The 144,000-member, $1.6 billion Apple Federal Credit Union, headquartered in Fairfax, Va., has become the first large credit union to leave CUNA this year. Three other large credit unions, two from New Mexico and one from Texas, left the trade group last year.
CUNA has not yet commented on the departure, but Apple CEO Larry Kelly said the CU's board had made the decision after concluding the trade group was no longer a very effective advocate for credit unions.
“Can you tell me one major thing that CUNA has done for credit unions in the last 12 years?” Kelly asked.
He cited the steadily tightening regulatory burden that credit unions face under NCUA's current leadership as a reason his credit union board had started to question whether its members would continue to be best served by a credit union charter.
“My board has voted to ask me to assess that question and we are in the midst of currently evaluating it,” Kelly said.
Kelly acknowledged that NCUA's regulatory stance was more relaxed under former NCUA Board Chairman Dennis Dollar, but he credited Dollar's background with credit unions more for that than any CUNA advocacy or lobbying at the time. He also suggested it was poor NCUA enforcement of existing rules, rather than a lack of regulations, that led to the collapse of corporate credit unions and other scandals.
Kelly recounted a trip he made to a Florida county last year, where the NCUA now owns over 2,000 homes from troubled credit unions, and said he had been stunned by what he saw. “What could they have been thinking in making these investments,” Kelly asked, “and how could NCUA have not questioned them?”
Likewise, he pointed out that Apple had left the now-failed WesCorp Corporate Credit Union a full three years before it failed because the CU had been terrified of some of the corporate's investments and questioned why, if Apple could see the risk, couldn't an NCUA employee on site?
When asked how CUNA could become a better credit union advocate, Kelly suggested a leadership change at the top would be a place to start. “How can an organization represent credit unions when its president is being sued by the regulator,” Kelly asked. “I just don't get it.” The cases against the WesCorp and U.S. Central directors, which included Cheney, were dismissed in July of 2011.