Editor’s Column: On Bank Transfer Day and Decker Nomination
Big news has been popping up all over the credit union industry, and while I’ve written about these topics before, they deserve follow up and re-examination.
First, to rip off a children’s rhyme, Bank Transfer Day has passed, so you’re the fool at last. The fools–no disrespect intended–being those who continue to say that Bank Transfer Day was a gimmick and nothing would come from it or even that it would have a negative impact on credit unions.
CUs opened more than 40,000 accounts on Bank Transfer Day according to CUNA. These accounts included $80 million in deposits and $90 million in loans in one day.
In the month running up to that day, more than 650,000 people moved to credit unions, based on estimates from a CUNA survey. That doesn’t even include those who moved to community banks. By any measure credit unions have benefited greatly from the anger directed against the announced and then rescinded Bank of America debit fee.
Now CUs need to make sure they follow up with all these new members to see if they have loans, or in some cases more loans, or accounts to bring to the credit union. And CU marketing and PR types must keep the industry in front of the main stream press. The third-party validation of credit union executives as experts in providing financial services to consumers is invaluable.
Second, Carla Decker, head of District Government Employees FCU (which according to the NCUA is officially named DC FCU, which has caused some confusion), goes before the Senate Banking Committee Nov. 17. If you read Claude Marx’s column, he notes that she’s not a controversial appointee. In some sense that is true. Given the lack of attention paid to the NCUA and credit unions in general, she likely won’t draw much attention.
However, some issues at her CU have brought attention from the CU industry, which you can only find at CUTimes.com. Read some of the comments found under the online article, “Board Nominee’s Credit Union is ‘High Strategic Risk.’”
I also outlined a few of them in my Nov. 2 column, “Perception and Reality Will Shape Decker’s Fate,” but I did not go far enough. And quite honestly, new information has come to light. According to examination documents obtained by Credit Union Times, DGE FCU had unreconciled ATM and ACH accounts going back to 2002 totaling $734,235 that were not written off.
The report warned that if the funds were not discovered, they must be written off in the first quarter of 2011, which would likely result in a net worth drop to 10.77%. At year-end 2010 DGE FCU’s net worth was sitting pretty at 12.18%, according to its financial performance report. By first-quarter 2011, it plummeted to 10.11%. Presumably three quarters of a million dollars went missing from the $45 million CU.
Regrettably, accounting problems at small CUs is not terribly uncommon, but the fact the NCUA did not force the credit union to write the funds down for eight years is even worse. That amount didn’t creep up overnight.
On top of that, the CU had repossessed a vehicle with a loan balance of $80,000. That’s a heck of a nice car, particularly for a low-income designated (by the NCUA) CU to be funding the loan. Some larger credit unions wouldn’t make that loan simply for the concentration risk. This is something credit unions, founded to serve those of modest means, would not want highlighted.
However, whether Decker’s credit union is the victim of the economy or some sort of insider dealing or she has not run her CU well is irrelevant to the bigger picture. Her ability to run a CU and her potential abilities as a regulator are very different skill sets.
When someone goes through the nomination process to the NCUA board, their background is necessarily highlighted. Decker’s most recent work experience has been at DGE FCU, therefore her CU comes under scrutiny by the media, by Congress and by the administration. (Arguably I know, considering gaffes like Treasury Secretary Geithner’s failure to pay his taxes.) While no one in the administration or the Senate may read this, I had to take a stand because I do care about the future of credit unions and the NCUA. Carla Decker cannot be the best candidate credit unions can put up for the NCUA board seat.
This entire scenario runs counter to the trade associations’ work to build CUs’ reputation in Washington, and yet they aren’t doing anything publicly to ensure NCUA board nominees from within the CU industry will represent the industry to the highest quality possible. CUNA and NAFCU need to get their priorities in check to advocate for their member credit unions and send up someone from within the industry who will represent it in a better light. Forget about banker attacks that the regulators are too close to the industry. Their regulators aren’t from another planet. Former FDIC Chairman Powell used to join in the credit union bashing.
Marx is right. She’ll likely pass through confirmation with a couple of pointed questions during her hearing. The Democrats will want to get someone confirmed just in case there is a change in party in the White House, and quite frankly, CUs and their regulators–like others–are an afterthought to party politics.