Pulling out all the stops, the credit union trades were in damage control mode all last week to tamp down public worries about credit union safety and soundness and a "credit union bailout," which appeared in several headlines after the NCUA took action on corporates.
The negative message initially contained in articles in the national media, principally in The Wall Street Journal and then repeated for a time on blogs and Internet sites, gave CU managers from New York to Texas both heartburn and some worry about a possible panic, generating a public turning against CUs and members pulling deposits.
There was a palpable fear the white hat image earned over the last year by CUs against banks might be lost, but by week's end, such concerns were allayed or muted.
Armed with CUNA and NAFCU talking points and videos produced by the Foolproof literacy team, CEOs said they had been prepared for angry member phone calls and e-mails, but, for the most part, there were few contacts.
The Illinois Credit Union League initially did not issue a press release on the crisis even though the conserved Members United Corporate FCU is in a Chicago suburb. "The Chicago papers hardly mentioned it, and so our hope is that this will all go away," said a league official.
Leading the charge against the bailout headline were both CUNA and NAFCU, which wrote a letter to The Wall Street Journal complaining about the serious "misconstruing" error in labeling the corporate takeovers and a "CU Bailout."
CUNA's President/CEO Bill Cheney took to the airwaves early in the crisis by appearing on nationally syndicated shows, including Fox Business News, to address the bailout issue.
One CUNA video appearing on YouTube in midweek and shared with leagues and CU marketers featured Cheney urging consumers to "get the full story on NCUA actions and not be misled by headlines."
Separate from the media efforts, CUNA's legislative team "has been all over Capitol Hill answering questions and countering any impression that this was a CU bailout," said Mark Wolff, CUNA's senior vice president of communications.
In previously planned visits in New York, Cheney and Wolff had met with reporters, giving CUNA "an opportunity to discuss expected action on the corporates and the overall strength, health and safety of the CU industry." CUNA staffers had met with reporters from the AP, Reuters, The Financial Times, Bloomberg, and Smart Money.
In the Fox segment, Cheney said that the notion of a bailout for credit unions was incorrect, noting that credit unions, not taxpayers, are bearing the cost of corporate credit union restructuring.
A sampling of CEOs found few members alarmed after reading or hearing about the bailout talk.
"I did not get one e-mail or phone call from a member," said Dennis Hall, chairman of the Illinois League and president/CEO of the $830 million I. H. Mississippi Valley CU of Moline.