Is a personal feud between Corporate America Credit Union CEO Thomas Bonds, who took a leave of absence from his post last month, and NCUA Office of Corporate Credit Unions Director Scott Hunt the reason behind the delay in NCUA approval of a merger between the $3.7 billion Corporate America and the $218 million Louisiana Corporate Credit Union?
Correspondence between the Alabama state credit union regulator and the NCUA suggests it might.
Fifteen months have passed since the boards of directors of the two corporates announced their intent to pursue a merger. Despite approval in 2011 by the Louisiana Office of Financial Institutions and the State of Alabama Credit Union Administration, the NCUA has yet to approve it.
“They’re kind of sitting on it at this time,” Alabama Credit Union Administrator Larry Morgan said about the NCUA. “It may happen down the road, but for some reason they’re not in any hurry.”
Morgan expressed his concerns about the delay to NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz in a letter dated Oct. 24, 2011, and obtained by Credit Union Times. In that letter, Morgan said both his office and the Louisiana regulator were contacted by the NCUA Office of Corporate Credit Unions Deputy Director David Shelter, who said his office was “unwilling to consider the merger at this time,” citing supervisory issues at Corporate America.
Morgan said he had “serious concerns” with the tone of an Oct. 18, 2011 letter the regulator reviewed from Hunt to Corporate America Chairman Steve Nix. The tone conflicted with the oral presentations made by the NCUA staff and management during and after the supervisory visit, which indicated the issues would be an easy fix.
Further thickening the plot, Morgan cited a complaint the Alabama regulator made to the NCUA in September 2009 regarding an alleged threat by Hunt to Bonds that “NCUA would not support CACU in any manner if [Bonds] continued to talk with the media” about corporate credit union issues.
In that letter, T. Glenn Latham, who was the Alabama credit union administrator at the time, detailed accusations by Bonds that during an exit interview examiners told Bonds his “public comments were being monitored by the agency, even at the board level.” Bonds further told Latham he was told by NCUA Field Supervisor Victoria Nahrwold that she was instructed to deliver the message from Scott Hunt, who was at the time acting director of the corporate credit union office.
Latham said Nahrwold confirmed those comments to an email she sent to Alabama’s Assistant Administrator Lloyd Moore on Sept. 6, 2009. In the email, Latham said she wrote that Bonds’ “media campaign comments were being perceived by NCUA management and the board as disparaging toward the corporate network.”
Bonds spoke out against U.S. Central’s method of soliciting PIC II funds in December 2008, saying the failed corporate threatened to cut off payment systems support to those who failed to participate.
“Look, we don't want to abandon U.S. Central altogether, but we can't be held hostage by an organization that tells the corporate network, ‘We need more capital or else we'll turn off your access to payment systems,’” Bonds told Credit Union Times for an article that was published Aug. 19, 2009. That allegation led to Corporate America filing a fraud suit against U.S. Central, which was settled out of court.
Morgan told Matz in the October letter that the NCUA appeared to have ignored the complaint because no one from NCUA had contacted the his office or Corporate America.
“I do not believe Director Hunt can objectively act on any issue related to Corporate America due to the threat,” Morgan wrote. “It is our desire to respectfully request that the NCUA board direct agency management to allocate the requisite resources outside of Director Hunt’s control to conduct the merger review and forward a recommendation to the NCUA board."
The NCUA provided Credit Union Times a redacted copy of the response letter, dated Nov. 15, 2011. Agency spokesman John Zimmerman said the letter primarily discussed supervisory issues that are confidential and exempted from Freedom of Information Act.
However, the letter did reveal that the NCUA’s Office of Inspector General initiated a preliminary inquiry into the 2009 accusation by Bonds of threats by Hunt and interviewed appropriate corporate credit union office staff.
“Based on the results of this inquiry, OIG found insufficient evidence to substantiate the allegation,” Matz said in the letter.
Bonds refused to comment on the matter, and other officials from Corporate America did not respond to requests for comment.