Oregon Report Targets Credit Unions as Bank-Like
The Oregon Bankers Association is behind a new report targeting Oregon credit unions, according to its author, Marvin Umholtz.
Titled “Oregon’s Credit Unions: Growing, Consolidating and Often Indistinguishable from Commercial Banks,” the report — which the Northwest Credit Union Association quickly shot down — likens the state’s credit unions to community banks and challenges their tax-exempt status.
Umholtz, president/CEO for Umholtz Strategic Planning & Consulting Services in Olympia, Wash., said Quinn Thomas of Quinn Thomas Public Affairs in Lake Oswego, Ore., was his client and paid him for his work, but that he knew the research was part of a larger effort for Thomas’ client, the Oregon Bankers Association.
“Essentially, (Thomas and the OBA) wanted a snapshot of the Oregon credit union industry overall and particularly the larger credit unions that look to most consumers of financial products and services as indistinguishable from commercial banks,” Umholtz said.
“As the report findings suggested, the larger credit unions were for all practical purposes indistinguishable in asset size, branch infrastructure, product and service portfolios, who can be served and level of compensation for executives,” he said.
The report’s key findings say the Oregon credit union industry is dominated by fewer and larger institutions than in the past; the services and products offered by Oregon credit unions, especially large credit unions, are very similar to those offered by community banks; and fields of membership have expanded from single employee groups and rural communities to encompass large, multi-county populations.
It also states that based on three quarters of a year’s worth of net income, Oregon’s ten largest credit unions would have an estimated, combined 2012 YTD income tax obligation of more than $28 million — 82% of the total income tax obligation all 73 of the state’s credit unions would have — and despite the low-income designation many of them hold, their commitment to serving the underserved is unverified.
The Northwest Credit Union Association organized a conference call for its member credit unions to make them aware of the report and discuss their preparedness to defend themselves against its contents, said Lynn Heider, the association’s vice president of public relations and communications.
“Marvin Umholtz has admitted he was paid by the Oregon Bankers Association to interpret this data,” Heider said. “Our credit unions are well-positioned and prepared to protect their tax status. The credit union movement in the Northwest is thriving.”
Umholtz’ report also examines Oregon credit union executives’ compensation packages, taken from 2010 IRS 990 filings, and touts them as “excessive” considering credit unions’ not-for-profit organizational structure and tax exempt status.
For example, Robert Stuart, CEO for the $3.2 billion OnPoint Community Credit Union of Portland, received a $1.8 million package in 2010 and Dal King, CEO for the $763 million First Community Credit Union of Coquille, got a $300,000 salary plus $4 million in “other reportable” income, the report stated.
“The credit union executives were well-paid professionals and were not underpaid, self-sacrificing do-gooders as some would want us to believe,” Umholtz said.
The report calls the state’s credit unions “a significant competitive force in the Oregon financial services marketplace” and aims to “assist policymakers to consider whether bank-like credit unions continue to meet a public purpose deserving of marketplace-distorting tax and regulatory treatment.”
“I would advise every credit union association to do data-driven, fact-based research about their state, similar to what’s in the Oregon report,” Umholtz concluded. “As they enter the congressional and state legislative sessions, it would behoove them to know exactly what their state’s credit union industry might look like to policymakers.”