LAS VEGAS — Credit union mortgage executives attending the American Credit Union Mortgage Association's 16th annual conference heard from a trio of lobbyists and lawyers who urged them to get involved in contesting new regulations from the Consumer Financial Products Bureau as well as the policy debate about the future structure of the secondary mortgage market.
ACUMA kicked off its annual conference at the Cosmopolitan Hotel here on Monday and will wrap up on Thursday.
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Concerns about ongoing CFPB regulations and their associated costs were an undercurrent of discussions for the entire conference so when three leading credit union executives with years of legal and lobbying experience appeared on a panel Tuesday to discuss legislative and regulatory issues to attendees, the room was packed.
On the panel were Steven Eisenberg, general counsel for the 1.1 million member, $15 billion Pentagon Federal Credit Union in Alexandria, Va., John McKechnie, senior vice president of Total Spectrum, a Washington consulting firm, and former executive with both NCUA and CUNA; and Larry Blanchard, a retired former lobbyist with CUNA Mutual Group and other credit union organizations.
Each shared their perspectives on the CFPB and the future challenges in the secondary mortgage market that ranged from generally pessimistic to very pessimistic.
Eisenberg praised colleagues working at the CFPB, which he had come to know from a joint project that Pentagon FCU has with the agency to develop a prototype credit card disclosure statement. He emphasized that the agency staff considered themselves to be working for consumers alone with little regard to other concerns.
“The people at the CFPB are intelligent, professional and very goodhearted,” Eisenberg told conference attendees. “But they take the agency's unofficial motto of 'know before you owe' very seriously and only consider the consumer. It's not about you for them, it’s about the consumer.”
If the single-minded focus meant that many smaller credit unions and community banks may have to get out the housing finance business because they can't afford to meet the compliance costs, he doubted the agency would care.
McKechnie urged credit unions approaching the CFPB with concerns about regulations to never approach with only a complaint, but instead, to always have an option ready to suggest.
“It's always better to be able to say, 'you want to attain this goal, have you considered this approach or this strategy,’” he said.
McKechnie also advised getting involved directly, saying that lobbying from the men and women who must daily work under the burden of a regulation carried more weight with regulators than testimony or letters from CEOs, lawyers or lobbyists.
Blanchard agreed, noting that both regulators and legislators loved hearing from people who have direct organizational experience of a given problem or regulation.
On secondary market reform, Blanchard told credit unions to organize themselves to come to a determination of what it is they want to make sure they persevere in secondary market reform.
“If we can organize and come together, we can bring some real weight to the discussion,” Blanchard said. “But if they can pick us off one by one, that's what they are going to do.”
Credit unions needed to put a premium on being part of the discussion, McKechnie said. He recalled a favored saying about lobbying: “if you don't have a place at the table, you're on the menu.”
Eisenberg said that his years of observation of political and regulatory lobbying efforts led him to believe the most effective lobbying efforts were personal and face to face and had staff in Washington to help prepared the ground before lobbying meetings.