NCUA May Board Meeting:  Vice Chair Hauptman Finds His Voice.  Harper Cancels June Meeting

(Note correction to spelling of board member Tanya Otsuka’s name from the initial post)

With Chairman Harper on extended medical leave, May’s board meeting was expected to be a routine quarterly review of the financial status of the NCUSIF.

Instead, Vice Chair Hauptman opened with a ten minute critique of NCUA’s new collection of NSF and OD fees from credit unions in future call reports.

Hauptman’s remarks can be heard early in the Board video.  He is articulate and energized. The proposal was not discussed at any board meeting. He had not heard about the effort till January.  All his suggestions for how to use the information were rejected.

Most importantly he believed the policy implications were intended to push fees downward.  This regulatory action would be contrary to the federal credit union act to serve the underserved.

In his view, when a person is short on cash, there are no good options.   In many instances, having the payment go through and charged a fee may be best of limited choices.  He gave several personal examples of being in this situation.

In addition to adding to regulatory burdens, he believed the effort was prompted by two  groups not looking out for credit unions’ best interests:

  1. The press looking for clickbait headlines;
  2. Political groups with an agenda.

Board member Otsuka’s response urged that the collection effort’s impact not be prejudged.  Members have a right to know this information. This is about safety and soundness and consumer protection.

The Meeting’s Outcome

This is the first time Vice Chair Hauptman has been so outspoken in response to Chairman Harper’s priorities.  He has loyally supported new rules, spending initiatives, and staff reports that could have been critiqued on both policy and substantive grounds.

While it is not clear why he chose this topic at this time, the response from Chair Harper absent on medical leave was immediate.  He announced the cancellation of the June board meeting.  This is after cancellation of the March meeting and a very “light” April agenda which the Chair attended virtually.

The power of board members comes from their participation at public board meetings and from the political process provided by the three person board oversight.   This legislative change from a single administrator in 1977 was to ensure no single person had total control over the agency.

Now while physically on leave, Harper is trying to retain his political control by canceling normal board functioning.  With a two-person board, both members have to agree on the board’s agenda and concur for any motion to pass. The check and balance still exists.

However  Harper’s cancellation of public board meetings stakes away the most important power and venue board members have.  He is undermining the Board’s oversight responsibilities and other agency priorities.

Leadership Uncertainties

Harper’s efforts to hold onto his authority while absent raises critical questions for credit unions and NCUA.   For credit unions, the reputation and political standing of the Agency is at risk.  Who speaks for NCUA? Who is leading the staff?    Who sets priorities?   With no public meetings, how are the multiple constituencies to which the agency is accountable, supposed to know what is going on?

For NCUA staff, do they respond to queries raised by board members concerning internal and external events-policy and otherwise or just ignore?   Does the newly created Office of Business Ethics or the IG have a role in this exercise of absentee leadership?   The cancellation of board meetings?  The lack of the Chair’s public presence and accountability?

Hauptman may have thought he was just providing an alternate perspective on an Agency data collection effort.  But his critique, and Harper’s response,  raises a whole new set of consequential issues about the board members’ role in a time of Chair vacancy.

In recent years within NCUA and the broader federal government. when there have defaults of leadership (vacancies and personal management failures)  it has been individuals dedicated to their Agency’s mission and the proper exercise of authority that have stepped into the vacuums.  Did Hauptman just start this process for NCUA?


One Reply to “NCUA May Board Meeting:  Vice Chair Hauptman Finds His Voice.  Harper Cancels June Meeting”

  1. The cancellation of the June meeting is an obvious power move by the absent Chairman. This move makes him look petty and vengeful to all who are paying attention.

    Funny that within a few months of his party regaining a majority, his initial actions indicate his propensity to ignore any and all alternative policy suggestions of the other side and credit unions as well. What is really worrisome is his tendency to doing things his way and in secret. Hopefully our newest board member will show some spine and not just be a rubber stamp of support. My hope is that the nervousness she showed in her response to Hauptman in the May meeting, was caused by her realization that what he said made alot of sense compared to her comments spouting the worn justification of “safety and soundness”. Honestly if these guys knew that the lawn sprinkling system at one of your branches had a leak, they would call it a “safety and soundness” issue and a Camel 3 rating.

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