<p>WASHINGTON – Rep. John LaFalce (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee and longtime credit union advocate, told the 2002 CUNA GAC that changes in the financial services industry dictate Congress “modestly modify” credit union law. “There are a number of important areas where I think we need to at least begin to look for opportunities to at least modestly modify current law in ways that will permit credit unions to become more broadly engaged in the marketplace,” LaFalce said. Credit unions differ from banks in their very nature, LaFalce said. “Credit unions differ because their principal mission is not to maximize profits. Your principle mission is to serve your members,” LaFalce said. “The question is how can we fashion our laws so that credit unions can remain faithful to their mission and their members, that is essential, and still become a solution to the problems of today’s financial marketplace?” LaFalce asked. LaFalce proposed four changes; allowing credit unions to use the exception in current law to adopt financially underserved communities into their fields of membership; allowing credit unions to make the sorts of loans that would compete with payday lenders; enhancing credit unions’ ability to cash checks and make wire transfers; and setting up alternative financial services for college students. “We need to take on the issue of payday lending directly,” LaFalce said. “Endow credit unions with more flexibility in developing suitable short term credit alternatives,” he said. “I understand a number of credit unions, including North Carolina’s State Employees’ Credit Union have developed innovative programs to find low cost alternatives to payday loans. “I am particularly concerned by the excessive fees that the poorest and hardest working members of our society must pay to make remittance payments to support their families overseas,” he said. “If the traditional financial service providers are no longer willing to make check cashing, wire transfer and other basic services available on an affordable we should explore allowing credit unions to do so,” LaFalce said. He also appeared to suggest developing student-specific fields of membership. “We must find ways to expand both the educational and financial services available to our students,” the representative said. “Perhaps permitting consortia of colleges or universities to ban together, especially the smaller ones, in a given area so that they can have their own credit union.” LaFalce also sharply criticized the Federal Reserve for failing to promulgate regulations against predatory lending and other consumer abuses. The Federal Reserve has failed to issue regulations prohibiting unfair and deceptive credit practices although they have had responsibility to do this for twenty-five years,” LaFalce said.</p>

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