Scandals push NCUA to launch new ethics office

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The National Credit Union Administration on Wednesday announced the creation of an Office of Ethics Counsel inside the agency.

The office will be headed by a chief ethics counsel intended to be the regulator’s senior official on ethics-related matters and report directly to the NCUA board. Candidate selection for that position is said to be underway.

A press release from the regulator said the new department “will certify the agency’s compliance with relevant federal ethics laws and regulations, promote accountability and ethical conduct, and help ensure the success of the NCUA’s ethics programs.”

The office was approved during the board’s closed meeting on March 19. Its creation comes shortly after NCUA came under scrutiny for an internal report that found two high-ranking officials — both no longer employed there — frequently visited strip clubs, took drugs and drank alcohol while on the job.

Just over a year before that report was released, board member Mark McWatters was cited in an internal report at the agency for “extravagant” spending during his time as chief of staff. That report made national headlines, and the need for reforms was a key component of NCUA Chairman Rodney Hood’s Senate confirmation hearing in early 2019. Creation of the new ethics office can be seen as part of the attempt to address that.

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