GRAPEVINE, Texas - Although the banking industry is stepping up "anti-credit union" efforts, with three of the leading bankers' associations joining forces to tackle credit union legislative and regulatory issues, Washington lawmakers aren't being swayed, CUNA President Dan Mica told attendees at the opening session of Texas Credit Union League's 71st Annual Meeting & Expo April 7. "Both the U.S. banking industry and the bank leading the charge against credit unions have reported another year of record profits," Mica said. According to an American Bankers Association press release, the banking industry reported its fourth consecutive year of record profits - $10 trillion in assets and $123 billion in profits. "These are the same banks that are going to the Hill saying we can't survive without taxing credit unions," Mica said. In addition, the $32 billion-in-assets Zions Bank in Salt Lake City, Utah earned $406 million, or 20%, profit last year. According to Mica, Zions Bank Chairman Harris Simmons said, "We could have made more money if it hadn't been for other banks, and particularly credit unions, keeping rates down for consumers." Simmons is ABA's president-elect and former chair of the organization's Operation Credit Union committee. "The good news is that Congress isn't buying it. The Administration and regulators aren't buying it. You're doing a good job, and we're doing a good job," Mica told the credit union audience, which responded with loud applause. "The Speaker of the House told me personally, `I'm sick and tired of hearing banks whine when they're making so much money.'" In his address, Mica also discussed the recently-passed bankruptcy reform legislation and urged credit unions not to be party to system abuses, namely the overextension of credit, characterized by some credit card issuers. "We have to take responsibility not to offer the kind of credit that leads to bankruptcy situations." He also told attendees that prompt corrective action will be addressed in forthcoming CURIA legislation. "One of the reasons given for conversions is `we need to grow.' In our CURIA legislation, we have provisions that would allow for the way we calculate capital on a risk-based method. The CURIA bill will be introduced in the next 30 days, and we think there's a good chance Congress will get moving on that. This could change the landscape for almost anyone who thinks there's a problem." Mica's comments quickly returned to banker attacks, however. The chairman strongly re-emphasized the idea that consumers need financial alternatives. "The private sector cannot prosper if society fails. [Credit unions] are part of the non-profit sector that is helping society succeed and making it viable, and you need both. Those on the other side fail to understand that if only the for-profit sector prevails in this country, we've lost the heart and soul of America - because [non-profit organizations] do believe in helping one another, we believe in people helping people. It's a part of our country's creed, our background, our heritage, and our religious beliefs." Credit unions must educate lawmakers and the public about the credit union difference, Mica said. "We have right on our side. We wear the white hats. We are the only ones left in the financial services sector that focus on serving society." CUNA's strategy with legislators? Tell the truth, hit them with substance, and if that doesn't work, talk politics. "It is coming to be our day in the sunlight in Washington. Banks have overstepped their bounds. I commend [Texas credit unions] for taking a leading role in defending the front lines of financial freedom," Mica said referring to the League's Annual Meeting combat theme. "We are at the right time and right place in this nation's history to do something great for this country. Our philosophy of people helping people is coming in vogue.and our philosophy demands that we step forward and provide leadership." Should credit unions concede in some small way to bankers' taxation demands to get bankers to back off? Mica responded passionately,
Mica Tells TCUL Annual Meeting Attendees: Congress Isn't Buying Bankers' Message
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