No News Is the News About Western Bridge
Despite an earlier indication from the NCUA that the regulator hoped to reach a decision about how best to dispose of the assets of conserved corporate Western Bridge in November, that month came and went with no announcements.
Asked now about when it hoped to announce a decision about the sale of Western Bride or U.S. Central, the other conserved corporate, the agency recently said through a spokesperson: “NCUA continues to work diligently to resolve matters related to both WesBridge and US Central. We will make an announcement at the appropriate time.”
Involved parties who asked for anonymity because they are not authorized to speak on the record indicated that an announcement – probably about Western Bridge, possibly also about U.S. Central – will be forthcoming on Dec. 15, the day of the next NCUA board meeting.
“Look to that date,” said one source.
One topic on which the NCUA will offer definitive comment is that, in its search for solutions for Western Bridge, it has sought input from present members.
Commented an NCUA spokesperson: “We have not solicited formal input from the members but they have had the opportunity through the initial phase when United Resources was proposed.
“For example, NCUA has used several informal channels that helped inform our decision to open the Western Bridge bidding process only to corporates--as the NCUA Board heard many members would not support a transition to a non-corporate entity.”
The agency also said that no member will be forced to remain a member of an acquiring corporate, nor will they be required to contribute capital if an acquirer pursues a capital call on Western Bridge members.
“However, if they choose not to contribute capital, the member may have to transition away from the acquirer in an orderly fashion,” the NCUA said.
That statement is not necessarily supported by testimony from Western Bridge members. When asked by Credit Union Times if they had in fact been contacted by the NCUA to offer perspective on disposing of Western Bridge assets, leaders in three California credit unions that had been active supporters in the failed drive to capitalize United Resources – Patelco, Vons, and Kern Schools FCU – indicated their opinions had not been sought.
No credit union contacted by Credit Union Times did in fact say its opinion had been sought but that sample was admittedly tiny (under 10 natural person credit unions).
No matter the count, at least some outside observers believe the NCUA has acted appropriately.
Explained credit union consultant Marvin Umholtz: “As conservator the NCUA did not require anyone’s advice or approval about how to handle the Western Bridge sale.”
He said, “The NCUA stuck to its early-on commitment that each Western Bridge-member credit union could make its own business decision whether to stay or move to another provider. That has been true throughout the conservatorship and is expected to remain true post-sale.
“Although it is a rare comment to hear coming from my lips, the NCUA deserves high praise for respecting each retail credit union’s independent business decision during this entire process.”