Avoid Solutions Looking for Problems


During the Governmental Affairs Conference, Chip Filson announced his intention to seek an NCUA Board seat, which was the culmination of speeches and online postings criticizing the NCUA’s activities throughout the financial and corporate crises. He has launched a petition designed to force President Obama to consider him as a candidate. Chip knows credit unions inside and out, and he’s fiercely intelligent. He’s highly qualified to sit on the NCUA Board as far as his résumé is concerned.

But this is where I give pause to his idea of reforming the NCUA appointment process, as stated in the petition. Appointed NCUA governing leaders should hold to the same standards credit unions themselves follow. They should be motivated by the unique contributions and needs of a cooperative business.

The NCUA should absolutely consider credit unions’ unique qualities when regulating and overseeing the industry. That’s the agency’s duty. It is NOT, NOT, NOT, however, the agency’s duty to “be motivated by” the seven cooperative principles. Recognizing examiners for their chartering efforts, as Chip has suggested, is a VERY BAD idea. The credit union community is no longer a collection of 22,000 small credit unions. Today it holds more than $1 trillion in assets and 7,000 credit unions. The world has said, we don’t need any more financial institutions–perhaps different ones but not more of the same.

Unfortunately, Chip was out of the country when I contacted his office to discuss his concept, but I did scrape bits and pieces of answers to my questions from his recent blog posts. In one titled, “How to apply the 7 cooperative principles to regulatory design,” he suggests that the NCUA should practice cooperative principles and notes the insurance fund as an example. He suggests that the funds should be used to the system’s benefit.

The NCUSIF and the work of the NCUA were the only things that kept half of all credit unions from going out of business overnight when five corporates failed. The agency wasn’t perfect, but it got the job done in fixing the corporate mess to the benefit of the entire industry.

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