HOBOKEN, N.J. -- Eleven years ago field of membership took over front-page news in Credit Union Times.
The famous AT&T Family Federal Credit Union case was the highlight of the front page as briefs were filed on the credit union side in the U.S. Supreme Court case. The case started when the American Bankers Association and five North Carolina banks sued NCUA in Washington, D.C., for allowing AT&T Family to take in select employee groups unrelated to the credit union's original sponsors. The two issues at stake were: does the Federal Credit Union Act allow bankers to sue a federal agency over its supervision of credit union membership eligibility and if so does the act allow for multiple common bonds among the employee groups that make up CU members. The article reported that all of the credit union attorneys interviewed at the time had agreed they could win on either argument.
The CUNA/NAFCU Credit Union Campaign for Consumer Choice drew attention as it went into full gear by obtaining 20 new congressional co-sponsors for H.R. 1151, which would reverse the effects of the banker lawsuits, in just a few weeks. The campaign, at the time, was just announcing the concept of Project Zip Code and a focus group program that generated discussion to an area's credit union and non-credit union populations on financial and field of membership related issues. The rest is credit union history.
At the same time grassroots efforts in Colorado defeated H.B. 1338, a bill that would have restricted access to credit unions by Colorado consumers and limited field of membership expansion by state-chartered credit unions. The bill was killed in the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee unanimously by a vote 13-0. The bill was introduced by Rep. Jack Taylor (R-Steamboat Springs) on behalf of the Colorado Bankers Association. Bankers claimed that the Colorado law that allowed multiple groups to join credit unions and gave the state board responsibility for granting approval of state-chartered credit union field of membership expansion requests contradicted the 1934 Federal Credit Union Act. Bankers claimed that H.B. 1338 would level the playing field.