NCUA Nominee’s Long and Winding Road: Editor/Publisher's Column
Last week Credit Union Times, via CUTimes.com, broke the story that former Oregon Senator Rick Metsger was going to the be the White House’s nominee to fill the vacant seat on the NCUA Board, later confirmed by the administration.
Metsger has a strong credit union background, which was a part of credit unions’ wish list. From 1993 to 2001, Metsger served as a volunteer board member at Portland Teachers CU, now OnPoint Community CU with $3.3 billion in assets. He also has consulted for the Northwest Credit Union Association.
As an interesting historical note, CEO of the NWCUA Troy Stang made a go at the NCUA Board to replace Dennis Dollar but instead ended up at Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund.
Demonstrating his credit union bona fides long before this step in his political career, Metsger (then a state senator and partner in his public relations firm) wrote in a letter to the editor to Credit Union Times in 2004:
All credit union executives, volunteers and members must not rest on the laurels of victories past when confronting a political force that is determined to seriously alter or destroy the credit union movement. We must remember that the credit union story needs to be told over and over again, recognizing our unique structure and member service, lest we fall prey to the banker mantra that credit unions are “just like banks.” As one who has worked hard in passing both national and state credit union legislation, I understand all too well that the next battle is just around the corner. The grassroots efforts of the 1990s must not rest in hibernation or we will all pay a very hefty price. Our story is a good one and it is critical that the very real issues that differentiate banks from credit unions be articulated at all levels of government. That time is now.
The current NCUA board members, who have their own political juice, seem to be welcoming him with open arms. “Rick will bring valuable perspectives to the NCUA Board, having served as a volunteer credit union board member as well as a state legislator. Chairman Debbie Matz said. Board Member Michael Fryzel stated, “It is an honor and privilege to serve and I wish him every success in his confirmation process.” He may need all the best wishes he can garner. The process often turns into a grueling marathon.
Credit union leaders may or may not recall the name Gilbert Gonzalez, the U.S. Department of Agriculture assistant secretary who withdrew his name from consideration for the NCUA Board in November 2003 after months of waiting. He had been nominated to replace Dennis Dollar, who served more than a year beyond his term.
After that was when Stang’s name first came up for the NCUA Board, as did former Federal Housing Finance Board Member Timothy O'Neill and then-Missouri Credit Union Association CEO Rosie Holub. This second round of vetting also took months and politics naturally played huge role in it. Rodney Hood eventually took the seat vacated by Dollar.
The initial application process is the same as any job but an atypical amount of political prowess is also required. A nomination must come from the White House and is sent to the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee for a confirmation hearing. The committee then recommends yay or nay to the full Senate, which normally follows the committee’s recommendation. But even prior to the nomination, a full FBI background check takes place, including financials and past employment.
Metsger, a Democrat, previously had two ethics charges against him brought by the Oregon Republican Party. The allegations were that he took income without claiming it and that he intentionally missed–and only missed–votes affecting his clients, one of which was the NWCUA, to avoid ethics disclosures.
The first was dismissed by the Oregon Government Standards and Practices Commission. I didn’t find any conclusion to the second allegation prior to press time. These issues are what has been delved into and will continue to be.
The process also entails disclosing anything that could embarrass the president or the applicant. Previous nominee Carla Decker, CEO of DC Government Employees Credit Union, was pulled from the running after disclosure of the then-poor financial condition of the credit union. The mess led to the highly public ban of one of her board members accused of leaking confidential information regarding the credit union.
The nominee is also usually paired with another subject-related nominee from the other political party in a demonstration of fairness, efficiency and subliminal political threat. If I don’t get my guy, you don’t get your guy.
Who might Metsger be paired with? There’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau nominee Richard Cordray who appears in a permanent hold pattern by the Republicans. Remember, any one senator can stop anything.
The other option is to wait for Fryzel’s board seat to expire in August, nominate a Republican and then switch the terms. The open seat vacated by Gigi Hyland only has about four years left on it. Fryzel’s seat will have the full six years. Then the Democrats are assured a longer-serving board member even beyond President Obama’s term.