ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Debbie Matz, who has chaired the board of the National Credit Union Administration since August 2009, said Wednesday that she will step down at the end of April.
Matz served a total of 11 years at the NCUA. She was the eighth NCUA board chairman and the only NCUA board member to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate for a second term. Her term ended on April 10, 2015.
The move raises questions about the three-person NCUA board. In January President Obama announced his intent to nominate NCUA Board Member J. Mark McWatters to the Board of the Export-Import Bank of the United States.
In a prepared statement announcing her departure, the NCUA emphasized the work Matz did during and after the economic crisis, including recovering settlements relating to the mortgage-backed securities that contributed to the housing market collapse.
"When Matz became chairman, the credit union system was on the brink of collapse," the agency said, asserting the survival of the system was threatened by corporate credit unions holding $50 billion in toxic assets and consumer credit unions facing billions of dollars in potential losses. Such catastrophic losses would have wiped out the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, which at the time had only $8 billion in assets, the agency noted.
"We worked around the clock to prevent the collapse of the credit union system, when the outcome was really in doubt," Matz said. "My top priority was to save as many credit unions as we could, minimize total losses, rebuild the Insurance Fund and stabilize the credit union system. We then focused on shoring up gaps in supervision, regulations, policies and procedures that threatened safety and soundness, and put new safeguards in place to stop the hemorrhaging and prevent the system from failing."
The NCUA said it was the first federal financial institutions regulator to recover losses from the Wall Street firms that contributed to the Great Recession. The agency's net proceeds from those recoveries have reduced the total amount and need for assessments paid by consumer credit unions, and increased the likelihood of a future rebate.
"As I look back, I am extraordinarily proud of NCUA's efforts to hold Wall Street accountable," Matz said. "To date, we've recovered $2.4 billion in settlements with firms that sold faulty mortgage-backed securities to corporate credit unions, and I am confident we will collect even more on behalf of credit unions in the future."
Regulatory Modernization Initiative
Though credit unions may be quick to think of the agency's controversial risk-based capital rule as one of Matz's primary legacies, the chairman's announcement pointed to her commitment to modernizing regulation as a significant hallmark of her tenure. Over the last five years, Matz's initiative yielded 21 areas of innovative regulatory relief, which she said was consistent with President Obama's Executive Order 13579.
"I am very proud that we have provided relief to credit unions in so many ways — from permitting full-service video tellers in the definition of federal credit union service facilities to finalizing a rule facilitating member business lending; from implementing an opt-in notification process for low-income designation to creating an expedited exam process for small credit unions; from expanding the definition of a small credit union to eliminating the cap on fixed assets."
During Matz's term as chairman, the NCUA has received annual recognition for being one of the "Best Places to Work in the Federal Government." She represents the NCUA on the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, which she chaired from 2011-13, and on the Financial Stability Oversight Council, on which she has served since its inception in 2010.
"I am proud of all that NCUA has accomplished to bring stability, advance growth and promote flexibility in our nation's credit unions," Matz said. "Through the hard work of credit union officials and NCUA staff, the credit union system rebounded mightily from the depths of the Great Recession. Virtually every metric indicates the credit union system today is strong and resilient."
"Finally, I am deeply grateful to President Obama for providing me with the opportunity to serve the nation as NCUA Board Chairman," Matz said. "As I recently told the president, this has been the most challenging and gratifying position I have held and a wonderful capstone to my 32 years of public service."
Beginning in May, Matz plans to take time off before pursuing new professional opportunities.
Reactions Pour In
The response to Matz's announcement was swift Wednesday afternoon. The agency's vice chairman, Rick Metsger, issued the following statement:
"NCUA is fortunate to have had Chairman Matz's steady hand on the tiller during challenging economic times for the credit union community. Her leadership brought stability to the system in the aftermath of the Great Recession. She also provided flexibility for credit unions to meet today's changing economic conditions, so that they can continue to meet the financial needs of American consumers.
"I greatly admire how Chairman Matz addressed significant challenges head-on, and always through the prism of what is best for credit union members," Metsger continued. "Her leadership laid the groundwork for the recovery of the credit union system after the financial crisis and, more recently, significant growth in loans and capital. During the last seven years, membership at federally insured credit unions surpassed 100 million and shares and deposits broke through the $1 trillion dollar threshold. These are important and historic milestones.
"On a personal note, I will miss Debbie greatly. I have enjoyed working with her, and I have benefited immensely from her wisdom and experience. She has not only been a great colleague, but a great friend as well," Metsger added.
Both national trade associations weighed in. Dan Berger, president and chief executive of the National Association of Federal Credit Unions, said: "We appreciate Chairman Matz's years of service to NCUA and the credit union industry. NAFCU has had a productive working relationship with the agency under Chairman Matz's leadership that has led to important regulatory relief for the credit union industry. We wish her well in the future."
Jim Nussle, president and CEO of the Credit Union National Association, said: "When I talked to NCUA Chair Debbie Matz, I expressed, on behalf of CUNA and our membership, our thanks and gratitude for her distinguished service to credit unions. As our regulator, she most recently made substantial progress in removing barriers to credit union service by cutting back regulations related to member business lending and field of membership.
"Throughout the time I worked with her, she kept her door open, always willing to listen to our ideas and concerns about the needs of credit unions at NCUA," Nussle said.