WASHINGTON - In his first address as chairman of the National Credit Union Administration one year ago, Norman E. D'Amours said tension should exist between the regulator and the regulated.
He's got it.
When Mr. D'Amours delivers his second speech to attendees of the Credit Union National Association's Governmental Affairs Conference today, he'll be facing a tough crowd.
Credit union officials and observers have griped that Mr. D'Amours is micromanaging the industry rather than regulating it. As evidence, they point to a regulation splitting shared management between industry liquidity centers and CUNA - a rule that provoked a lawsuit by CUNA.
Michigan Credit Union League President Kenyan Bixby put his feelings for Mr. D'Amours bluntly in the Feb. 8 issue of the league's newsletter:
"I take no pleasure in stating that, in my view, we have today the most intrusive and potentially dangerous regulator in the history of the NCUA.".
Mr. D'Amours has portrayed his opposition as a small but influential minority of trade group officials who see their hold on power threatened by his regime.
"I can't account for or explain why people would take violent issue" with my leadership, Mr. D'Amours said.
Hes said most credit union officials he has encountered support the way he is handling the agency.
Which side most credit unions fall on is difficult to determine, and many people who disagree with Mr. D'Amours on one issue agree with him on others. But while last year's regulation splitting interlocks between trade groups and corporates may have drawn rancor chiefly from CUNA loyalists, other agency policies and actions have caused disaffection to ripple wider.
The agency's hard line on mark-to-market accounting standards, implemented Jan. 1, aroused outcry throughout the industry. New performance ratings this year that will grade service to members also have been criticized, with credit unions charging that the regulator should stick to safety-and-soundness issues.
Its handling of the proposed merger between Patelco Credit Union and First Technology Federal Credit Union has been criticized by credit unions who believe that the regulator has created too many hurdles to what would be the industry's largest merger.
The agency's handling of Capital Corporate Federal Credit Union's investment problems also has been roundly bashed. Credit union officials say that the regulatory agency missed red flags at Cap Corp and should have detected the problem before it became a crisis.
Further, industry sources say that once Cap Corp's position became untenable, the regulator was determined to shut down the institution, a charge Mr. D'Amours denies.
In fact, there is a sentiment among some that Mr. D'Amours' view of the industry - exemplified by his championing of small credit unions and his qualms about competition between institutions - is archaic and out of touch with the reality, a sophisticated industry.
Mr. D'Amours answers that he's just doing his job.
"I'm working to fulfill the statutory responsibilities" of my office, he said.
"All I know is I care very deeply about the credit union movement and I have been doing my best ... to assure that the credit union system operates as it was originally intended to operate - as a cooperative, nonprofit movement designed to make credit available to people of small means."