NCUA Board members (from left to right) Michael Fryzel, Debbie Matz and Rick Metsger listen to staff present the final stress testing rule.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The NCUA Board approved the final stress test rule at the agency’s monthly board meeting on Thursday, which is estimated to cost no more than $5 million.

However, the vote was split among the three-person board, with Board Chairman Debbie Matz and Board Member Rick Metsger voting for the measure, and Board Member Michael Fryzel voting against it.

The rule requires federally insured credit unions with assets of $10 billion or more to develop and maintain capital plans and submit to annual stress testing by the NCUA.

When the rule was first proposed, the NCUA board said it might make the results of the stress tests public. However, according to the final rule the stress test results will not be made public for the first several years.

The final rule also said the NCUA board must consider whether publicizing stress test results could harm credit union members.

“As some stakeholders cautioned, stress test results could be taken out of context or misreported in public media,” said the final text of the rule. “This could lead members to faulty conclusions about their credit union’s current health, and cause a run on deposits – one of the worst-case scenarios that stress testing is intended to avoid.”

The rule also said the disclosure of stress test results will be considered when the rule is subjected to the NCUA’s ongoing three-year rule rotation.

“The board reserves the right to take a separate action on whether or not to publicly disclose the stress test results,” the final rule said.

The NCUA also said a competitive bidding process will determine the actual costs of the final rule. Staff estimates the final cost for the first year would not exceed $5 million. Expenses would be charged to the share insurance fund. Any stress testing expenses higher than $5 million are subject to the approval of the NCUA Board.

The credit unions affected by the rule include the $54 billion Navy Federal Credit Union in Vienna, Va., the $27 billion State Employees’ Credit Union of Raleigh, N.C., the $16 billion Pentagon Federal Credit Union in Alexandria, Va., and the $12 billion BECU in Tukwila, Wash.

Matz said the final rule is worth the $5 million maximum cost if it prevents one of the covered credit unions from failing.

The board disagreed with commenters who suggested a 4% capital ratio. The final rule requires these credit unions to maintain a stress test capital ratio of at least 5%.

“We are well positioned to protect the entire industry which is our mandate,” Matz said.

Fryzel said during the meeting the final rule is in need of improvements, particularly regarding the cost.

He also cautioned NCUA staffers are not ready to begin implementation of the rule.

In a release, NAFCU called the rule duplicative and unjustifiably costly.

“We have been arguing for less, not more, regulatory burden in our conversations with the NCUA, other regulators and Congress,” said NAFCU Director of Regulatory Affairs Mike Coleman. “This final rule significantly ramps up current burdens and increases costs for all insured credit unions.”

CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney said in a statement his trade also did not support the final rule.

“While we acknowledge the utility of stress tests, we see no need for a rule,” he said in a statement. “Further, the agency has not sufficiently substantiated a need for the use of third parties to conduct stress testing of covered credit unions, rather than reviewing the assumptions and results of credit unions’ own stress tests.”

While Cheney said he appreciated the NCUA adopting CUNA-suggested changes, like keeping stress test results confidential, he criticized the rule’s $5 million price tag for the first year.

The NCUA Board also approved a request from the $224 million CME Federal Credit Union in Columbus, Ohio to expand its community charter.

In addition, a proposed rule to amend the associational common bond requirements in the chartering and field of membership manual was green lighted by the NCUA Board.

Agency staff said the rule would provide regulatory relief for credit unions.

“These amendments expand the totality of the circumstances test, which is used to determine if a group satisfies the associational common bond requirements to qualify to join a federal credit union’s field of membership,” said the board action memorandum. “The expansion of this test will help to ensure federal credit union compliance with field of membership requirements. The proposed rule will also grant automatic qualification to certain groups that the NCUA has repeatedly approved in the past.”