Credit union regulator lectured on agency independence from White House during Senate hearing

A brief, but exacting, lecture on financial regulator independence was delivered by the top Democrat of the Senate Banking Committee to the top federal credit union regulator at a hearing Thursday in Washington.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), the ranking member of the committee, told NCUA Board Chairman Rodney Hood that “I hope the lesson you take is that you are, in fact, independent from the person who appointed you, the administration that sponsored you, from anybody that might have influence over you.”

Brown and Hood faced off during a Banking Committee hearing on oversight of federal financial institution regulatory agencies.

Brown prefaced his admonition by asking Hood if he agreed that the NCUA is an independent agency. After Hood agreed that it was, Brown asked Hood three times if he agreed that “NCUA must act without control or influence from the White House?” Both times, Hood responded that he was “deeply committed to maintaining NCUA’s independence as a regulator.”

However (to Brown’s apparent frustration), Hood both times left out any reference to “influence from the White House.”

“You don’t want to say yes to that,” Brown said after the third response from Hood, referring to the reference to White House influence. “Ok, I get it,” Brown added.

(In the video: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) questions NCUA Board Chairman Rodney Hood about agency independence from the White House.)

Brown reminded the NCUA Board chairman that Brown had sent Hood a letter in October expressing Brown’s concern about photo ops Brown was doing with President Donald Trump and at the White House. Brown noted that Hood’s staff sent to his Senate office a letter outlining the various activities Hood has taken during his first seven months as chairman. Hood said the letter was meant as a request to meet with Brown about current credit union issues.

“I just am not sure you understand what an independent regulator means,” Brown said. “From your letter back to us, from your statements about speaking as a body from NCUA, from your other activities with the president.”

Brown was likely referring to a video distributed on Twitter in October by the White House, featuring Hood praising Trump for doing “more for African Americans than any other President in my lifetime.”

(In the video distributed by Twitter by the White House is October, NCUA Board Chairman Rodney Hood discusses President Donald Trump’s record and achievements.)

However, two Republican senators jumped to Hood’s support during their own questioning of hearing witnesses. Both Sens. John N. Kennedy (La.) and Thom Tillis (N.C.) told Hood that they would be glad to have their photos taken with Hood any time.