Wednesday, May 30, 2018


As a general rule, I do not publish guest columns. However, today I am making an exception, as I was not planning to opine on the following topic.

Below is a guest column by Jim Blaine, former CEO of State Employees' Credit Union (Raleigh, NC).
The recent little hatchet chop on Mark McWatters, Chairman of the NCUA, by the Washington Post ("This man runs a federal agency...", May 11th [link]) has rightfully received little notice or comment - even in Credit Union Watch! Guess most folks, including bankers, can still spot faux news and "potted plants" (i.e. planted potshots), especially when sourced out of Washington, D.C. The impression the WaPo reporter attempts to create of Mr. McWatters is mostly just foolishness, a somewhat silly fabrication - basically pure rubbish.

McWatters is in truth a breath of fresh air (and intelligence) in an agency long noted for rear-view mirror regulation and for attempting to create and solve problems which usually do not exist. The agency bureaucracy is in-bred, self-perpetuating and generally limited in vision to what they already know. NCUA's all-time low point in credibility came in a 2015 appearance before the House Financial Services Committee [ here's the link - see particularly 0:26.30; 0:32.00; and 1:21.54] in which the agency leadership aggressively dissed both Democratic and Republican representatives alike, culminating in the infamous avowal: "I don't believe that credit unions necessarily represent their members." [0:34.54] Which Representative Mick Mulvaney accurately and hilariously described as: "Self-serving crazy talk!" [1:24.00]

Which brings us to the rotten plum dilemma! As most folks know, many high level policy positions in the federal government are considered "plum jobs" filled by political insiders, party loyalists, and bureaucrats seeking to top-off lucrative 30-year pension payouts. Particularly in less important "backwaters" of government; knowledge of, experience with, and competence in the task at hand are often not foremost appointment criteria, rather political expedience and who you know are key. For the NCUA, this system of spoils has rarely assured appointment of the sharpest or brightest crayons in the Crayola box.

Credit unions, the NCUA, the American taxpayer simply got lucky with the appointment of McWatters to the Board and hit a one-in-a-million jackpot with his appointment as Chair. Clearly, the NCUA Board no longer qualifies as a political backwater. Credit unions can no longer afford the luck of the political draw for leadership at the NCUA. The financial marketplace is now far too dangerous a place - volatile and complex - and too much is at stake to risk leadership by amateurs, political or otherwise. McWatters' experience and credentials - of Federal Reserve appointee quality - should become the new standard for future NCUA Board member candidates.

Certainly the future safety of $1+ trillion in savings from 100+ million American credit union members deserve only the best and brightest? Why should we accept less?

Dr. Leggett, hoping you and the ABA will help us with this new campaign: "PLUM IS DUMB"! Can we count on your support?

1 comment:

  1. Glad to know that Jim Blaine hasn't COMPLETELY vanished, and that the two of you are still talking. At least, occasionally. ALWAYS a feast for thought!



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