WASHINGTON - Norman E. D'Amours got it from all sides last week as industry leaders and even his predecessors criticized the performance of the National Credit Union Administration chairman.
Abuse was heaped on Mr. D'Amours all through the Credit Union National Association's annual government affairs convention last week.
The NCUA's seizure of Capital Corporate Federal Credit Union on Jan. 31 hung like a specter over the convention. Another sore point was the agency's decision to limit the sharing of managers among corporates and industry trade groups.
CUNA, the industry's largest trade group, decided to put down on paper the "abuses" it believes the federal agency has committed. The CUNA report will be delivered to lawmakers and White House officials.
At a fund-raising dinner Feb. 26 to promote and develop credit unions, honoree Dick Robertson blasted the NCUA for micromanaging the industry.
"We have to stand up and fight that with all our efforts," said Mr. Robertson, president and general manager of Arizona State Savings and Credit Union.
Mr. D'Amours was not among the diners. A couple days later, he missed a panel discussion titled "Former NCUA Chairmen Look Ahead." Besides making forecasts, Mr. D'Amours' predecessors did some second-guessing.
Larry Connell, Ed Callahan, and Roger Jepsen all agreed that the key to success is to work with credit unions on industry problems. Rather than giving Mr. D'Amours credit for cleaning up the Cap Corp crisis quickly, the former chairmen suggested NCUA should not have rejected plans to right the situation put forth by the Lanham, Md., institution's members and Western Corporate Federal Credit Union.
"I had my own corporate problem that kept me awake at night during my tenure," said Mr. Callahan, now president of Patelco Credit Union. "But I don't think any of you knew about it until I admitted it this moment, because we worked it out within the system."
"We had several (problems) - Nevada and others - that were worked out" by cooperating with the industry, added Mr. Jepsen, who now is lobbying for the Chinese government.
In defense, Mr. D'Amours used a Feb. 27 speech to the 2,000 convention attendees to explain his regulatory style.
Hallmarks of his 16 months in office, include championing small credit unions, urging extension of credit to poor and moderate income people, implementing tough mark-to-market investment accounting standards, and revising rating guidelines to grade credit unions according to how well they serve members.
Mr. D'Amours said his actions have been designed to uphold the Federal Credit Union Act, which he said requires credit unions to lend to people of modest means.
"I don't know anybody at NCUA, including me, who wants to overregulate you," he said. But "if we abandon that responsibility, as some are asking to do, not only would we be disloyal to the statute . . . we would be jeopardizing, at the political and congressional level, the privileges we enjoy."
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House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach and Deputy Treasury Secretary Frank Newman gave the industry high praise when they spoke at the convention Feb. 27.
Rep. Leach, R-Iowa, said the industry is in "astonishingly good condition."
Mr. Newman made similar polite remarks but threw in a caveat: Credit unions had better not become too much like banks.
It is "vitally important" that credit unions not stray too far from the "common bond" that unites their members, Mr. Newman warned.
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Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy 3d had to figure that his speech calling for large credit unions to comply with the Community Reinvestment Act would rile the audience.
What he probably didn't plan on was getting angry himself.
Credit unions' Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data indicate the industry is discriminating, the Massachusetts Democrat said.
"Credit unions, especially the larger ones, could do better," he said.
One audience member, perhaps confused by the alphabet soup of CRA and HMDA, made the mistake of saying HMDA doesn't apply to credit unions. Apparently confused himself, Rep. Kennedy said he would look into the matter.
After the speech, chief CUNA lobbyist Charles O. Zuver took Rep. Kennedy aside and explained that credit unions above a certain asset size do comply with the mortgage disclosure law.
Rep. Kennedy then dragged Mr. Zuver back onstage - interrupting the introduction of Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. - and had him repeat the conditions of credit union compliance with HMDA.
After Mr. Zuver finished, Rep. Kennedy pointed at the audience member who had raised the HMDA issue and said, "You're full of baloney, and I don't appreciate you coming out here and trying to kid all of these people and kidding me."
Rep. Kennedy stormed offstage as the audience booed.
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At a reception Feb. 26, USF&G Corp. attracted just 30 of the 2,000 convention goers. That could be because USF&G, the insurance firm that is trying to break CUNA Mutual Group's hold on the credit union fidelity bond market, was exiled to a hotel across the street from the convention site.
Since jumping into the market in the fall of 1993, USF&G has stolen about 50 credit unions away from CUNA Mutual - which is affiliated with the trade group - and has characterized the industry's dominant insurance provider as a dinosaur.
Chris J. Becker, executive vice president of John Burnham & Co., which is selling the USF&G policy, was asked if the group was invited to the convention.
"What do you think?" he responded.