The new head of the Wisconsin Bankers Association said Monday she knew of no credit union imminently ready to convert to a bank but passage of a budget bill containing enabling language supports “that option and strategic decision.”
Rose Oswald-Poels, who became president/CEO of the WBA on June 1, called Gov. Scott Walker’s signing of the budget measure a healthy step that gives the state’s financial institutions a choice in structures.
It was harshly opposed by the Wisconsin Credit Union League. Over the weekend the league in a statement expressed deep disappointment that “complex financial institution chartering policy” wound up suddenly in a bill related to the state’s finances.
Oswald-Poels said the CU conversions have been a key Wisconsin issue for the last two years with the provision winning bipartisan adoption last year until it was vetoed by Democratic Gov. James Doyle.
“We’ve had some credit unions come to us suggesting they would like the option to convert,” said Oswald-Poels, the association’s former general counsel who succeeded the former CEO, Kurt Bauer. He left to become head of a state manufacturing trade group after long leading the state banks’ battles against credit unions.
The conversion measure streamlines the conversion process on voting procedure and aids in CUs converting directly to the stock format.
In criticizing the governor for not using his line-item veto power to kill the provision, Brett Thompson, president/CEO of the league, also took aim at the WBA for pursuing its goal “of eliminating not-for-profit credit unions and the competition they represent.”
The conversion language, “slipped into the 1,500-page, $66 billion budget bill by the Joint Finance Committee and approved by the Legislature, makes it easier for Wisconsin’s 2.2 million credit union members to be stripped of their equity in the cooperative financial institutions they own,” Thompson said.
“It was added to the budget bill at the last minute without notice to any credit union, any credit union member, or any credit union trade association, and without a public hearing,” he said.