NCUA Board Revises Fixed Asset Rule: Onsite Coverage
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The NCUA Board on Thursday approved a revised final rule that streamlined its existing fixed assets regulation, proposed a new rule on charitable donation accounts and approved a field of membership expansion for the $53 million Peoples Advantage Federal Credit Union of Richmond, Va.
The meeting was the first for Board Member Rick Metsger, who was sworn into office Aug. 23. Metsger hit the ground running, asking substantive questions of those presenting the actions and at one point, questioning whether the 5% aggregate limit on fixed assets still serves its purpose.
Metsger acknowledged that the rule’s revisions approved by the board Thursday were merely housekeeping provisions, but he requested data to determine whether substantive changes should be made in the future.
In response to a question from Chairman Debbie Matz, NCUA Staff Attorney Pamela Yu explained the fixed asset waiver process, particularly a provision that allows for an additional 1% of shares and retained earnings over the approved waiver amount. Federal credit unions that exceed the 1% buffer would have to submit a new waiver request.
However, Yu said multiple purchases of fixed assets could be made within the 1% buffer, a provision included to prevent credit unions from making multiple requests. Once the credit union’s fixed assets fall below the 5% limit, Yu explained, the waiver would cease and any new amounts exceeding the limit would require a new waiver request.
The revised rule also provides clarification for provisions addressing unimproved land or unimproved real property.
The NCUA’s proposal defined unimproved land or property as raw land without development, significant buildings, structures or site preparation; land that has never had improvements; or, land that was improved at one time but has functionally reverted to its unimproved state. The proposal also included land that has been improved but the improvements serve no purpose for the credit union’s planned use of the property. However, the board removed that definition because it agreed with commenters that the language was redundant and ambiguous.
The NCUA board also approved a proposed rule for federal credit unions that would establish safe and sound parameters for charitable donation accounts. Among them, CDA aggregate investments would be limited to 3% of the credit union’s net worth, and the account would be required to make charitable donations of at least 51% of total return within five years.
Matz said both she and Board Member Michael Fryzel received feedback from credit unions saying a lack of rules specific to CDAs were preventing them from funding the accounts; in particular, certain trusts invested in investment vehicles that are not permitted under NCUA rules for natural person credit unions. The rule would exempt existing investment regulations for such accounts provided the primary intent of the CDA is charity, she said.
Matz said she also had a personal concern the rule could serve as a loophole for credit unions chasing yield; however, she said the net worth limit and donation requirement addressed those concerns.
Senior Staff Attorney Steven W. Widerman said credit unions will be required to report CDA percentages compared to net worth on their quarterly call reports. Should a credit union exceed the 3% limit, it will have 30 days to reduce the amount. While Widerman said the NCUA will not dictate how a credit union could return to compliance, he said the easiest way would be to make a charitable donation from the account.
The board also approved Peoples Advantage FCU’s request to further expand its community charter. However, Fryzel questioned the credit union’s need to expand its field of membership when its current membership penetration is only 1.86%.
Fryzel further questioned the credit union’s ability to serve the larger area when it only gained 103 net new members in the last six months. Despite his doubts, Fryzel nonetheless voted to approve the expansion.