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<p>NCUA has been making lots of front page headlines recently but especially in the past several months. The subject matter of these headlines has ranged from the last minute repeal of CAP, to bringing the NCUA Board up to full strength, to an interesting career move by former board member Geoff Bacino. They have also highlighted stories describing NCUA taking a number of positive steps in regard to agency budgetary matters, to moving ahead decisively with its Accountability In Management (AIM) and RegFlex programs, and moving ahead with Incidental Powers. And to setting and adjusting (downward) Overhead Transfer Rates (OTR), to providing data and logical reasons for not declaring an insurance dividend, to significant staff reorganizations, to joining with CU trade groups in support of so-called non-controversial credit union reform measures, to becoming the recipient of still another lawsuit. Also in the mix were headlines describing an unprecedented number of important policy speeches by NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar laying out a detailed roadmap for future short and long term goals. It’s hard to believe that not all that long ago when NCUA was mentioned on page one, it usually involved something controversial. There has obviously been a complete about face at NCUA since Dollar took over the driver’s seat. The optimism regarding NCUA appears to be at a higher level than most observers have ever seen before. At the top of the list of headline-grabbing stories is the year-end, two to one, board vote to throw the Norm D’Amours, Yolanda Wheat CAP (Community Action Plan also known as CRA-Lite) baby out with the bathwater. As CAP was going down the drain, board member Wheat made a strong last stand that was eloquent, lengthy, and laced with legalese. It was also unsuccessful. Although she was not able to rescue CAP from the brink of defeat, she did manage to place credit unions in the precarious position of being sued, or becoming the subject of a future Congressional hearing, or both. A Congressional hearing has yet to materialize. The lawsuit did happen and became another headline. Although widely anticipated that it would be the banking industry that would trot out its lawyers, a lawsuit from that quarter also has yet to materialize. Instead, a suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC). Credit unions everywhere are saying thank you Mrs. Wheat for such a thoughtful farewell gift. NCRC claims, as did Wheat, that in repealing CAP just days before implementation that procedures were not followed. In supporting its action, NCRC, ignoring impressive statistics and substantial public input NCUA has produced, also pontificated that credit unions were not fulfilling their responsibility of serving the underserved. Without CAP, they said, NCRC couldn’t keep the pressure on CUs. Oh? The credit union trade groups as well as NCUA itself are all confident that the suit is without merit. They are busy making statements and re-assembling evidence to support that conclusion. As an interesting side note, NCRC’s 800 strong membership includes some credit unions. One has to wonder why? As seen in recent headlines, the three-person NCUA Board is now in place. Wheat is gone. Bacino is gone. Retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral and former Navy Federal Credit Union president/CEO Tom Hughes threw his hat in the ring too late to even be considered. Maybe next time? Iowa State Senator JoAnn Johnson, a Republican, and United Nations executive Deborah Matz, a Democrat, received recess appointments from President George W. Bush within a matter of hours before Congress reconvened and recess appointments could not be made. Johnson and Matz were immediately sworn in to join Chairman Dennis Dollar, a Republican. More headlines. It is widely anticipated in credit union land that this new NCUA Board could become the most productive and positive thinking combination that credit unions have seen in a long time. In fact, it would be fair to say, Dennis, JoAnn, and Deborah better immediately get into high gear and start producing. At least that’s what credit unions want to happen. There is a widespread feeling that NCUA has been a counter productive hotbed of controversy for too long. Meanwhile very soon watch for headlines indicating that the two newest members of the board will be confirmed by the U.S. Senate long before their recess appointments expire which is when Congress next adjourns. About that interesting career move of former board member Geoff Bacino. The headlines tell us he has hooked up with a well-known and respected credit union consulting firm, Counter (as in teller counter) Intelligence Associates (CIA). This was unexpected. I for one remained convinced to the very end that President Bush would see fit to give Bacino another year of gainful NCUA employment, if for no other reason than for the pivotal role he played in NCUA dumping CAP just under the wire. In fact, short of that happening, I was sure Bacino’s name would end up on the employee roster of an organization like CUNA, or even CUNA Mutual Group, which has become much more active of late in D.C. lobbying, a known Bacino strength. Finally, looking ahead, here are some more NCUA headlines you can expect to see: “NCUA continues to reduce annual budget expenditures as promised.” “NCUA approval process speeded up even further.” “NCUA leader says fewer credit unions will see need to convert to state or bank charters.” “NCRC lawsuit dismissed.” “RegFlex is expanded.” “Number of low-income persons eligible for credit union membership triples.” “Packed NCUA Board agenda dealt with in record time.” “CUSOS and corporates happy with NCUA Board actions.” But perhaps the headline most readers can relate to is: “Things are definitely looking up at NCUA.” Comments? Call 1-800-345-9936, Ext. 15, or Fax 561-683-8514, or E-mail [email protected]</p>

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Peter Westerman

Credit Union Times

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