Politics Does Indeed Make the CU World Go 'Round
First with the bigger picture: Sen. Chris Dodd announced his retirement as of year-end last week. The big impact for credit unions will be in regard to the various cogs in the regulatory restructuring mega-machine.
The Senate is like an elite, tight-knit club, which is no surprise. Where it comes into play here is that even though Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Richard Shelby may find himself regularly at odds with Dodd, he may consider throwing Dodd a bone. Dodd is aiming to make the overhaul of the financial service regulatory system his big claim to fame. Shelby, who has been a proponent of regulatory relief in the past, could let a lot of the reg restructuring through for his fellow club member.
A markup had been rumored for this month, but now that is not expected to occur. Keep an eye on exactly how politics plays into how you run your credit union every day. For this reason alone, I can never understand why anyone would ever say they're not interested in politics.
Another observation of mine, political in somewhat of a different manner, is that NAFCU has toned down the rhetoric on its anti-private insurance stance.
I recall as D.C. reporter several years ago, Fred Becker giving me an exclusive interview in which he sliced private primary deposit insurance up one side and down the other. NAFCU timed it for the front page of our GAC issue, not only to rattle CUNA, which is not opposed to private insurance, but also to ensure the greatest possible distribution. Even Nevada Federal Credit Union President/CEO Brad Beal, NAFCU's chairman, stated in a Q&A message to members at nevadafederal.org, "NCUA insurance is backed by the full faith and credit of the U. S. Treasury, and private insurance is backed by a private insurance company. You should decide which one makes you feel the most comfortable."
At that time, when the financial services world was humming along, if that was your position, it was a smart PR move for the group. And, now that everything's off-key, in particular in Nevada and California (states that happen to permit ASI primary deposit insurance), it's also wise to take a step back. Just last week, Dave Rhamy at Silver State Schools (see our exclusive story, page 1) and ASI discussed how they're holding up.
That's not to say NAFCU has changed its position. But, making a huge media splash about it while credit unions, federally insured and non-federally insured, are struggling would be detrimental to all. NAFCU knows what we should all realize: In the end, the headline in the mainstream press will not distinguish between the two and neither will the consumer. However, the credit union industry knows distinction is important and there is a material difference, just as the distinction between trade publications is important to us.
Just as NAFCU is still working behind the scenes on its issues with private insurance, WesCorp CEO Philip Perkins-whose job title could also be NCUA's manager of WesCorp since it hired him-was attempting to work a little behind the scenes magic regarding the proposed corporate rule. Credit Union Times intercepted the message and reported the facts (see our exclusive story, page 3).
The NCUA is not pleased with its high-profile employee speaking out against its own rule and writing a letter suggesting that others follow his lead. Considering the politics here, Perkins made a very bold choice. While his memo was only intended to reach WesCorp members, it was bound to make it into the CU mainstream, which it did.
However, Perkins is not an NCUA employee in the usual sense. WesCorp is in conservatorship, which is what NCUA does with institutions with the intent of returning it to its members. Therefore, he could very well continue to serve as WesCorp CEO without the NCUA management.
Additionally, NCUA's comment periods are open to the public, so precluding him from making comments to anyone, including his membership, regarding the rule puts some shade on our government in the sunshine. Who better than Perkins to explain to his membership and others exactly what WesCorp would need to survive in any way, shape or form? Is his job to serve WesCorp's interests or NCUA's? The purposes and intents of each are very different.
The NCUA's purpose is to ensure the safety and soundness of the credit union industry and protect the NCUSIF. In doing so, the agency has been approving in increasing numbers mergers with out-of-state credit unions. Just last week, Chartway FCU in Virginia moved forward with the acquisition of HeritageWest FCU in Utah, and Chartway is seeking out more. Both credit unions have military fields of membership, which means members can be widely dispersed geographically, so it may be relatively easy for Chartway to adjust. However, I would caution that some of these out-of-state mergers, which the NCUA is using to protect the insurance fund, may not make sense in the long run.
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