"That's why you have a tax exemption," Filson said. "So you can do things the market can't."
The former regulator's session covered how credit unions can serve as a model for others, taking the lead in both philosophical approach and safety and soundness. The current financial crisis can't be entirely blamed on organization structure failure. Rather, it's also "a challenge to create the kind of society we want to live in."
Filson praised credit unions for providing credit to consumers, calling them "first responders" to a credit market in crisis. However, he said credit unions still "lost the moral compass we thought was inherent in the system."
He also offered some criticism of the NCUA, calling the NCUSIF "the collective capital of the credit union system," and said the agency needs to understand those resources "aren't just an expense that can be charged off."
The NCUA's overdue April 2009 report to Congress is another shortcoming of the regulator, he said. That report was supposed to include an audit, and Filson questioned how the NCUA board was able to assess a premium charge to credit unions without it.
In response to an audience question asking what one thing about the NCUA he would change, Filson said the regulator should "stop predicting failure and start preventing failure."
However, Filson did stress that faith in institutions is important to maintain, "even if the leadership isn't quite where you'd like it to be."