Comment Letters: Is Quality or Quantity Better?
As the count of comment letters on the risk-based capital proposal continues to rise, NCUA Board Chairman Debbie Matz said while she encourages everyone to comment, a single comprehensive letter is likely to have as much impact as multiple letters from the same source.
As of Friday, the NCUA had counted 2,052 comment letters in response to the proposal, according to public affairs specialist John Fairbanks.
The commenters from the credit unions and CUSOs that filed the most letters typically raised the same points in their submissions using a similar format.
“The volume of comments on the proposed risk-based capital rule underscores the importance of this issue and the engagement of credit unions in the process,” said NCUA Board Chairman Debbie Matz in a statement provided to CU Times.
“I understand the natural tendency to muster stakeholders and encourage everyone to comment; however, the number of comments we receive from any one organization has no more impact than the content of those comments,” she added.
Matz said a single, well-reasoned letter would likely be as effective as dozens of letters from the one source repeating the same message.
“It’s also important for comment letters to suggest possible alternative solutions. We will review all the comments we have received and make appropriate changes in the final rule,” Matz said.
Former NCUA Board Chairman Dennis Dollar, principal partner at Dollar Associates LLC, told CU Times individualized letters are more effective but there is a message in volume even if there are many identical letters from the same source.
“A large number of form letters make the point that an affected stakeholder felt strongly enough to submit an official letter for the record, even if it was the same letter as another stakeholder submitted,” he said.
If the NCUA board ignored the volume of letters, under the Administrative Procedures Act, they could be liable if the final regulation was every challenged in court, Dollar added.
“That is why individualized letters are better without a doubt,” said Dollar, who served as the agency’s chairman from 2001-2004.
“There is always going to be a great deal of commonality in official comment letters because the major problems in a proposed regulation, from a stakeholder’s point of view, are normally the same for most stakeholders,” he added.
During his time at the agency, Dollar said he never discounted the value of comment letters that made the same point about a proposal.
“It made me look at those areas of concern even more closely to make sure we didn’t miss something that needed to be addressed in the final regulation,” Dollar said.
Callahan & Associates, based in Washington, introduced an industry-wide website, CreditUnionVoices.com, to educate, share comments and facilitate responses to the rule. Launched in mid-April, the site received more than 900 unique visitors, 89% of whom clicked the link to “submit a comment".
Along with Callahan, CUSO CU*Answers also deployed a website to provide information and a user-friendly means to post comments. In just two weeks, CU*Answers facilitated more than 320 comments from its employees and affiliated credit unions through its AuditLink Response Tool.