News Now Archive

Published on February 28, 2013.

Sen. Warren: CU 'Reliable' Model a Bright Spot In Economy

WASHINGTON (2/28/13)--Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), speaking to the Credit Union National Association's Governmental Affairs Conference here Wednesday, directed the spotlight to shine brightly on the credit union difference.

Across her state of Massachusetts--and all around the country--member-owned credit unions are looking out for people, she said. "That's what credit unions do-they work for their members."

Click to view larger imageDan Egan (left), president of the Massachusetts Credit Union League, and the new Democratic senator from that state, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, greet on the CUNA GAC stage. (CUNA photo)

Remembering the unfolding of the country's recent financial crisis, the senator said that as one Wall Street banking scandal after another unfolded, credit unions remained a bright spot in the financial industry.

"Credit unions did not break this economy. They did not build business models around tricking their customers. When the economy faltered, they did not turn their backs on the families and small businesses that needed them.

"On the contrary, credit unions worked hard to lead our economic recovery, responsibly and reliably providing credit to their members that need it. The credit union motto says it all: 'not for profit, not for charity, but for service,'" said Warren, who was instrumental in setting up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau before she won election to become Massachusetts' new senator.

Warren talked about the changes to the financial services market from a generation ago to the time the financial crisis hit. She said that by the time of the crisis some financial services providers no longer provided transparency for consumers on such things as terms for credit cards, checking accounts, mortgages and signature loans.

"While credit unions continued to provide clear, high-quality service for millions of Americans, a different form of pricing had become all too prevalent elsewhere. Too many credit card companies and mortgage lenders used a low advertised price on the front end to entice customers, and then made their real money with fees and charges and penalties and re-pricing on the back end. The costs and risks of products became harder to see, which meant that comparison shopping was almost impossible and the market became less and less efficient."

She said families and small financial institutions alike were hurt.

"Credit unions that wouldn't adopt a business model based on tricks and traps were competing with slick outfits that pretended to underprice them. In other words, the game was rigged--rigged against consumers and rigged against small financial institutions," Warren said.

"When I set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, I wanted to increase transparency in the marketplace and to level the playing field for credit unions and other providers that want to do right by consumers."

Warren criticized GOP opposition to confirming a CFPB director and asked credit unions to encourage lawmakers to approve his appointment.
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GAC Brings CUs To Washington At 'Critical' Time: House Majority Leader Cantor

WASHINGTON (2/28/13)--The U.S. Congress could learn much from credit unions, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) suggested in a Wednesday speech at the Credit Union National Association's 2013 Governmental Affairs Conference.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told a Wednesday GAC audience that the regulatory burdens imposed on credit unions and other financial institutions over the past 15 years must be addressed. (CUNA photo)
 
"I know our credit unions at home are focused on community, I know that you are focused on helping your members and giving back to community…I think that the advice I would seek from you--is how to best apply that here in Washington," he said.
 
Americans want the U.S. Congress to seek common ground, the same common ground that credit unions find in their communities, Cantor noted. Too many people are affected by "a stagnant economy," and those are the people that credit unions hear from, and serve, he added.
 
Cantor noted credit unions are here in Washington at CUNA's GAC at a very critical time in the nation's history, as Congress is dealing with controversial issues such as deficit reduction and tax codes reform.

More than 4,200 credit union representatives were registered for CUNA's GAC and many will have flooded Capitol Hill to discuss credit union issues before they leave CUNA's four-day meeting this week.
 
In closing, Cantor said he wants to try and make sure credit unions can work with legislators "as partners in the mission of making life work again" for credit union members and for the people of this country.

"That's how we can grow together; that's how we can begin to see a brighter future," he said.
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Cordray Calls On CUs To Help CFPB Aid Consumers

WASHINGTON (2/28/13)--Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray on Wednesday called on credit unions to work with the agency "to address the consumer financial issues central to the lives of people all across this country."

CFPB Director Richard Cordray said the CFPB and credit unions have worked well together since the agency's inception, and added that both groups "have much more good work" ahead. (CUNA photo)
For two years, the CFPB has enjoyed a relationship with credit unions "based on mutual respect and a common understanding of who it is we serve: the people of this country," Cordray said. "We have done good work together, and we have much more good work ahead of us.

"The people we jointly work for, your members, and American consumers, are eager to discover a new and improved consumer financial marketplace. And they deserve it," he added.

In his remarks before the Credit Union National Association's 2013 Governmental Affairs Conference, Cordray noted that it was not the traditional lending practices of credit unions that created the financial crisis.

"You were not underwriting the bad loans that brought down the housing market. Instead, you were sounding the alarm bells well before the sinking of the economy. And you were upholding sound underwriting standards even though you lost customers and market share to the financial predators," he told the CUNA GAC audience.

Cordray also addressed the CFPB's recent mortgage regulatory releases. The agency has exempted many credit unions from portions of some of these rules, and he said the exemptions express the CFPB's "recognition and acknowledgement that the traditional credit union lending model is deserving of respect and should be treated differently."

Credit unions "are member-focused," and carefully protect the people they serve, he said. "This is just the kind of service-based model that we want to encourage in the consumer financial marketplace," he added.

The mortgage market in general was also addressed during Cordray's comments. "As you know, the current mortgage market is so tight that lenders are leaving good money on the table by not lending to low-risk applicants seeking to take advantage of the current favorable interest rate climate. This actually creates a window of opportunity for credit unions that helped 'write the book,' so to speak, on what it means to underwrite responsibly," he said.

"In short, we believe that credit unions and the consumer bureau see the world in the same way: Consumers who understand their options, weigh choices appropriately and make sound decisions are good for responsible businesses and the economy as a whole," Cordray said.

For Cordray's full prepared remarks, use the resource link.
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CUNA Officials Pledge To Redouble Efforts To Reduce Regulatory Burden

WASHINGTON (2/28/13)--Reducing credit unions' regulatory burden--one of the top priorities of the Credit Union National Association for this year--will be pushed for aggressively on Capitol Hill and when dealing with the regulatory agencies that have jurisdiction over credit unions, CUNA executives said Wednesday.

"We plan to continue our good working relationships with the agencies--we want them to respect us even if they don't like us--and continue to provide them with data to show how regulations impact credit union operations,'' CUNA Deputy General Counsel Mary Dunn said during a panel discussion at CUNA's 2013 Governmental Affairs Conference held here through today. More than 4,200 credit union leaders registered for the conference.

Dunn said CUNA will be targeting problems, using data and cost-benefit analysis, and will be working with the CUNA Councils and credit unions to focus on problem regulatory areas.

Click to view larger imageCUNA's Mary Dunn (second from right) says CUNA will continue to provide regulators with data that shows how regulations impact credit union operations.  Also shown (from left): CUNA General Counsel Eric Richard, Georgia Credit Union Affiliates President/CEO Michael Mercer and CUNA Senior Vice President for Legislative Affairs Ryan Donovan. (CUNA photo)

CUNA Senior Vice President for Legislative Affairs Ryan Donovan said the association will be making its case on Capitol Hill through testimony at congressional hearings and conversations with lawmakers and staff members about disturbing regulatory trends. For instance, he said CUNA has pointed out that the National Credit Union Administration is the only financial regulator that increased its budget last year.
 
"We hope that will result in calls of concern to the agency from Congress,'' he said.
 
Donovan added that while lawmakers pass laws with good intentions, the impact of their efforts is often more burdensome than they intended.
 
He noted that when Congress "shines a light on regulations and their impact, regulators pay attention.''
 
Dunn said that even though credit unions are pro-consumer, it is a "phony argument,'' that they aren't going to be adversely impacted by additional regulations that government agencies deem to be pro-consumer. She noted that there are additional costs always involved when a new rule is issued, even if it doesn't change a credit union's practice in a particular area.
 
Georgia Credit Union Affiliates President/CEO Michael Mercer said the excessive regulatory burden has three main effects: Small credit unions feel "beat down,'' and their leaders spend most of their time trying to keep up with the regulations so they survive their next exam. Often the boards of these credit unions discuss whether the regulatory climate makes it viable for them to survive; the increased costs and inconvenience of taking steps to ensure that a credit union isn't "inadvertently" out of compliance; credit unions have less ability to be innovative.
 
Mercer, who just ended his term as CUNA's chairman, said the increasing tendency of regulators to issue one-size-fits-all rules has resulted in the "homogenization and commoditization of consumer financial services, which makes it harder for credit unions to differentiate themselves.''
 
CUNA General Counsel Eric Richard moderated the panel.
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Johnson Notes CUs' Role In National Recovery

WASHINGTON (3/22/12)--Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson said Wednesday that the No. 1 priority of his panel is the "continued recovery of the national economy."

In a video address to the Credit Union National Association's Governmental Affairs Conference, he said, "Credit unions are playing an important role in that recovery and, as you know, across the nation nearly one in three Americans rely on the services you provide.

"In my home state of South Dakota, I have seen how credit unions strengthen communities by investing in their members' success and I thank you."

Johnson said overseeing the implementation of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act will remain a committee priority.

"I am especially aware of avoiding unintended consequences. As you well know, credit unions did not cause the financial crisis and we are working to make sure they are not overly burdened by the (reform) law," he said.

On the topic of credit union member business lending, Johnson noted that the Senate did not vote last year on a bill to increases the cap and he added that he expects the debate to continue in this session of Congress.
 

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Waters Pledges Support For CU Charter Enhancement Bills

WASHINGTON (2/28/13)--Rep. Maxine  Waters (D-Calif.) said the pro-consumer record of credit unions justifies proposed legislation to raise limits on member business loans (MBLs) and to improve capital

Click to view larger imageRep. Maxine  Waters (D-Calif.) commends credit unions their performance during past scandals in other financial sectors that caused the recent recession.  (CUNA photo)
 rules.

"I thank you for wanting to do this, and I'm going to help you," she said during a speech before the Credit Union National Association's Governmental Affairs Conference here. Waters is the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee.

Waters stressed during the GAC speech her long-time admiration of credit unions. "You are the ones that help provide the kind of products we can depend on," she said.  

She noted the commendable performance of credit unions during past scandals in other financial sectors that caused the recent recession. Credit unions were not part of the "debacle," she said.

Waters said increasing the MBL cap would help all consumers, and promised to support future credit union legislative initiatives. "I am you, and you are me," she told the session. 

Two key pieces of CUNA-supported legislation that would enhance the credit union charter were re-introduced in the House just about a week before CUNA's GAC. One bill would increase the MBL cap to 27.5% of assets, up from the current 12.25% limit. The other would broaden credit unions' access to secondary capital beyond retained capital.
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Tester Praises CUs, Offers To Help Ease Reg Burden

WASHINGTON (2/28/13)--Credit unions stress the value of self-reliance and a pragmatic

Click to view larger imageFinancial regulations should be fair and based on an institution's size and risk profile, says Sen. Jon Tester, adding that credit unions should not have to "pay for the sins of Wall Street." (CUNA photo)
approach to problem solving, just like people in rural areas in places like Montana, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) told the Credit Union National Association's 2013 Governmental Affairs Conference Wednesday.
 
He said that because of their uniqueness and service to their communities, he has worked to exempt small financial institutions from some of the regulations aimed at big banks.
 
"You shouldn't have to pay for the sins of Wall Street,'' he told attendees at the conference, which has more than 4,200 and runs through today. "I have fought to make sure that regulations are fair and are based on an institution's size and relative risk.''
 
Tester, whom CUNA and the state credit union league strongly supported in his successful re-election campaign last year, was the lead sponsor of efforts to delay the implementation of the Durbin Amendment regulating debit interchange fees. He noted that even though backers of the amendment had promised that it wouldn't negatively impact small financial institutions, that hasn't been the case and he would continue to urge regulators to fine tune the regulations.
 
He said that through the efforts of credit unions and their allies on Capitol Hill, the Federal Reserve's final rule on interchange better "reflects the costs that you bear,'' when offering debit cards.
 
He urged credit unions to be vigilant about lobbying elected officials and letting them know of the added costs from regulatory burdens.
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GAC: Sherman With CUs 'Every Step Of The Way'

WASHINGTON (2/28/13)--Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) reiterated his support for virtually all significant credit union issues Thursday during a speech at the Credit Union National Association's Governmental

Click to view larger imageRep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) offers strong support for credit union issues during a speech Wednesday at the Credit Union National Association's Governmental  Affairs  Conference. (CUNA photo)
Affairs Conference.

Perhaps most significantly, Sherman vowed to stand by credit unions in preserving their tax status. Under the Federal Credit Union Act, federal and state-chartered credit unions are exempt from federal income tax because they are cooperatives operated for and by their members, and because credit union shares are essentially members' deposits. The tax status has been reaffirmed periodically by the U.S. Congress and is supported by many lawmakers.

Sherman noted that credit unions merit their tax status because they are member-owned, not-for-profit financial institutions.

Sherman said that if credit unions had to pay more taxes, "The cost to our economy and the resulting loss of revenue would be far greater than any amount of tax we would collect from your institutions."

"We have got to fight for this exemption and I will be with you every step of the way," he pledged.

Sherman, along with co-sponsor Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), recently reintroduced CUNA-supported legislation that would permit the National Credit Union Administration to allow credit unions to accept additional forms of capital.

If the legislation is passed, credit unions could hold subordinated debt instruments, which would allow them to retain member ownership, Sherman said.

Let's contrast this to the banks, Sherman said. "They asked us for $700 billion in capital. You're asking us to get out of the way and let you raise capital from the private sector. Which is the better way to provide capital for America's financial institutions?"

Sherman also expressed support for the Small Business Lending Enhancement Act, which would increase the credit union member business lending cap to 27.5% of assets from the current 12.25%-of-assets level.

The bill, if enacted, would help credit unions lend an additional $14.5 billion to small businesses in just the first year after enactment. This money, which would be made available at no expense to taxpayers, would in turn help small businesses create more than 158,000 new jobs.

"What's not to like," Sherman said. "All you need is for us to get out of the way. I don't know a single member of Congress that can't give you a list of 100 small businesses in his or her district that need a loan and want to expand."

Sherman, with Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.), also recently introduced a 2013 version of The Eliminate Privacy Notice Confusion Act, which is backed by CUNA. Sherman called the current privacy requirements "a complete waste of paper."
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King Urges Budget Compromise, Lauds CUs

WASHINGTON (2/28/13)--Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) says lawmakers on Capitol Hill need to begin resolving the budget impasse that has paralyzed Congress.

Click to view larger imageRep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) praises credit unions for the role they took in easing the pressures caused by "the crash of 2008." (CUNA photo)

"It's time for politicians to stop blaming each other," he said during a speech before the Credit Union National Association's Governmental Affairs Conference Wednesday. "Nobody is going to get what they want. In a democracy you sit down and bring people together."
 
The observation sparked applause during the general session.
 
King said any solution must include accommodating spiraling costs of Social Security and other such programs. He said all parties must put the impasse behind them so the government and Congress can go forward.
 
He told the audience that credit unions will have an important contribution to make in in this effort.
 
King praised credit unions' role in easing the pressures caused by "the crash of 2008." He also lauded the "strong response" by credit unions during the recent Hurricane Sandy disaster. The storm hit parts of New York with devastating results.
 
In addition to serving on House Committee on Financial Services, King is a member of the Homeland Security's subcommittee on counterterrorism and intelligence. He expressed concerns during his GAC talk about increasing evidence of cybersecurity attacks.
 
"We have to get busy with this crisis so that U.S. business can operate without worrying about such threats," he told the session.
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Fed Policy, Housing System, Reg Burden On House Financial Services March Agenda

WASHINGTON (2/28/13)--Monetary policy, the U.S. housing system, and regulatory burdens that hinder economic growth are areas of focus on the House Financial Services Committee's hearing agenda next month, according to a schedule released Wednesday by its chairman.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said his committee's attention in March will also focus on ending "Too Big to Fail."

Of particular interest to credit unions will be a March 20 hearing by the Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee on the growing burden of federal regulations on small financial institutions across the country.

Noting that the schedule can change and that each meeting will become final only when an official notice is distributed, the committee also released these dates:

Also this week committee chairman Hensarling, speaking Tuesday at the Credit Union National Association's Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C., said he will help credit unions preserve their tax status.
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Lew Confirmed As Next Treasury Secretary

WASHINGTON (2/28/13)--The U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved Jack Lew to serve as U.S. Treasury Secretary.

Lew was approved by a 71 to 26 vote.

"At this critical time for our economy and our country, there is no one more qualified for this position," President Barack Obama said in a release.

Lew previously served as Obama's chief of staff.

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CUs Prepared To Assist Members Hit By Furloughs

HERNDON, Va., and SCRANTON, Pa. (2/28/13)--Two credit unions are taking steps to help workers feeling a cash crunch because of job furloughs, in the event of federal government sequestration, taking effect Friday. The sequestration would impact nearly all government agencies through a series of across-the-board, automatic budget cuts.
 
The steps are yet another example of credit unions working proactively on behalf of their members, said the Credit Union National Association.
 
Northwest FCU, based in Herndon, Va., with $2.5 billion in assets, will provide loans up to $10,000 at 0% interest to members who may be adversely affected by the impending federal government furlough. In addition to the 0% loans, Northwest Federal also will waive the early withdrawal penalties on any certificate of deposit for members who may need immediate access to their funds.
 
Should the government sequestration take effect, the special interest rate will be available for members who meet minimum qualifications for a period of up to 90 days after their furlough period ends.
 
Many believe the sequestration could have far-reaching consequences. Should this happen, Northwest FCU will be ready, said Colleen Daly, the credit  union's senior vice president of lending. "We're here to offer some peace of mind to our members who may be worried about how government furloughs might affect their personal financial situations," she said.
 
Also, Tobyhanna FCU, based in Scranton, Pa., has instituted a Furlough Assistance Program, according to its website.
 
"If you've been affected or expect to be affected by a furlough, we are offering the following: Receive up to $7,000 at 0% annual percentage rate, for up to six months with no payments," Tobyhanna said.
 
The $165.6 million asset credit union's program is being offered to current and new members. To be eligible, members must provide at least two pay stubs or have a direct deposit with Tobyhanna. No application is required, just a written communication that the member is on furlough. Also, there are no credit requirements.   
 
One of CUNA's and the credit union system's key visions involves values-based decision-making rooted in credit unions' shared values, including collaboration, a focus on members, community involvement, and a dedication to financial well-being, said CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney this week at CUNA's Governmental Affairs Conference.

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Hacktivists Resume DDoS Attacks Vs. Patelco, Others

PLEASANTON, Calif., and NEW YORK (2/28/13)--Hacktivists responsible for distributed denial of service (DD0S) attacks against U.S. banks and credit unions in January have resumed their attacks against at least a dozen institutions, including credit unions.
 
Patelco CU, Pleasanton, Calif., told News Now that it experienced  its second DDoS attack on Monday.
 
"Yes, another DDoS attack was initiated against Patelco on Feb. 25," said Patelco Vice President of Information Technology Anthony Vitale. "Our downtime was roughly two hours." The first attack against the $3.8 billion asset credit union occurred in January and disrupted its site for five hours.
 
Monday's attack was discovered when "our security scanning system caught the attack in its early stages," Vitale said. "The DDoS attack made it difficult for members to access financial information. However, no personal or account information was compromised."
 
Given the first attack, Patelco had already improved its Web security to mitigate the impact of such attacks. "We implemented additional security after the initial attack in January, and these additional measures significantly reduced the downtime we experience because of the attack," Vitale said.
 
The credit union used social media to inform members about the website and online banking systems issues, he added.
 
"We continue to take this seriously," Vitale said. "We are working to mitigate and further reduce downtime if these attacks occur again in the future."
 
In a Feb. 26 post on Pastebin, an open forum frequented by hacktivists, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters claimed second strikes against Patelco;, University FCU in Austin, Texas; and a number of banks, including Bank of America, PNC Financial Services Group, Capital One, Zions Bank, Fifth Third, Union Bank, Comerica Bank, RBS Citizens Financial Group Inc. (Citizens Bank) and People's United Bank (bankinfosecurity.com Feb. 26).
 
University FCU's website was down for nearly 2 1/2 hours on Jan. 24 (News Now Jan. 28). It has not been confirmed whether it was attacked again.
 
The Qassam Cyber Fighters issued an ultimatum to the U.S. government over films offensive to Muslims and said if the films are not removed it will start Operation Ababil again the week of March 5. The attacks against Patelco and the others, the group said, were warnings. The financial institutions have nothing to do with the posting of films on other websites. The first wave of protests from the group in January stemmed from a video on YouTube.
 
The National Credit Union Administration and the Office of the Comproller of the Currency issued warnings last week about DDoS attacks being used to distract institutions to perpetrate account frauds.  So far, there is no evidence linking the Qassam attacks to fraud, said bankinfosecurity.com.  DDoS attacks involve flooding a site with incoming e-mail to stall its operations so people can't access the site.

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NerdWallet: CUs Offer Savings Accounts For Furry Friends

NEW YORK (2/28/13)--As America Saves Week winds down its promotion of getting into the savings habit, six credit unions are featured on the NerdWallet website as places that offer a special kind of savings vehicle:  pet savings accounts.
 
Pets can dent a budget with unexpected medical expenses, but savings accounts can help consumers prepare for pet emergencies, said NerdWallet (Feb.25).  It featured pet savings accounts at nine financial institutions, six of them pet-friendly credit unions.
 
They include:

For the full article, use the link.
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LSCU Presents Lawmaker Awards To Posey, Bonner

Click to view larger imageU.S. Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.), left, was a 2013 League of Southeastern Credit Unions & Affiliates Federal Lawmaker of the Year recipient, receiving his award from Patrick La Pine, LSCU president/CEO. U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.), not pictured, also received the award.  (Photo provided by the League of Southeastern Credit Unions)
BIRMINGHAM, Ala., and TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (2/28/13)--The League of Southeastern Credit Unions & Affiliates honored two congressmen for their support of credit unions during the past year. U.S. Reps. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) and Bill Posey (R-Fla.) are the 2013 LSCU Federal Lawmaker of the Year recipients.
 
"Reps. Bonner and Posey have really shown they are friends to credit unions," said LSCU President/CEO Patrick La Pine. "Both are accessible every time we call or come to Washington. Many lawmakers will sit and listen and that's as far as it goes. Reps. Bonner and Posey work to ensure credit unions succeed through their actions and that's what counts most."
 
Bonner and Posey were co-sponsors of Member Business Lending legislation and Exam Fairness legislation. Posey also co-sponsored Supplemental Capital, Privacy Notices and ATM Disclosure legislation.
 
Bonner has spoken at the 2012 LSCU Leadership Development Conference and met with credit unions in his district. Posey has been a credit union supporter since his days in the Florida House and Senate. In 2012, Rep. Posey spoke at the LSCU Annual Convention and Exposition, and met with credit unions in Washington, D.C., and his district office. He was Florida's only full member of the House Financial Services Committee in the 112th Congress.
 
LSCU handed out the Federal Lawmaker of the Year awards this week at a reception at the Credit Union National Association's Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C. The GAC ends today with 4,200 attendees visiting Capitol Hill.
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Two Fla. CU CEOs Receive Buck Levins Award

Click to view larger imageThe Credit Union National Association presented Art and Mary Wood with the Buck Levins award for their work in political advocacy on behalf of credit unions. Mary Wood, CEO of Florida West Coast CU in Brandon, Fla., is the top Political Action Committee credit union fundraiser for her asset size category. Art Wood, CEO of Railroad and Industrial FCU in Tampa, helped credit unions gain access to state and federal lawmakers. (Photo provided by the League of Southeastern Credit Unions)
BIRMINGHAM, Ala., and TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (2/28/13)--The Credit Union National Association presented Art and Mary Wood with the Buck Levins award, named after the former CUNA Board chairman. The Woods, both CEOs of credit unions in Florida, show a tremendous passion for credit unions in the political arena, said the League of Southeastern Credit Unions and Affiliates.
 
Mary Wood, CEO of Florida West Coast CU in Brandon, Fla., is the LSCU board chairman and the top political action committee credit union fundraiser for her asset size category. She regularly attends the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference, Hike the Hill and the LSCU State GAC to discuss credit union issues with state and federal lawmakers.
 
Art Wood, CEO of Railroad and Industrial FCU in Tampa, just completed a term as the Hillsborough County Republican Committee Chairman. He used his position as chairman to help credit unions gain access to state and federal lawmakers, particularly the leadership at the state level. Wood regularly attends the CUNA GAC, Hike the Hill and the LSCU State GAC.
 
To illustrate the Woods' commitment to the political scene in Florida, current Speaker of the Florida House Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel), who lives in Tampa, often reaches out to the Woods for their opinion on financial issues. Their advice often influences his vote, even though he is a member of a bank board, LSCU said.
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Retiring CEO Attends His Last GAC

Ben Hill, president/CEO of Blue Flame CU in Charlotte, N.C., said he has most enjoyed helping members during his 37-year credit union career. Hill is retiring from Blue Flame at the end of June, and this week attended his last Credit Union National Association Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C. (Photo provided by the North Carolina Credit Union League)
WASHINGTON (2/28/13)--Ben Hill, retiring president/CEO of Blue Flame CU in Charlotte, N.C., has been a strong advocate for credit unions during his 37-year credit union career, and has regularly attended events such as the Credit Union National Association Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C.

This year, Hill is in Washington, attending his last CUNA GAC.

Such events energize him since he gets to meet with people who are also committed to helping people, Hill told the North Carolina Credit Union League.

"I feel right at home at GAC because it reminds you of all the good things about credit unions," Hill explained. "Credit union people are good people--it recharges your batteries being here."

Being involved politically has great value, Hill said. "It used to be that I only spent about an hour a month on regulations and compliance, but now regulations seem to be about all that I get to do," he told NCCUL. "So coming here is important because we have to keep fighting for our members. We run credit unions for members, not regulators."

Hill is a past chairman of the NCCUL board of directors and was on the board for 11 years. He also is a past president of the North Carolina Credit Union Executives Society Council, and served on the North Carolina Credit Union Commission. He was involved with the Piedmont Chapter through the years and served on the chapter's board for about 20 years. Hill also has served on the governmental affairs, finance, bylaws and nominating committees of the NCCUL board, and been a credit union political action committee trustee.

Hill said he intends to stay connected to the credit union movement in some way. "I'd still like to serve in some capacity. Maybe teaching at the local community college or doing something with credit unions in the future," he concluded.
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Calif./Nev. Leagues Win National Marketing Awards

ONTARIO, Calif. (2/28/13)--The California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues have won two 2012 MarCom Awards from the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals for its 2011 annual meeting and convention marketing campaign and a feature article in its flagship publication, Credit Union Digest.
 
The leagues' Membership, Marketing and Communications Department won the Gold Award in the Special Event category for its "Right Here, Right Now" campaign for its 2012 Leagues Annual Meeting and  Convention.
 
The department also received an honorable mention in the Feature Article category for the August/September 2011 Digest's  "Board Membership: Risk or Reward?" written by Publications Manager Matt Wrye.
 
"Our work competed with entries from organizations such as the U.S. Department of Labor, Aetna, American Airlines, Lockheed Martin, and UnitedHealthcare," said Carol Payne, the leagues' vice president of membership, communications and marketing.  "Being honored with these awards helps to showcase the talent and efforts of the leagues' staff in developing creative products that also strategically meet our members' needs," she added.

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CU System Briefs

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Consumer Confidence Rises In February

BOSTON (2/28/13)--Consumer confidence took a leap this month, climbing to 69.6 from a revised 58.4 in January. That, coupled with a surge in home purchases, indicates signs of a rebound the nation's economic growth, said Bloomberg (Bloomberg.com Feb 26).
 
The index's 11.2-point increase was the largest since November 2011 and offset a 15-point decrease over the past three months. January's reading was better than predicted by all economists surveyed by Bloomberg.
 
However, one cautioned that "the absolute levels of consumer confidence are still low." Wells Fargo Securities LLC Senior Economist Mark Vitner told Bloomberg that it is important to distinguish between "recovering" and "recovered."
 
He noted that the reading won't reflect the federal government's sequestration cuts that are expected to take place on Friday because the survey on which January's readings are based ended on Feb. 14--before political discussions on sequestration became more heated as the deadline drew nearer.
 
Home purchases for January rose 15.6%  to an annual pace of 437,000, after a 378,000 pace in December, said the Commerce Department Wednesday.
 
Also, January pending home sales were at 105.9, the highest reading since the home buyer tax credit deadline in April 2010 and a 4.5% increase over a downwardly revised 101.3 in December, said the National Association of Realtors. "Favorable affordability conditions and job growth have unleashed a pent-up demand to sellers in much of the country," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.
 
"Most areas are drawing down housing inventory, which has shifted the supply/demand balance to sellers in much of the country. It's also why we're experiencing the strongest price growth in more than seven years," Yun added.

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FTC Retools Used-Car Buyers Guide

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (2/26/13)--The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is asking for input about proposed revisions to the Used Car Buyers Guide--window stickers the FTC requires dealers to place on used cars. The proposals contain some good news for consumers but could make it harder to find some information or to hold dealers responsible in cases of fraud (SouthCoastToday Feb. 17).

The existing Buyers Guide contains basic information about the car, tells whether or not the dealer offers a warranty and informs potential buyers of their legal rights. If a dealer offers a warranty, it must list the terms and conditions, including coverage duration, what percentage of total repair costs the dealer will pay and which vehicle systems the warranty covers.

Under the proposed changes, if a car still is covered by a manufacturer's or a third-party warranty, the dealer would have the option of marking check boxes located on the back of the Buyers Guide to indicate whether:

This is the good news that addresses a warranty question potential buyers frequently ask. But, the notice would be located in a place most people won't or can't see--and marking it is optional.

And, if any warranties apply, the dealer would not have to provide copies. It would be up to the potential buyer to track down and pay for reports about the vehicle's history by consulting the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS). The information also is available from private providers such as Autocheck or Carfax. Access to these services requires computer access and a credit card.

Another potential area of change is language that would define the "as-is" selection on the sticker: "The dealer won't pay for any repairs. The dealer is not responsible for any repairs, regardless of what anybody tells you." The National Association of Consumer Advocates, Washington D.C., points out that this language is confusing--under state law in all 50 states, if dealers commit fraud they might have to pay for repairs and be liable for refunds or punitive damages.

Consumer Action, San Francisco, is also concerned (Feb. 8) that the new rules would not require dealers to inspect a vehicle before sale or even to disclose known defects.
The FTC invites comments during the proposal's public comment period, which runs through March 13. Post your comment on the FTC.gov website.
 
Regardless of FTC proposals and the final rule, it's always up to you to look for hidden damage and potential problems when buying a used vehicle. No database, whether the NMVTIS or a commercial service, has consistently up-to-date or complete information about a particular vehicle. Disregard verbal promises by friendly salespersons, check the car's history and have the vehicle inspected by an independent mechanic before you sign a sales contract. Consider arranging loan preapproval from your credit union to avoid pricey, shady, or confusing financing deals.
 
For more information, read "Avoid Buying a Flood-Damaged Used Car" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.
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LendKey Adds 58 CUs, 1.3 Million Members In 2012

NEW YORK (2/28/13)--LendKey (formerly Fynanz), a cloud-based lending solutions provider, added 58 credit union clients and 1.3 million credit union members in 2012 to its cloud-based loan origination and servicing platform.
 
LendKey is a CUNA Strategic Services provider and has more than 235 credit union partners that leverage its lending platform for private student loan and private student loan refinancing products.
 
To date, credit unions have refinanced more than $125 million in private student loan debt and have saved borrowers roughly $25 million in interest payments.
 
"In 2012 we helped our lending partners increase their access to qualified borrowers seeking fairly priced student loan products," said Vince Passione, LendKey CEO. "Our demand-generation services resulted in a 30% increase in school relationships for our lending clients and tripled the size of their reseller network."
 
LendKey's platform includes demand-generation services that help lenders build lending ecosystems and grow their portfolio while still mitigating risk.
 
cuStudentLoans, a credit union created and managed private student loan program, is LendKey's largest client, leveraging its cloud-based platform to gain market reach and mitigate risk through a loan participation program. More than 75% of the students borrowing through its private student loan program were credit union members in need of higher education financing, according to Alice Stevens, chairman of cuStudentLoans and chief operating officer of First Financial FCU in  Wall, N.J.
 
The program also helped recent graduates refinance and consolidate existing student loan debt. They generally face limited repayment options, and look to reduce the interest rate on their student loans.
 
"Millions of recent graduates are facing high-interest student loan debt that makes their financial lives difficult to manage," Stevens said. "Credit unions can continue to be their super heroes by helping them refinance their debt and provide other financial products to assist them with their money management."

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TCI, eOriginal To Provide eSignatures, Contract Security To FIs

BALTIMORE (2/28/13)--eOriginal Inc., a provider of electronic signatures, vaulted repository and electronic transaction management solutions, and Teledata Communications Inc. (TCI), which offers semi-customizable, cloud-based indirect-lending software for small and mid-size lenders, have partnered to deliver electronic signatures and electronic transaction-management capabilities to credit unions, finance companies and banks.
 
TCI provides a Web-based loan-origination solution, Decisionlender, used by more than 350 lenders in automating the underwriting process to finance automotive, home improvement, furniture, health care and more for consumers needing financing at the point of purchase.
 
According to the two companies, lenders using the joint solution:

TCI allows eOriginal to access the indirect lending channel that TCI developed and to enable the electronic transaction platform to provide a secure environment for TCI lenders to manage all documents executed.
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CU*Answers Teams With Help/Systems

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (2/28/13)--CU*Answers, a West Michigan based data-processing credit union service organization, has partnered with Help/Systems LLC to develop automated processing routines for its online data processing solution and for its in-house processing partners and provider groups.
 
Help/Systems is provides software solutions for IBM Power Systems running IBM i with systems management, information technology security and business intelligence solutions for performance and reliability. The Help/Systems' Robot systems management suite offers tools for job scheduling, network monitoring, message management, and more.
 
The partners will make the tools available to in-house processing partners, with installation and configuration support, nightly process automation and system-resource monitoring.

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