Why the CLF Has No Interest

For over 15 years, the public-private credit union designed liquidity lender, the CLF, has had no activity.  The last major loans were to the NCUSIF for $10 million to pass through to US Central and WesCorp as part of the stabilization efforts when they were conserved by NCUA in 2009.

Liquidity Options

In April 2024 an $800 million credit union reported to the board their return on its two primary liquidity lender relationships as follows:

The FHLB declared and paid a 9.0% quarterly dividend last month.  Our capital stock value there is $1,884,000.

Corporate One FCU declared and paid a 5.75% dividend on all Perpetual Contributed Capital last month.  Our PCC there is $1,283,000. 

In contrast, the CLF reported its first quarter dividend as 4.54% which was down from 4.62% from the prior quarter.  That return is approximately 1% below the overnight rate credit unions are earning on risk free investments.

The CLF’s First Quarter Financials

At March 31, 2024 the CLF’s $895 million balance sheet was composed of $859 million in member shares and deposits and $41 million of retained earnings.  There were no loans.

The CLF’s primary assets are investments in Treasury notes ($819 million) and cash ($95 million).  At yearend the portfolio was $9.0 million underwater.  Why would a liquidity facility  ever invest longer than one year, let alone the $45 million extended beyond five years?

Moreover, the CLF has investment authority similar to FCU’s.  Why is it limiting its portfolio to just Treasury securities-generally the lowest return option in the market?  Does NCUA lack the investment expertise from staff who routinely evaluate the soundness of credit union portfolios?

The below market quarterly dividend means every credit union member is subsidizing the CLF.   The dividend decline is even more puzzling when the CLF reports adding $869,000 to retained earnings which now total over $41.1 million.

The CLF has no risk and no loans so why shouldn’t all net income be paid to its shareholders?  In the same quarter of 2023, for example, the CLF added only $3,000 electing to send all net income to shareholders.

A Vestigial Organ

The numbers show that the CLF has played no role in a year which saw record credit union borrowings and liquidity pressures from rising rates and banking failures.  CLF investments report below market returns. The dividends paid are not competitive.  That fact alone shows how detached CLF and NCUA leaders are from managing a facility that would actually serve the members who loyally fund it.

Contrary to NCUA board members’ entreaties for new Congressional legislation, the lack of credit union support for the CLF is not a statutory shortcoming. It is a management one.

Over decades the CLF has evolved to become a regulatory vestigial organ serving no purpose. As shown above, credit unions have liquidity options which they also own and which provide real value.

Isn’t it time the CLF decided to do the same?  Or at a minimum pay a competitive dividend before shareholders decide there is no reason to continue “bankrolling” a moribund facility.

One Reply to “Why the CLF Has No Interest”

  1. Shame on NCUA for it’s mismanagement of CLF assets, but more importantly shame on us CUs for not recognizing the long term strategic value of this liquidity facility totally dedicated to our unique business model. The CLF is a scalable, cooperative facility that is being wasted because of the indifference of credit union leadership.

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