A look inside USAA’s ‘catastrophically mismanaged’ compliance culture

USAA building

At a time when other large banks were stacking their risk and compliance departments amid intensified banking regulatory scrutiny, USAA’s risk and compliance functions remained woefully understaffed in an organization plagued by systemic violations of laws that went unaddressed for years. In exclusive interviews with Compliance Week, former USAA insiders described a culture in which numerous individuals either were given the axe or quit because the problems were so endemic.

Since 2015, USAA Federal Savings Bank (USAA Bank), an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of USAA, has gone through at least four chief compliance officers (CCOs). And, at the group level, another four CCOs and several enterprise chief risk officers have come and gone in a very short period.

“There’s a reason for all this,” said Lenn Ferrer, who was a former director of compliance at USAA Bank before he blew the whistle to regulators in March 2020. “This has been a catastrophically mismanaged organization. It lost its way. It lost its core values.”

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