Board Member Richard Metsger sat down with Credit Union Times Oct. 15 at the NCUA’s Alexandria, Va.-based headquarters. President Obama nominated Metsger, a former Oregon state senator, to the NCUA board in May. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate and was sworn in Aug. 23. Metsger served on the board of directors of the Portland Teachers Credit Union from 1993 to 2001.
Credit Union Times: What is your position on a 2014 corporate assessment? The NCUA board typically announces an estimated range at its November meeting.
Metsger: I haven’t got a particular position on how much that range will be. I will say that it has come in on the lower end as I understand it the last couple of years. As you know, there’s an outstanding debt to Treasury. I think in the world of “don’t do what I do, do as I say,” I think it is prudent on part of the NCUA to pay its debts, and to do that as quickly as possible. The biggest assistance to assessment is the elimination of debt, and of course we’re pursuing that on the legal front and very aggressively for those who caused and have been major contributors to the cause of the collapse. I’ll be very focused on those recoveries to pay that debt because that, in the long term, is what’s going to mitigate assessments for credit unions.
CUT: Regarding the lawsuits, do you think there’s still promise in the NCUA’s efforts?
Metsger: I’m not a lawyer and they will always tell you the best thing possible. I just know that from experience. But from what I’ve been briefed on, I think our cases are very good.
I feel good that there will be additional recoveries. Our responsibility is to maximize those recoveries for our member institutions. How much that will be and where it will come from, we still don’t know. The legal process is what it is.
CUT: Do you support a new risk-based capital rule?
I haven’t made a decision on that. I’ve just had one briefing on it so far so there’s a lot more to learn.
CUT: On the CUSO rule, NCUA Board Member Michael Fryzel said his concern has been the cost of the program. Do you share that concern?
Metsger: I’m concerned about the cost of everything; that’s my nature. I have hopes that those costs will be less than were originally articulated a year ago. I believe we’re making progress and I think that is a positive sign.
CUT: Do you think we will see a rule passed by the end of the year?
Metsger: The chairman will determine that, but I think it is possible. As you know, the current law allows the examination of CUSO books and records; but, from a pragmatic and a fiscal standpoint, I don’t see it being wise to say we’re going to hire a bunch of people to go look at everyone’s books when probably an overwhelming majority of those CUSOs do not present a significant threat to the share insurance fund. It’s more prudent to be able to get information to look at where we should target further examination than spend a lot of money elsewhere. I think the purpose of it is excellent, but if we can mitigate costs and take care of the concerns of unwittingly revealing proprietary information to outside sources, I think there’s a good chance it could move forward before the end of the year.
CUT: Are there any regulations on credit unions that you think should be eased or even abolished?
Metsger: The one-third of the rules that are scheduled for review this year, not only am I going to be reviewing them personally, I’m going to be doing as much outreach as I possibly can from the bully pulpit of my office to ask the regulated community: Tell me if any of these need to be modified, or no longer are applicable based on current application of the credit union world, and the reasons for that.
From my own experience in the legislature, when I was there, there would be like four or five thousand bills a year introduced between the two houses, and 800 some bills would pass. One of the things you would hear always hear from constituents is there’s too many laws, and for any law you pass you need to eliminate one. That’s a common phrase.
Most of the things we passed in the legislature were not new laws at all. They were fixing things that we did wrong the first time or no longer have an appropriate basis. So I look at the same thing with regulations.
I’m hopeful we’ll get a lot of feedback on that.
CUT: Has your experience on a credit union board made you more mindful about regulatory burden?
Metsger: Absolutely. I mean there are states in the west that still have laws that say you can’t tie your horse up in front of the post office. When’s the last time that happened? The hitch has been gone a long time. There’s no shame in understanding that time may have made certain things no longer useful and the same thing applies with rules and regulations.
CUT: How do you want to hear from credit unions?
Metsger: I’m pretty easy to get a hold of. They can email, they can call. All I ask is like anything else, if you have an issue, tell me what the issue was, is and make your case for it. I want to know why this rule needs some adaptation or change or elimination, and then given that basis, I’ll start testing those assumptions with others.
CUT: Have you met with President Obama to discuss credit union issues and does he share your view?
Metsger: I know this is going to come as a shock to you but the president has not invited me over to discuss those issues. I think he’s got a full plate right now.
CUT: Credit unions have done a lot in terms of assistance for their members during the government shutdown. Are you satisfied with the way they have handled it?
I’ve been on the blogs reading different associations’ newsletters and it seems like on a global basis, coast to coast, credit unions are once again answering the call.
That’s what credit unions do and part of their responsibility is to work with their members through difficult times, not just easy times and that’s something they should be very proud of. It’s also something they need to continue to do. On the advocacy front, they can’t assume everybody knows that. I always tell people you need to make sure that people know you’re answering the call.
CUT: Do you think Janet Yellen is a good choice for Federal Reserve chairman?
Metsger: I would be blowing smoke if I told you that I had a great background on Janet Yellen and the credit union community, because I don’t know. What I have read about Janet Yellen is she’s really well regarded. She has a very impressive resume.
I know there’s a lot of thought that she will be more likely to follow in the steps of Ben Bernanke—that pleases some people, maybe not so much others. I think that for a position like that, she’s eminently qualified for that.