On the eve of an unusual state hearing dealing with “bank” language in credit union ads, Vermont’s top regulator said Tuesday he remains open to any kind of settlement or compromise regarding a proposed cease-and-desist order against the $600 million Vermont State Employees Credit Union.
- UPDATE, Oct. 8, 2012, Vermont Credit Union, Regulator Settle 'B' Word Dispute
Steve Kimbell, the commissioner and head of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation, stressed that Wednesday’s pre-hearing conference in Montpelier is one devoted to scheduling, witness lists and legal issues but that “in any kind of proceeding like this we always welcome settlement offers should they arise.”
Kimbell said he has no direct knowledge that one might be coming from any of the parties. Apart from his office and VSECU, on an informal basis interested parties have included the Association of Vermont Credit Unions, the Vermont Bankers Association and Occupy Burlington which plans to send representatives to Wednesday’s hearing.
The VBA has acknowledged its active role in pushing forward the clampdown on VSECU for using “banking cooperative” in its TV and online ads and for what it said is abusing the practice of including “bank” and “banking” in marketing campaigns.
The VBA contends such marketing methods violate Vermont law. VSECU and industry leaders, meanwhile, call the complaint “ludicrous” and a backdoor attack on the credit union tax exemption by the banking lobby.
Kimbell said that “in a case like this, settlement discussions can come up and it’s always preferable to get an agreement before we waste the public’s time with a lot of unnecessary litigation.”
Formal comment from VSECU management on the proceedings and Kimbell’s latest remarks were not immediately available.
Serving as hearing officer for Wednesday’s pre-hearing session is Robert Simpson, a retired Chittenden County State’s Attorney who was appointed by Kimbell.
Following the pre-hearing, DFR officials have said a full hearing on the cease-and-desist order could come a week later depending on scheduling agreements.
Officials of Occupy Burlington said a contingent would be at the hearing, video-taping the session and would include Eric Davis, a newly elected director of Vermont FCU, and Matt Cropp, an unsuccessful director candidate also at Vermont Federal.
Also present will be Donald Kreis, University of Vermont associate professor of law, who has written blog articles critical of the Kimbell C&D intent order as an over-reach.
Kimbell told Credit Union Times given the housekeeping nature of the Wednesday proceedings it was unclear how much audience dialogue might take place. As for settlement talks, they might be handled in private, he said, as the various groups “put their cards on the table.”