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Sherrod Brown questions NCUA’s independence during Senate hearing

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National Credit Union Administration Chairman Rodney Hood on Thursday faced off with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) over the agency’s independence during Hood's second consecutive day of testimony on Capitol Hill.

Brown, the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, raised questions about Hood’s political activities in an October letter calling out the NCUA chairman for multiple instances in which he praised President Donald Trump, including a controversial video posted on White House social media feeds. Brown called on Hood to respond with an explanation and a lengthy list of documents by Dec. 2, and Hood’s office delivered those materials on Dec. 3, two days prior to his appearance before the Senate panel.

While Hood’s response letter outlined his accomplishments as NCUA chairman, he did not answer any of the questions Brown initially raised, including queries about whether Hood consulted with NCUA ethics officers before making his pro-Trump posts, and if he had violated the Hatch Act and other ethics guidelines.

According to Brown’s office, Hood’s response did not address the issues the Ohio senator raised about NCUA’s independence as a financial regulator. Brown's office also noted that Hood included similar photos within his response to those that first raised concerns prompting Brown’s letter. Hood’s Dec. 3 letter included four photos, including one of him smiling with Vice President Mike Pence.

Thursday’s hearing, ostensibly on oversight of financial regulators, brought Hood and Brown face to face for the first time since the Senator’s letter.

“I sent you a letter in October because I was concerned about the photo ops you were doing with President Trump at the White House at his golf course,” Brown added, later referring to Hood’s response as “peculiar.”

“I'm not sure if the letter is supposed to be a response to my concerns or not,” Brown said.

Hood defended his appearances as “speaking engagements,” adding, “What I sent you, Senator Brown, was a listing of my activities in my first six months of meeting with stakeholders to talk about credit union issues, to foster greater financial inclusion and shared prosperity.”

The chairman subsequently suggested his response “was meant to be an opportunity to meet with [Brown] to talk about regulatory accomplishments as well as any other issues you'd like to discuss."

"I'm just not sure that you understand what ‘independent regulator’ means,” Brown responded, adding “I hope the lesson you take from [the letter] is that you are in fact independent from the person who appointed you – the administration that sponsored you – from anybody that might have influence on you."

Thursday’s hearing also included Jelena McWilliams, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and Randal Quarles, vice chairman of the Federal Reserve. Like Wednesday’s meeting in the House, much of the hearing was focused on matters surrounding banks and the Community Reinvestment Act.

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