<p>ALEXANDRIA – NCUA general counsel staff will read, summarize and tabulate credit union comments on the agency’s interim final rule repealing CAP even though it appears the question has reached a foregone conclusion. “It’s not a fast process, but we expect it to go forward,” said Clifford Northup, Director of NCUA’s office of Congressional and Public Affairs, detailing a procedure whereby different levels of NCUA staff will read, summarize and tabulate the comments and present them to the members of the NCUA Board. It seems likely the staff will make a recommendation to the board based on the comments, even if that recommendation will be to reaffirm the CAP repeal in a final rule, Northup said. In most cases, NCUA staff scrutinizes comment letters in order to recommend changes in policy directions to the Board or changes to NCUA regulations. But in this instance it seems highly unlikely that the Board will change its mind on the CAP repeal so are the comments really that important? “From our point of view, CAP Repeal is a still a live issue for credit unions,” said Pat Keefe, CUNA Vice President for Communications. “It’s important credit unions and the broader world let the NCUA know what they think of CAP Repeal.” Sources familiar with both CUNA and NCUA say the real audience for the comment letters may not be NCUA but federal legislators who may in the future have to face questions on CAP and its repeal. Of the 385 comments in the file on February 20th, the great majority supported the repeal of CAP and wrote against the CAP requirement, but there were some credit unions that spoke in support of CAP. John Schaffner, CEO of the $18 million Financial Benefits Credit Union, a state chartered credit union in Alameda, California, wrote in support of the CAP requirement. “The credit union industry appears to be unified in demanding opportunities, without anticipating accountability,” Schaffner wrote in his February 5 letter. “This might appear to consumers, the banking industry and Congress as resistance based more upon the desire of credit union CEOs to expand their sphere of influence than to serve those who support credit unions.” Schaffner noted that his is not the only credit union charged with serving people living in Alameda, although sometimes it felt like it. “Some [other] credit unions which ostensibly `serve’ our neighborhood are not in attendance at civic functions and add no apparent value to this community, Schaffner wrote. “Apparently they are satisfied to simply `skim’ the profitable accounts. The CEO of the California Credit Union League has stated that `CAP seems to be the issue that won’t go away.’ Perhaps because it has merit,” Schaffner added. But most of the comments were similar in sentiment to this from Rod Calvao, CEO of the $1.6 billion San Diego County Credit Union in San Diego, California. “To ask the New York Yankees to verify that they are a baseball team; to ask the Los Angeles Lakers to verify that they are a basketball team; or to ask this year’s Superbowl winner if they are a football team, is as obvious a duplication as it to ask credit unions to document that they are the best at serving the underserved,” Calvao wrote. “The members of credit unions across this land well understand that credit unions by their definition serve all members of their charter.” In its comments CUNA argued in favor of the CAP repeal from a number of different angles and included several of its more recent arguments against the regulation in its February 19 letter. Credit unions don’t need a CAP regulation because most credit unions have had fields of membership restricted to their employment, CUNA asserted, adding: “It has only been since the changes in the Federal Credit Union Act in 1998 and subsequent amendments to NCUA’s field of membership policy to facilitate community charters and conversions, that credit unions have widening opportunities to serve groups that are not employee based,” the association wrote. CUNA also pointed out that credit unions have been adding underserved areas to their fields of membership recently and, if allowed, implied more would do so in the future. “Credit unions have been able to expand their services to low-income individuals in large part due to improvements the agency made in the field of membership expansion process, not as a result of CAP requirements,” CUNA wrote. The association also recommended policies NCUA could adopt which, it said, could help more credit unions better serve underserved and low-income people. NCUA could reconsider the terms “low-income” and “underserved” in the context of the agency’s field of membership policy to allow more credit unions and groups to qualify for such designations and benefit from favorable NCUA field of membership policies, the association wrote. NCUA could also expand the use of secondary capital to allow credit unions serving low-income groups and/or underserved areas to utilize secondary capital to meet net worth requirements; and allow well-capitalized and well-positioned credit unions to assume some additional risk without negative regulatory consequences in order to provide a greater array of loan products to underserved areas, CUNA wrote. NAFCU echoed some of these suggestions, approving of the NCUA’s recent streamlining of its procedures for adding low-income areas to fields of membership and cited the promise of further changes in the interim final rule. “Within the interim final rule, NCUA is implementing further revisions to the definition of an `investment area’ which will make the Chartering and Field of Membership Manual consistent with 2000 census data and modifications promulgated by the Department of Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund),” NAFCU wrote. “NAFCU supports these revisions as they will enable NCUA’s rules to maintain greater consistency with the CDFI Funds’ provisions and will make it easier for federal credit unions to add underserved areas.” “NAFCU believes that a relaxation of the paperwork burden will further encourage federal credit unions to take advantage of these opportunities, resulting in greater eligibility for individuals that will greatly benefit from access to federal credit union services,” the association added.</p>

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