NCUA Board Members Debbie Matz and Michael Fryzel said they are eagerly anticipating comments on a rule that would grant new investment authorities but could set a pay-to-play precedent that concerns trade associations.
The proposed rule, introduced during the board’s monthly board meeting May 16, would grant qualifying credit unions the ability to use derivative swaps and caps to hedge against interest rate risk.
However, because of the cost to the NCUA–as high as $16 million in temporary staffing costs over the first three years and up to $4 million in the years that follow–the final rule could also include an application fee or an on-going supervision fee to be paid only by those credit unions applying for and utilizing the authority.
Although Chairman Matz said she supports the rule, she also said because the agency has never before charged such fees, she’s “not sure if it’s the way to go.”
Fryzel said new authority mitigates risk to the share insurance fund, so it could be argued that the entire industry should shoulder the cost. However, he added that credit unions that don’t seek the authority could also rightly argue only those who have it should pay.
Additionally, Fryzel said he would like to hear suggestions regarding whether the NCUA should seek to cover all costs for the program or just part, and if application fees, annual fees or other fee structures would be appropriate.
“The fee is a big deal,” said Paul Gentile, CUNA executive vice president of strategic communications and engagement. “The NCUA knows these credit unions already, so what is the fee paying for?”
NAFCU Regulatory Counsel Tessema Tefferi said he’s also concerned the fees could create a barrier to entry for credit unions interested in seeking derivative authority and could also set a dangerous precedent for future rules.
Comments on the proposed rule will be due 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register.
The derivate authority would be available only to credit unions that have more than $250 million in assets, have an overall CAMEL rating of 3 or better with a management rating of 2 or better and can demonstrate to the NCUA how derivatives are part of the credit union’s overall interest rate risk strategy.
The authority would have two levels. Level II would have higher transaction limits but would also require more stringent requirements, a higher application fee and more supervision.
The NCUA estimated between 75 and 150 credit unions would apply for the authority, with 75% seeking Level I, and the remaining 25% seeking Level II.
The rule would only permit derivative swaps and caps, which Matz called plain vanilla.
Director of the Division of Capital and Credit Markets J. Owen Cole explained that derivative swaps involve a credit union entering into an agreement where it would pay out a fixed rate while receiving a floating rate. In today’s low rate environment, the fixed rate would likely be higher at first, Cole said. However, should rates increase, the floating rate would likely pay more, hedging interest rate risk.
With a derivative cap, a credit union would receive a check if rates rise above the cap. However, should rates not risk, Cole said, the risk would be that if rates don’t rise, the credit union would pay out a one-time premium expense without receiving any financial benefit.
The board also approved during the meeting a number of technical amendments to existing regulations, many of them relating to the new Office of National Examinations and Supervision, and the transfer of rulemaking authority for many consumer protection laws to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.