WASHINGTON -- Given their structures, credit unions and cooperatives could have averted the current economic crisis, said Paul Hazen, president/CEO of the National Cooperative Business Association.
In a Nov. 2 editorial to The Houston Chronicle, Hazen lists factors that may have caused the latest economic shakeup.
"Mortgage lenders and Wall Street are guilty of many of these accusations. But there's one major flaw in the logic of this finger-pointing--these are symptoms, not causes, of our financial system. In other words, it's the nature of the beast," Hazen wrote.
Co-ops such as Land O'Lakes, Sunkist and the Associated Press, as well as credit unions, he said, are a part of a large cooperative movement that has more than $1 trillion in assets and more than 125 million members.
"Credit unions have remained stable in the current wave of bank failures," Hazen wrote. "Consequently, they've made less risky moves, like packaging subprime mortgages into stock and selling them on the market. Because every member is an equal owner, there's no incentive for anyone--president, CFO or CEO--to try to manipulate stock price."
In addition to better interest rates on deposits, and lower interest rates on loans, Hazen said "what draws members to credit unions--strength, good deals, self-reliance, community focus--also draws people to other types of business cooperatives."
"We need to invest in business cooperatives," Hazen wrote. "People gravitate toward comfort and security in times of crises. That's exactly why business cooperatives are so appealing right now."
Structurally, cooperatives are distinct from investor-owned businesses, Hazen explained saying those who use a co-op's services actually own an equal share of the business. There are no majority shareholders or single owners, and fluctuations on Wall Street exert only an indirect influence on business, he added.