Vensure Federal Credit Union an Embarrassment?
The NCUA and Vensure FCU continue to slug it out in court.
The NCUA contends Vensure had a long, questionable history.
Vensure counter charged that NCUA conserved it out of embarrassment.
As of this writing, U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer is scheduled to hear oral arguments and perhaps deliver a decision in Vensure Federal Credit Union's attempt to stave off NCUA's conservatorship of its operations.
But no matter how the decision comes down, the agency and the credit union have already traded significant blows through their redacted legal filings in the case.
The NCUA conserved the $4.7 million credit union on April 15, just hours after its largest account holder had its account seized as part of a federal investigation into allegedly unlawful Internet gambling transactions. The CU has been fighting the order ever since.
In its filings leading up to a May 11 deadline, the NCUA suggested that it had known something was up about the institution, which the NCUA characterized as being a "sleepy little credit union" as early as 2008 when an organization calling itself the National Investors Financial Education Association applied for CU services through the Grand Adirondack Federal Credit Union (Vensure's name at the time).
NCUA's filings said the agency had "concerns" about the request, but that after they were answered, it allowed members of the organization's Manhattan chapter, located in New York City, to join GAFCU.
Prior to this addition, the NCUA characterized the CU as "self-liquidating," with assets dropping from $73,529 in December 1999 to $30,966 in December 2007.
But after the addition of NIFEA in April 2008, a delayed examination of the CU's books in November of that year found that the CU's assets had grown by more than ten times, to more than $349,000.
It was soon after, in early 2009, that the NCUA said it was surprised by the credit union's "sudden" move from New York to Arizona.
"NCUA was completely unaware of any intended move by GAFCU and caught off guard by the news because not only did GAFCU fail to convey its intention before it moved, it also elected not to notify NCUA first after it moved," the agency said in its filing.
Then, according to the NCUA, an almost comic search ensued around the country for the true location of the CU that involved the NCUA staffers phoning or visiting locations in New York, Florida and Texas before they finally found GAFCU, now headquartered in the small Arizona town of Gilbert.
Only by this time, the CU's assets had increased to $2.1 million, its balance sheet swelled, according to someone whose name was redacted from the filing, by fee and "other operating income" from two CUSOs: Account Process Systems and Verartis Inc., which offered financial transaction and financial counseling services.
But by the time GAFCU applied for and received permission to change its name to Vensure FCU, the NCUA said it had learned that the income had not come from transaction processing or financial counseling but from the "legally suspect source" of Internet gambling transaction processing.
The agency was immediately concerned and said it began pressing Vensure to stop the processing and sever its relationship with Trinity Global Commerce Corp., the third-party transaction provider for two of the largest online poker sites, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.
The actual figures illustrating how great a percentage of Vensure's income Trinity transactions represented were redacted from the court documents, but the agency argued "according to all the information available prior to April 15, 2011, Vensure appeared to be nothing more than a shell whose only function was to facilitate Trinity's processing of Internet gambling transactions."
For its part, in its replies, Vensure reiterated its previous contentions that it had complied with the NCUA's demands to cease processing for Trinity and that the agency had been satisfied with the CU not renewing the contract and only processing for Trinity in the interim. The NCUA had only conserved the CU, Vensure argued, because its leadership was concerned about being embarrassed by the U.S. Attorney's actions.
As proof, Vensure pointed to part of a debate among NCUA board members from the meeting where the agency decided to conserve the institution. The debate had been included in the administrative record that the agency submitted sealed to the court, but Vensure's citation of the debate was not redacted.
"The actual ground for this decision, which was not set down in NCUA's statement of grounds [for the conservatorship], was reflected in NCUA Board Member Michael Fryzel's statement on the day of the conservatorship," the credit union argued, quoting Fryzel as saying, "We are going to have to be taking action on at [sic] the last minute in order to make sure that we are not embarrassed further."
Vensure quoted NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz who responded, "I echo your comments." Fryzel said, "Now, at this late date, we sit here attempting to take action before the Justice Department moves in and embarrasses us even further."