Giving Debbie Matz a Helping Hand
Outsourcing is all the rage in the federal government these days.
And since credit unions are always complaining that the NCUA spends too much money, Credit Union Times wants to help. As both a public service and a journalistic experiment, here's what NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz's speech to the upcoming CUNA GAC might sound like if she delegated the writing to someone outside the agency.
Thank you, Bill Cheney, for that nice introduction. It sounds a lot like the over-the-top praise that Dan Mica used to give me-in fact, used to lavish on anybody from the agency who could someday throw the book at one of your members.
As you all have heard, I come to you with more power than when I spoke to you last. I am now a member of the Financial Stability Oversight Council. So finally, the NCUA is sitting at the adult's table of financial regulators.
I know you are eager for the NCUA to ease up on the regulatory burden and be more flexible. On that subject I, as a proud appointee of President Obama, will draw my philosophy from an approach advocated by a high-ranking person from the Ronald Reagan era: "Just say no."
Nancy Reagan's "Just say no" strategy was ridiculed at the time, but was one of several factors that caused addiction rates to drop during the 1980s. And I have no doubt that it is the correct philosophy for responding to well-meaning credit unions and their advocates requesting that we be less aggressive in monitoring the system for safety and soundness.
It is refreshing to be at the GAC when things are looking better for the economy in general and particularly for credit unions. I know many of you and your members are still hurting, but things are looking up.
That's partially due to the economy, which is improving thanks to the strong federal response to the crisis.
Unlike Sheila Bair of the FDIC, I am not forced to announce the closing of a financial institution every Friday. Our annual exams are working, and we've made it more attractive for credit unions to merge.
In addition, things are looking better because of the strong steps our agency took to resolve the 900-pound gorilla facing the industry. To paraphrase that New York Yankee great Reggie Jackson, corporate credit unions are the straw that stirs the credit union drink.
With the corporate resolution plan, our goal wasn't to enact a credit union version of prohibition. Instead, we had to do an intervention to clean up the system and get it back on sound footing.
We did have to resort to a bailout. Oops, I mean a rescue, or resolution, or whatever you want to call it. And sure, Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and the bankers took some shots at us. But what was the alternative? Let the whole system fail?
I am an economist by training and know some advocates of the laissez faire approach might have favored letting the system collapse. But fortunately for credit unions, free market absolutists weren't on the board.
Our agency took something of an invisible hand approach, at the behest of the trade associations, to regulating the corporates in the first place. That's why I was the lone voice in the wilderness opposing the previous corporate credit union rule as too weak.
Events since then have proven me right. To say that some of the corporates had investment strategies that were reminiscent of those employed by drunken sailors is, well, an insult to drunken sailors.
Some of you natural person credit unions are complaining about the cost of the rescue plan. You were ecstatic when the corporates made lots of money, but you forgot about one of the fundamental rules of nature: What goes up must come down.
Thanks to Dodd-Frank, there are more safeguards in place that should prevent another crisis.
And now that I am a member of the Financial Stability Oversight Council I intend to be a strong regulator.
To be sure, the council plays a key role in determining whether large financial institutions are too big to fail. So you big guys out there be very careful.
While there are difficult times ahead, the worst is likely behind us.
I look forward to working with you in the days, months and years ahead to help the industry build on its past successes-but to do so in a safe and sound manner.