WASHINGTON-As the presidential and congressional elections grow closer, a key issue for credit unions is who will that president appoint to top regulatory positions, not to mention what Congress might do to those agencies.
While all eyes are focused on who will occupy the White House, credit union strategists are looking at who will occupythe top spots at NCUA, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other regulatory agencies.
"This presidential election could have a huge impact on the agencies that regulate credit unions," said CUNA SVP/Deputy General Counsel Mary Dunn. "Republicans have always beeb better about regulatory reform, quite frankly, but the Democrats are starting to see the abuses of across-the-board regulation. This is exactly why political advocacy is more important now than ever."
If President Obama is reelected, most of the regulatory agencies likely would stay the same, Dunn noted. But if Gov. Mitt Romney wins, it could be a whole new ball game.
"We are already having discussions about who we could be dealing with, because there could be so many new people appointed to these positions that we cannot wait [until after the election] to talk about this," Dunn said. "Oftentimes, who holds the job is as important as their party affiliation."
But it goes beyond having to deal with new faces. In this election, the very existence of one regulator could literally be on the line. "With the CFPB, the character of it, the nature of the CFPB-if not its future-is in play in this election," Dunn said. "Regardless of who wins, we are seeing increasing oversight of CFPB, and I don't see that slowing down."
And that oversight isn't just coming from the White House, it's also coming from Congress, where legislation-even bills that aren't getting passed-is having a tangible impact on regulation, according to Ryan Donovan, CUNA's SVP of legislative affairs.
"Sometimes progress is being made simply by virtue of a bill being introduced," he said. "The ATM bill, the privacy notification bill, even the MBL bill, just having them out there makes a difference."
One Example Worth Noting
For example, NCUA's recent effort to urge more credit unions to seek low-income status which would, among other things, relieve the cap on member business lending for qualified CUs, is at least partly a result of credit union efforts to get the MBL reform bill passed, Donovan said.
"The fair examinations bill has had an important effect on the examination process," Dunn added. "We are hearing from credit unions that their examinations haven't been as negative as they had been. That is attributable to the improving economy, but it's also attributable to the recognition [by Congress] of the importance of oversight on the regulatory process. It's not always about getting the bill passed."