At the start of 2017, J. Mark McWatters was a junior member of the National Credit Union Administration board. As 2018 nears, he serves as NCUA chairman and is reportedly on President Trump's short list to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. While CUs have long had a tumultuous relationship with the bureau, senior figures from across the movement reacted positively to the news that McWatters might take the helm at CFPB. The following are a few of those responses.
This story was updated at 1:18 P.M. on Dec. 29, 2017
Credit union consultant and former NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar.
“I’ve heard a few rumblings about this over the past couple of weeks, but I certainly can’t confirm whether it is true or not, as my sources have been off the record and somewhat speculating themselves based on some things they have heard. That being said. I would not at all be surprised that he is under consideration for a position like CFPB because he is a premier talent in the administration that has already been vetted by the White House for an agency-head position with the NCUA job. Personally, I would very much regret losing his leadership and impact at NCUA, but if we had to lose him somewhere else in government, I’d love to see his balanced approach and free-market tendencies at the CFPB. Just as he is doing as NCUA chairman, I believe a CFPB Director McWatters would leave a real legacy on any agency he heads.”
Ryan Donovan, chief advocacy officer at the Credit Union National Association
“We look forward to the president nominating and the Senate confirming a permanent director at the CFPB — as well as board members to fill vacancies at the NCUA. These are critical positions that have significant impact on credit unions’ ability to deliver safe and affordable financial services to their members.”
Paul Stull, president and CEO of the Credit Union Association of New Mexico
"He is the kind of man that isn’t afraid to ask why, when he’s told 'That’s the way it works.' He has a reputation for digging into regulations and the law behind them. These qualities would seem like good fits for the CFPB. At a time when CFPB has gained a reputation for making one-size-fits-all rules, I believe Mark McWatters would bring a fresh approach to consumer protection. He certainly understands credit unions and how they help consumers, and that is a clear advantage over the previous director."
Carrie Hunt, EVP of government affairs and general counsel at the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions
“We look forward to continuing to work with Chairman McWatters at the NCUA or at the CFPB, should he be nominated and confirmed for the post.”
Caroline Willard, president and CEO, Cornerstone Credit Union League
"We are intrigued by the news that President Trump is considering Mark McWatters to fill the vacant leadership position at the CFPB. Chairman McWatters has made meaningful, positive changes at the NCUA, and for this reason, we would miss him. However, having worked with Chairman McWatters on common-sense regulatory reform at the NCUA, we would look forward to a similar transformation at the CFPB. Since Chairman McWatters has pressed the CFPB to exercise its exemption authority for credit unions, this might provide further, much-needed regulatory relief for our movement."
Marvin Umholtz, president and CEO of Umholtz Strategic Planning & Consulting Services
I am confident that NCUA Board Chairman J. Mark McWatters would be an effective and energetic CFPB director – whether as an ongoing leader in that role or as an acting director at the CFPB. Based on his professional and public service experience, McWatters would be an excellent choice to tackle the Herculean challenge of reforming the rogue CFPB.
He has demonstrated during his time at the NCUA as a member, and as the NCUA Board Chairman, that he respects the institutions the agency supervises. McWatters also demonstrated that government could (and should) act as openly and transparently as the law allows, yet he did so within the context of constantly ensuring safety and soundness protections for the Americans who borrowed and saved at the credit unions that the agency supervised. McWatters has also repeatedly articulated the need to ensure that American taxpayers were also being well served.
Should he get the nod to take over the CFPB, I suspect that J. Mark McWatters would also follow his obvious conservative instincts to appropriately tailor the out-sized regulatory burdens currently put in place by the former CFPB's counter-productive leadership.
Whether President Donald J. Trump selects J. Mark McWatters – or any of the other excellent choices reportedly on the short list for the CFPB director slot – credit union officials and community bankers will most assuredly applaud the pro-markets, pro-prosperity, pro-consumer choice changes that all of the potential nominees would make.
My enthusiasm for reforming the CFPB has never been higher! If he becomes the CFPB director, the NCUA board's loss of Chairman McWatters, would be mitigated by the ultimate gain for the entire financial services industry.
Dennis Tanimoto, president and CEO of the Hawaii Credit Union League
“If J. Mark McWatters is nominated by President Trump and confirmed by the Senate as the CFPB director, America’s credit unions would surely benefit because of his familiarity with credit unions and the possibility of him exercising the statutory exemption authority. However, it would be bad news for the NCUA, which would be left with no board members with terms remaining. Bringing all three new members to the NCUA Board at the same time would disrupt continuity and create a steep learning curve for the agency.”
Steve Williams, partner and leader of Cornerstone Advisors’ Strategic Planning practice
“This would be a nice outcome for credit unions in that the impact of consumer regulation will be seen through the eyes of someone who understands how credit unions operate at the grass roots level. McWatters' business-legal background also means he will not take a narrow consumer-activist view of the regulatory task at hand.”
Mark Robey, senior vice president of regulatory affairs for the Mountain West Credit Union Association
“Mr. McWatters would be a good choice to lead the CFPB. He is familiar with credit unions and understands how to balance the needs of consumers with the legitimate business needs of regulated institutions.”
Diana Dykstra, CEO and president of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues
"We have had a good relationship with Chairman McWatters and appreciate his thoughtful approach to regulating credit unions. It is an honor for him to be considered by the White House to lead the CFPB. We are certain he would be a thoughtful and effective leader of the agency if selected. Since its inception, the CFPB has created a plethora of new rules/regulations that have negatively impacted credit unions and their members. In California and Nevada, the cost of compliance with CFPB and other regulations is estimated to be $78 and $77 per member, per year, respectively. Anything that can be done to reduce regulatory burden will mean better return to credit union members."
Joe Mecca, AVP of communications at Coastal Credit Union in Raleigh, N.C.
“Chairman McWatters is a great asset to NCUA and it’s no surprise that he’d be considered for the CFPB post. If his actions at NCUA are any indication, we’d certainly welcome having someone with his perspective into how the CFPB’s decisions affect credit unions leading that organization.”
Lucy Ito, president and CEO of the National Association of State Credit Union Supervisors
"The state credit union system greatly appreciates the refreshing transparency and credibility that Chairman McWatters’ has brought to the NCUA. Throughout his three-year tenure at the agency, he has proven himself to be an inquisitive, deliberative and balanced regulator with an approach to rule-making that is forward-looking, consultative and timely. While his common-sense leadership would be a tremendous loss, the very experience and qualities he has marshaled at NCUA would make him highly effective at any of the other federal agencies that regulate and supervise the financial services sector including the CFPB."
Marcus B. Schaefer, president and CEO, Truliant Federal Credit Union, Winston-Salem, N.C.:
“Truliant would welcome the balanced and thoughtful approach that Chairman McWatters has brought to the NCUA as director at CFPB. Having served on Capitol Hill and as a regulator for credit unions, Chairman McWatters would offer a beneficial perspective for consumer protection and the sound operation of financial institutions.”
Greg Smith, president of PSECU
“I had the opportunity to meet Mr. McWatters in the past and was impressed by our conversation. As cairman of the National Credit Union Administration, he certainly has a great deal of experience in providing regulatory oversight, which is of high importance to the operations of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I also especially like the idea of someone with credit union background in a leadership role at CFPB.”
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