Jim Blaine, president/CEO of the $25 billion State Employees’ Credit Union, said he doesn’t know why the NCUA questions his Raleigh, N.C., credit union’s safety and soundness.
The NCUA Office of Inspector General said in a report released Tuesday that NCUA Region III Director Herb Yolles wrote in a July 14, 2010 letter to Jerrie Jay, administrator of the North Carolina Credit Union Division, “SECU is not considered safe and sound at this time.”
All references to safety and soundness were redacted in the OIG’s report, but the information was revealed when the Credit Union Times copied and pasted text from the released PDF document to a Word file.
Yolles’ statement led to a heated discussion during a Sept. 19 meeting with NCUA administrators and the full SECU board in which Yolles said Jay had announced that the NCUA had begun the process of terminating NCUSIF insurance for the nation’s second-largest credit union.
The OIG’s investigation centered around whether or not Yolles lied about what Jay said during the meeting, a complaint Blaine had made against the agency. However, the revelation that the NCUA questions SECU’s safety and soundness may be the bigger issue to credit unions that support the NCUA’s share insurance fund.
“You need to ask him, we can’t get a straight answer,” Blaine said, in response to a question asking why Yolles said SECU is not safe and sound.
In 2011, the SECU board wrote a response to Yolles, Blaine said, stating it can’t determine the NCUA’s specific concern.
When asked about the safety and soundness charge, NCUA spokesman John Zimmerman said the agency does not comment on supervisory matters.
“I think it’s a strategic issue with us, and not about the CAMEL disclosure,” Blaine said, referring to when he publicly released his credit union’s CAMEL rating, which launched the much-publicized dispute between the state and federal regulators and a wave of separate examinations of North Carolina’s state-chartered credit unions.
The NCUA doesn’t like SECU’s practice of making non-conforming mortgage loans, Blaine said, but added “our portfolio is performing.”
“We have a good track record, and if we’re wrong, we say show us your model and we can then tell you why we think you’re right or wrong,” he said. “But they don’t have a model. Their answer to our board is ‘we would just sleep better at night’.”
Blaine said the issue is an example of why exam reform is needed, and NCUA examiners should cite support for exam mandates. SECU manages its capital around 7%, and has done so through the financial crisis, he said.
“We’re a mortgage lender, our investments are in Treasury bills, so I think we do a good job of balancing risk and providing liquidity,” he said. Blaine added that if he sold the $9 billion SECU has invested in T-bills, thus reducing his asset size, his credit union’s net worth would be nearly 18%.