how well credit unions were serving underserved areas and whether they were collecting and/or disclosing enough financial data.
A year later, the GAO concluded that "credit unions lagged behind banks in serving low- and moderate-income households." The report also concluded that "credit union executive compensation is not transparent."
That prompted NCUA to create the task force to examine how credit unions were meeting their goals of serving underserved populations and whether they were disclosing enough data on their membership or salaries.