Two Storms, a Data Breach and Some Dreamers Walk Into a Bar
There are times in the credit union industry when it’s just busy – I’m talking wicked busy. The kind of all-hands-on-deck busy when so much is happening at once that you even dream about work and the storms, politics, housing markets and zombies. It’s a dream, so of course you’re going to have zombies.
I wanted to point out some very important things that have been happening inside CU Times as we’ve been working through the past few weeks and also take a moment to recognize our reporters.
Once we realized that Hurricane Harvey was aiming for Texas, we began creating a plan to cover the storm. Harvey first made landfall on Aug. 25, but that plan had been in place for a few days by that point. In the simplest terms, we split the story/storm into a number of different categories and assigned those categories to our reporters. Plans change of course and once we began to realize what the full impact of the flooding would be, and as we kept in hourly contact with officials from the Cornerstone Credit Union League and other credit union executives, we pulled in more reporting resources to help cover the full story.
Speaking of the Cornerstone Credit Union League – nice work! Your communications team and our sources inside the organization did a great job of handling the pressure of such a traumatic event. We don’t normally come out and give complements like this, but it’s deserved because our reporters and staff saw some real grace under pressure within Cornerstone as your state was pounded by record rainfall. As our managing editor Natasha Chilingerian wrote in her column last week (I’m paraphrasing), there’s no other industry better at coming together to help each other out when disasters happen. Comments we’ve received about our coverage ranged from sad, hopeful and supportive, to ones from the normal racist trolls. Why a storm is political and race-based to some people amazes me.
Just as Harvey was beginning to wind down, President Trump announced he was canceling the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. This program provides work permits and deportation relief to more than 800,000 young people who arrived with their parents who came to the country as illegal immigrants. Our lending data guy, Jim DuPlessis, looked into this issue and discovered that there are not only credit union employees who are part of the DACA program, but that the industry would be hit negatively by loans and mortgages held by some of the 800,000 people. This story is ongoing and we have more coverage coming. The comments we’ve received from the industry about these stories has been mostly humane and empathetic. Some comments have been outright racist from CU executives. To the racists of this group I say this: Your world is not the world you grew up in and it’s not coming back. Either help make this world better, or hold on to your hatred and see where that gets you.
Oh look, another hurricane! While Harvey was a storm that quickly developed into a massive hurricane, Irma was big from the beginning out in the Atlantic Ocean. While we were still working on Harvey, we kept an eye on that storm because of the vastness of the potential destruction to the Caribbean and Florida credit unions. So again we activated and adjusted our hurricane coverage plan. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. The concern we had as a team, as did credit union leadership, was the enormity of the storm. And again, our team worked through another weekend with another storm and I’m proud of not only what we’ve accomplished so far in our coverage, but of the industry again coming together and rallying around the credit unions who need help and will continue to need it for some time. And to the League of Southeastern Credit Unions – you’ve held it together and been responsive, which has let our readers understand the breadth of Irma’s impact.
I mean really, this is getting ridiculous. Pile on top of two natural disasters still happening and a potential political and lending storm brewing, there’s Equifax and the data breach that was announced while Irma was closing in on Florida.
This story, while not an immediate life-threatening situation, could become the biggest story of the year for the credit union industry and financial industry as a whole. Our team had a lengthy conversation about the real and potential fallout from this credit service data breach. The real impact will be felt on mortgage and lending services. The potential fallout lies inside of the debate: “How will credit unions ensure that its lending services are safe for members? Should credit unions sever ties with credit agencies? If so, what are the other options to safely and securely provide mortgages, auto loans and credit cards to members?” This is THE disaster that’s already hit our shores, but we just don’t know yet what the true damage will be because this is a long-term fraud and regulatory nightmare that will impact every state and every credit union – not just the ones in Florida, Louisiana and Texas. The feedback we’ve received so far on the stories by Roy Urrico has been terrifying. It seems many of you are starting to see how scary this Equifax story will become for all of us.
I want to thank Natasha Chilingerian, Peter Strozniak, Tina Orem, David Bauman, Jim DuPlessis, Tahira Hayes and Roy Urrico for pulling together as a team to bring our readers updates from the storms, from the data breaches and from the political fronts all at the same time. This is our team and these are the ones who stay up at night and work long hours to give your brains the news you need to know. They care about CUs and they are wicked smart. I’m thankful and tired. But the past few weeks have felt like a bad joke.
Michael Ogden is executive editor for CU Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.