A five-member NCUA Board? Maybe; Harper outlines up, downsides in hearing

(Oct. 1, 2021) While not outright supporting the idea of an expanded NCUA Board membership, the chairman of the current board noted that there are some upsides to the idea during testimony Thursday at a Senate confirmation hearing.

NASCUS and the state system have long called for an expansion of NCUA Board from its current three members to five – and for requiring that at least one member of the board have state credit union regulator experience.

At the hearing, during questions to him from Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) at the Senate Banking Committee hearing on NCUA Board Chairman Todd Harper’s nomination to a full term on the NCUA Board (and to continue as chairman), Harper acknowledged that there are two sides to expanding the membership of the NCUA Board.

“Certainly a disadvantage of going to a larger board would be higher costs for that board and perhaps slowing down the process,” Harper said. “On the flip side of that, though, it would create more voices at the table in order to have more informed decision making.”

Harper also noted “that state regulators have long called for an increase in the size of the NCUA board.” He also pointed out that, adding more members to the board could change a structural defect that limits communications among board members.

“The sunshine act rules make it difficult for me to talk one-on-one with my fellow board members because when you have a three-member board, two people talking together is a majority and you have to notice that,” he said, referring to publication of board meetings for public review in the Federal Register. “A larger board would facilitate the board-member-to-board-member interaction.”

Daines seemed to be open to the idea of an expanded board, saying he appreciated Harper’s view. He said “looking at the reality” of how many members the agency board has had since its 1979 inception (22), and a four-year run of having only two board members during the last decade, “there’s an argument for considering making the board larger.”

Any change in the size of the NCUA Board would require a change in the Federal Credit Union Act; there is currently no legislation before Congress calling for that.

Harper was nominated last month by President Joe Biden (D) to a term on the NCUA Board ending in 2027; the White House has indicated Harper will continue as chairman. Harper’s nomination is somewhat a first among NCUA Board members as he is essentially succeeding himself (he is now serving in a “holdover” status as the term he was serving officially ended in April).

Harper was one of three nominees to appear on a panel before the Banking Committee hearing Thursday; the other two are nominees to the Export-Import Bank (Exim Bank) of the United States. (They are: Judith DelZoppo Pryor as first vice president, and Owen Edward Herrnstadt as a member of the bank’s board.)

All three were repeatedly congratulated by senators from both parties on their nominations; none publicly voiced opposition to any of their nominations.