Although government work isn’t always lucrative, 25 NCUA employees make more than $201,000 annually, according to agency records.
NCUA General Counsel Robert Fenner’s annual salary of $265,559 makes him the highest paid employee at the agency. Executive Director David Marquis earns $260,708, and Director of Office of Examinations and Insurance Melinda Love earns $260,000.
All of the agency’s top earners make more than the NCUA board members, whose salaries are tied to those of members of Congress. NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz earns $162,900, and NCUA Board Members Michael Fryzel and Gigi Hyland both earn $153,200.
Included among the top earners are all the regional directors and top officials in key offices such as the Office of Corporate Credit Unions, the Office of General Counsel and the Office of Consumer Protection.
Two political appointees made the list. Todd Harper, who runs the Office of Public and Congressional Affairs and is Matz’s chief policy adviser, earns $234,999. Gary Kohn, senior policy adviser to Hyland, earns $201,086.
The salaries of other financial regulators and policymakers include Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, $199,700; Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, $191,300; and FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair, $162,900.
Salaries are set in part by the government civil service rules, although the agency has some discretion over some pay levels.
NCUA spokesman David Small said the agency’s pay matches up with other federal regulatory agencies.
“NCUA’s pay scale is in line with other financial regulators. In the wake of the savings and loan crisis, Congress began to exempt financial agencies from federal employee pay caps to ensure that regulators can hire and retain the experts needed to oversee specialized industries,” Small said in an email statement.
By comparison, there are 555 FDIC employees who earn $200,000 or more. The FDIC has 5,381 full-time equivalent employees.
The NCUA has 1,156 full-time equivalent employees.
Jim Blaine, president of State Employees' Credit Union of North Carolina, said it’s not the salary of the agency’s employees that concerns him, it’s their job performance.
“Government salaries are appropriate to the skill level. And we want the best qualified folks at the NCUA and to pay them appropriately. But the question is not whether the salary level is appropriate. The question is whether the performance of those holding those positions meets the expectations. And there is a great and growing concern about that,” said Blaine, whose Raleigh-based credit union has assets of $22 billion.
He said the agency’s policymaking is too random and its enforcement of those policies is inconsistent, among other shortcomings.
NCUA salaries are a frequent target of criticism from credit unions because the agency’s budget is entirely paid for by credit unions. The NCUA’s 2011 budget is $225.4 million, an increase of 12% over last year's spending plan of $200.9 million.
After Congress froze salaries for nonunion employees of executive branch agencies, the NCUA froze the salaries of its nonunionized staff members, who make up about 20% of its workforce. They had been scheduled to receive a 3% salary increase.
The remaining 80% of NCUA employees will receive a 6.1% increase because they remain under the collective bargaining agreement.
In a recent letter to the agency, NAFCU President/CEO Fred Becker urged the agency to ask unionized workers to take a pay cut.
The agency should “reach out to the appropriate collective bargaining unit so that the 6.1% pay increase is not so disproportional to the experience of millions of Americans. It should not escape the agency’s (or the collective bargaining unit’s) decision making that our military servicemen and women received only a 1.4% increase in their pay in 2011, which was the smallest since 1973, and are on track to receive only 1.6% increase for 2012 as proposed by President Obama,” Becker wrote.