Alabama Regulator Sees No Conflict of Interest
Alabama Credit Union Administrator Larry Morgan, who was chairman of the board for the $3.7 billion Corporate America Credit Union as recently as 2010, denied accusations that he has a conflict of interest acting as regulator on issues between the corporate and the NCUA.
“I don’t think it has,” Morgan said, when asked how his Corporate America stint has affected his position.
Morgan was appointed to his regulatory position in February 2011 after retiring in late 2010 as president/CEO of the $2.2 billion APCO Employees Credit Union, where he worked for 38 years. He also retired from the Corporate America board when he received his ACUA appointment.
The state administrator said that while he was the chief executive at APCO and on the Corporate America board, APCO was Corporate America’s largest depositor.
“Therefore, I had an interest in Corporate America being a safe and sound institution,” Morgan said. “After retiring from APCO and later becoming the Alabama CU administrator, my focus remained in Corporate America being a safe and sound institution.”
When asked what he would say to those who suggest a conflict of interest, Morgan said, “What is wrong with me wanting Corporate America to be a safe and sound institution?”
Corporate America has considerable representation at the ACUA beyond Morgan, with half of the eight ACUA board members holding current or past positions with the corporate. Board members listed on the state regulator’s website include Morgan, who is chairman, ex officio; current Corporate America Board Chair Steven Nix; Secretary/Treasurer Joey Hand; and President/CEO Thomas Bonds. Nix and Hand were confirmed in January 2011, while Bonds was confirmed for the position in February 2012.
Board members are appointed by Alabama’s governor, Morgan said, and approved by the state Senate. According to the Code of Alabama Title 5 Chapter 17, ACUA board members must be an officer, director or manager of a state-chartered credit union and have at least five years’ experience within the 10 years preceding appointment in such a title.
Those requirements might appear to provide for a shallow nominating pool. However, Alabama had 66 state-chartered credit unions as of 2009 year end, according to statistics produced by NASCUS.
Bonds, who is on leave of absence from Corporate America, could lose his board seat if he does not return. According to the code, board positions are declared vacant by the ACUA administrator if the member “ceases to serve as an officer, director or manager of a credit union chartered under the laws of the State of Alabama.”
Despite his past ties to Corporate America and issues between the corporate and NCUA, Morgan said his agency doesn’t have any issues with the NCUA and has a good working relationship with the federal regulator.
Morgan also said he received a response to his October 2011 letter to NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz expressing concern about Office of Corporate Credit Union Director Scott Hunt’s handling of the pending Corporate America-Louisiana Corporate merger, and added that Matz’s response satisfied his agency.
However, a former Alabama Credit Union League official, who asked to remain anonymous, expressed concern about the relationships between Corporate America and the state regulator.
“The NCUA should be concerned, so should the governor's office and our congressional delegation. The league president should also step out and take a leadership role in proposing legislative changes to the structure of the ACUA board and conflicts of interest within the administration that would solve the problem once and for all,” the former league official said.
The Southeast League of Credit Unions declined to comment on the matter, as did numerous credit union executives at state-chartered Alabama credit unions who were asked.
Jeanette Keller, manager of the $8.3 million Blue Flame Credit Union in Mobile, Ala., said she didn’t think Morgan’s history with Corporate America affects his performance as the state’s credit union regulator.
“Larry is a very level-headed fellow, and I can’t see him not being anything but fair,” Keller said. When asked why she thinks so many Corporate America board members are also on the ACUA board, she said “maybe because there aren’t that many willing to serve.”
Serving on boards is a big time commitment, she said, and many busy executives aren’t willing to make that commitment.