Credit union regulator nominee sticks mostly to script, answers some questions, faces some criticism

The nominee for a seat on the federal credit union regulator’s board stayed close to the script of his opening statement and faced limited questions during a hearing Tuesday before a Senate committee.

After Kyle Hauptman outlined the three priorities he would pursue as an National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Board member (which, as his opening statement reported, are managing the impact of the coronavirus crisis, expanding technology’s role in reaching the underserved, and aligning incentives to promote sound credit union performance), he had few chances to provide additional views. That was mostly because the other two nominees being considered were both for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and they fielded most of the questions from Senate Banking Committee members during the nearly two-hour nomination hearing.

However, Hauptman was able to make a few points, including:

  • He would do whatever possible to foster better products at lower prices and lower fees (in response to a question from Democratic Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (Ohio) about the senator’s concern over rising fees at credit unions).
  • Indicated that his top priority is adequate levels of capital for credit unions. He also acknowledged that credit unions had achieved a very high capital position before the impact of the pandemic was felt and that “it’s times like this when capital matters most.”
  • Asserted that, should the current expected credit losses (CECL) accounting standard take effect in 2022, regulators must be sure to understand that any changes resulting to a credit union’s balance sheet from the standard do not mean that the credit union’s capital declined. He claimed that the accounting standard “just makes it appear” that the capital levels are worse than they really are.
  • Declared that blockchain or distributed ledger technology and practices would have been helpful in distributing stimulus checks earlier this year to 88 million Americans. He said that “digital money” could have “gotten money to those people immediately and securely with limits on fraud. Much the same way that there is a disaster in another country, we can deliver money to those folks much more quickly and in a much safer manner.”
  • Vowed to find ways to charter more credit unions, adding that he wants to launch a “top to bottom review” of why it takes so long to start more credit unions. “What are the pain points,” he asked rhetorically.

Now an aide to Banking Committee Member Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Hauptman cited his track record of working with senators and their staffs from both parties, as well as his experience working at investment companies, as evidence of his qualification for a position on the NCUA Board. Cotton offered his staff member high praise – and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) noted the nominee’s work with him on anti-money laundering statute reform.

But Ranking Member Brown was less effusive, questioning Hauptman’s qualifications. “Mr. Hauptman has no credit union experience,” he said in his opening statement. “He says he wants this job because people who love their financial institution are usually credit union members. But being glad that credit unions serve their customers isn’t a reason that he is qualified to be one of the three top credit union regulators, it means he should be a credit union customer.”