Mark McWatters resigns from NCUA board

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National Credit Union Administration board member Mark McWatters abruptly resigned from the agency late Friday.

In a letter to President Trump dated Nov. 20, McWatters wrote, “It has been my distinct honor and privilege to serve as the chairman and a board member” of NCUA. With Trump’s latest nominee, Kyle Hauptman, scheduled for a confirmation vote the week after Thanksgiving, McWatters wrote, “I hereby resign my position as of today.”

McWatters spent six years at the regulator, joining at the height of the debate over the agency’s risk-based capital rule before being appointed chairman shortly after Trump was inaugurated. However, he was demoted back to a board member when Rodney Hood, a Trump appointee, was confirmed last year.

The NCUA board was a two-man show for a significant portion of McWatters’ tenure there, with former chairman Rick Metsger, a Democrat, serving alongside him. The pair traded the chairmanship midway through their time on the panel. However, both consistently said they worked well together and were able to move forward a variety of substantial rules for the industry without gridlock.

Since Hood and Todd Harper, a Democrat who succeeded Metsger, joined the board, the agency has seen more conflict. Earlier this year, in a 2-1 decision, the board voted against a new overdraft rule. Later in the year, a measure related to risk-based net worth was pulled from the board’s agenda at the last minute because there were not enough votes to pass the proposal.

The latest conflict came during the board’s November meeting, when Harper and McWatters both pushed back against the agency’s latest budget proposal.

“I simply cannot and will not support the staff budget as presently drafted,” McWatters said during the meeting.

McWatters’ term expired in August 2019 but he agreed to stay on until a successor took the oath of office. In the final months of his time at NCUA, he urged greater bipartisanship and cooperation at the regulator and urged the industry to do more to advance a culture of tolerance and inclusion.

With McWatters gone, that will leave only Harper and Hood for the agency’s public budget briefing on Dec. 2, though Hauptman may be seated by the time the board votes on a final budget.

McWatters spoke at length earlier this year about his legacy at the agency.

Industry groups were quick to praise the former chairman for his work at NCUA, with the Credit Union National Association cheering his efforts to advance consumers’ financial well-being and reduce regulatory burdens.

"As the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect the health and finances of communities across the country, it is more important than ever that the Senate act swiftly on the confirmation for Mr. McWatters' successor. We look forward to the Senate’s consideration of this matter in the coming days,” CUNA President and CEO Jim Nussle said in a statement.

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