Congress To Probe NCUA

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WASHINGTON - (03/24/06) -- Congressman Bill Thomas, chairman ofthe tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, told NCUA this weekhe has asked the congressional watchdog, the General AccountabilityOffice, to expand its current review of the credit union taxexemption to include an analysis of NCUA's objectivity inregulating credit unions, in light of recent comments made by NCUABoard members about the agency's member service data collectionprogram. "As indicated at the Committee's (November) hearing, Ihave been concerned about the independence and objectivity of theNCUA," said Thomas in a March 22 letter to NCUA Chairman JoAnnJohnson obtained by The Credit Union Journal. "Your testimony atthe hearing only added to my concerns that the NCUA has too oftenbeen a promoter and defender of credit unions, rather than avigilant regulator." Thomas said recent remarks by NCUA Boardmember Gigi Hyland about the agency's data collection pilot addedto his concern. He cited news reports quoting Hyland as referringto the data collection "as a chance for credit unions to frame theargument themselves," and "a way for credit unions to compile acollection of feel-good stories and sound bites." Citing a 2004court ruling criticizing NCUA for being an industry "cheerleader,"Thomas said "we do not need a cheerleader collecting and analyzinginformation about whether credit unions are fulfilling the goalsintended with their tax exemption. I ask that you be mindful ofyour proper role as an independent and objective regulator ofcredit unions as you move forward with your data collectionproject." Hyland didn't deny she is a supporter of credit union butsaid Thursday she thought the term 'cheerleader' used by Thomas wastoo strong. "It is our role, as a regulator, to ensure that creditunions have a viable place in the financial marketplace, just asevery other regulator," she told The Credit Union Journal,insisting that NCUA will use whatever data they collect in themember services project in an objective fashion.

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