WASHINGTON -- A message from Bradley Rock, chairman of the American Bankers Association, placing opposition to credit unions high on the organization's agenda has riled CUNA.
Rock wrote in the ABA Banking Journal for January 2008 that the ABA would oppose moves from such institutions to "expand into the banking business" and cited specifically its efforts to encourage the IRS to "re-evaluate" whether credit unions or farm credit should retain their tax benefits.
Rock ranked opposing credit unions and the farm credit system third in the ABA's list of priorities, significantly behind security and regulatory reform concerns, areas where bankers could make common cause with CUs, which are also concerned about implementing "more effective and focused programs to fight terrorist financing."
CUNA CEO Dan Mica reacted strongly to the ABA priority list. "Just as they did several years ago when they ranked attacking credit unions higher than safeguarding the U.S. from terrorism, the bankers again have their priorities way out of whack," Mica said.
"The mortgage crisis--to which more than a few banks contributed--is at the root of the economic problems now facing the country, yet it too now falls below attacking credit unions on the bankers' wish list," he said.
Despite being rated as the No. 3 'super priority' target, CUNA plans a hands-off policy when it comes to commenting on banking regulations and policy initiatives. CUNA Deputy General Counsel and Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Mary Dunn told Credit Union Times that the Treasury Department will soon be releasing its ideas for restructuring the financial services sector, but it remains an unknown how even that could help the ongoing mortgage meltdown. "Can it guarantee that it won't happen again? I don't think so, but clearly, better supervision and tighter policies and procedures are called for." That may be a focus of 2008, said Dunn, to see that banking regulators are made to pay closer attention to loose underwriting standards and lending.
But while CUNA will take every opportunity to "set the record straight" regarding banker attacks on CUs, and despite a large share of the blame for the current mortgage crisis resting squarely on some bankers' doorsteps, CUNA would be seen as "self-serving" to pile on the already negative coverage, Dunn said. "It's already so widespread and obvious that we sure don't need to point a finger."
Reporters David Morrison and Carol Anne Burger contributed to this story.