I Smell Burning Pants … Again: Executive Editor's Column
Many years ago, I learned deceit doesn’t pay. Not for me, at least. I’m a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of person. That straightforward quality makes me a great reporter, but I’d be a lousy politician. I can’t lie to save my life—just ask my mother, or all the traffic cops who have never once let me skate by with a warning.
As a result, I have a very low tolerance for folks who do lie, whether it’s Wall Street bankers, warmongering presidents or CEOs who up and quit out of the blue, at the peak of their careers, in order to spend more time with their families.
A skill set required of journalists is the ability to sniff out situations that don’t add up. Lately, everywhere I turn, I get a whiff of stink.
Let’s start with Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union. President/CEO Kyle Markland stepped down Aug. 28 after 16 years on the job. A Credit Union Times Trailblazer Award winner, Markland was at the top of his game. Affinity Plus has one of the highest loan-to-share ratios in the industry, nearly 97% as of June 30.
Net worth was 7.93%, which isn’t high enough for the NCUA’s coming risk-based net worth requirements, but it is a number that has been stable.
The reason Markland gave for his resignation—empty nest syndrome—could be legit. Plenty of people have experienced defining moments in their lives when they realized a major change was inevitable. Sinners are reborn. Power players give up the jet set for a hermit’s life in a one-room cabin in the woods. It could happen.
But it doesn’t seem very likely.
Markland’s empty nest wasn’t unexpected—he’s known it was coming for years. And even if he wants to take a sabbatical, as he allegedly told his employees, he can’t expect to be welcomed back with open arms into the credit union industry after leaving his longtime employer so suddenly, putting the credit union in the awkward position of answering questions from nosy journalists like me who want the story.
According to Affinity Plus’ financials, ROA has tumbled from 1.45% as of June 2012 to just 0.57% one year later. And, as delinquencies and charge offs have decreased slightly, loan loss provisions have increased.
Maybe Markland’s departure has nothing to do with performance, but I smell something fishy.
Let’s move on to U.S. foreign relations, a topic that is particularly painful given the issue’s publish date: Sept. 11. At press time, President Obama was making his case for a strike against Syria, because the nation’s leader, Bashar al-Assad, used chemical weapons. It does appear that al-Assad did that, but do we really know for sure? I’m no fan of Vladimir Putin, but the way he’s calling out John Kerry as a bald-faced liar doesn’t look good. A lack of support from key allies like England is also disconcerting.
And yet, our president, the same guy who said the government wasn’t spying on citizens or foreign leaders until it was revealed otherwise, continues to ask for our trust.
We went to war in Iraq to seek justice for the victims of Sept. 11. Or so we were told, with a side dish of “he gassed his own people.” Same goes for Afghanistan—we were told it was to avenge the victims of Sept. 11. Even though we did kill bin Laden, did we really do the victims any justice? Was Sept. 11 and terrorism really the reason, or did it have more to do with oil profits, military spending and post-Cold War strategies to keep the Russia-Iran-China alliance in check? Will we ever know the answer?
Then the investment banks are fighting the NCUA’s claims that they committed securities fraud, not so much on the defense that they didn’t commit fraud, but instead playing the statute of limitations card. And the corporate credit union executives and volunteers who claim they weren’t involved in the decision to buy those bum bonds.
It’s maddening. Credit unions are the ones who pay the price in the form of corporate assessments, a sluggish economy and more and more radicals who hate America. The $52.6 billion dollar black budget and closed-door foreign policy strategies allow us to maintain a standard of living that’s higher than most of the world, but at what price?
In 2014 and 2016, I hope we vote these lying bastards from both parties out of office. Don’t be talked out of voting for a dark horse because you feel an allegiance to the blue or red team.
And let’s not allow credit union leaders to have the last word with well-crafted talking points nobody really believes.
At Credit Union Times, we will continue to keep digging to bring you the truth. That’s no lie.