NCUA Consumer Unit Flexes Its Muscles
While the newly launched Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has received considerable attention and criticism, the focus for most credit unions is on the NCUA’s Office of Consumer Protection.
That office, and the agency’s examiners, will be enforcing the rules that the CFPB issues as well as handling insurance, bylaw and field of membership issues.
The 38-person office hasn’t ruffled many feathers yet, but credit unions are concerned that the complaint process could result in their being unfairly tarnished.
“Credit unions fear that the agency will disclose complaints before they are resolved, and this makes for a potential reputational risk. We have been talking to the agency about how we can minimize the frequency of that,” said NAFCU General Counsel Carrie Hunt.
Previously, if the agency received a complaint about a credit union, it turned it over to the credit union to resolve. Now, the Office of Consumer Protection investigates the complaints.
Earlier this year, NAFCU President/CEO Fred Becker and NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz had a public disagreement about how much the agency should disclose. In one letter, he recommended that when corresponding with credit union members, the office not “address any specific regulatory violations, if the office found that any occurred.”
Matz replied that doing so would certainly lack transparency and bring into question the agency’s independence and integrity.
Member complaints are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act because of financial privacy concerns of the complainant and the supervisory nature of the correspondence, according to NCUA spokesman David Small.
He said the office has no plans to propose any new consumer compliance regulations beyond those issued by the CFPB. However, it will update existing regulations, such as the Truth in Savings Act and Unfair and Deceptive Practices Act.
The CFPB has direct supervisory authority over Navy FCU, Pentagon FCU and State Employees of North Carolina CU but can request to accompany the NCUA on examinations of other credit unions if it is concerned about a practice.
CUNA Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Mary Dunn said some credit unions are concerned that the NCUA’s Office of Consumer Protection will tie decisions about changes of fields of membership to making sure that consumer interests are protected.
“They haven’t given us a strong indication as to where they will go on that. They have said the right things about how they value what credit unions do and don’t want to add to their burden but the devil is in the details.”