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<p>WOODBRIDGE, N.J. – It was a meeting described as both “interesting” and “maybe beneficial” to New Jersey financial lobbies who were convened by U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine to discuss “mutual concerns” on topics ranging from bankruptcy reform to bank deposit insurance. The two hour session, called “extraordinary” by some of its participants and held March 25 in the offices of First Savings Bank, included top elected and staff reps from New Jersey Credit Union Affiliates, the New Jersey Bankers Association, the Mortgage Bankers Association of New Jersey, and the League of Community and Savings Bankers. “The meeting represented an attempt by Sen. Corzine to develop outreach to financial interests, and on that score the idea to create a dialogue is a good one,” observed one of the participants, Russell Clark, president/CEO of New Jersey Credit Union Affiliates. There are “common interests” both at the national and state level, like insurance powers, where CUs and banks can work together, maintained Clark. During the Woodbridge meeting, the Democratic senator, a freshman on the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, voiced his doubts about passage of bankruptcy reform legislation in the Congress this term as well as other bills seen as priorities for the various lobbying groups. “He was pretty upfront about his concerns,” observed another participant, Ben Griffith, president/CEO of South Jersey Federal Credit Union, Deptford, N.J., who noted that Congressional occupation with Enron, Arthur Andersen and 9/11 was pushing financial matters off the front burner. Griffith, past chairman of the N.J. League, noted Corzine told the participants he wants to set up a financial advisory group, made up of representatives from the lobbying groups, but Griffith said he did have some doubts how that might work. “Maybe there should be two advisory groups since at least two sides, banks and credit unions, might speak more frankly,” said Griffith. “I’m not sure the comfort level is the same when the groups are in the same room.” Nonetheless, Griffith applauded Corzine for giving it a try, adding it should help the Democratic senator “cut down on the number of meetings he has to attend.” A spokesman for the senator in Washington said “a more formal structure” of a “Financial Advisory Task Force” would be addressed later on, but a “New Jersey Financial Summit is planned for the fall.” The Task Force, said the spokesman, will be used “as a sounding board to bring back initiatives to the Congress.” “I’d call the meeting a very productive session and one which will be held again a few months out,” commented Samuel J. Damiano, president of the Community Bankers group. He was named by the senator to set up the session and help in forming the special advisory committee to counsel Corzine. On bankruptcy reform, Clark of the N.J. Affiliates said Corzine addressed concerns over the homestead exemption and its uneven application in various states with Texas and Florida, for example, providing tax havens for the wealthy. There was also discussion over credit card issuers getting extra protection in bankruptcy bills. As directed by Corzine, the Woodbridge meeting, set up by Damiano and the community bank group, was limited to 25 participants and was to last only two hours. No group could have more than six in attendance. Representing the CU contingent in addition to Clark and Griffith were: John DiNofrio, chairman of N.J. CU Affiliates who also is treasurer of FAA Tech Center Federal Credit Union, Northfield; Richard Rays, president of Paragon Federal Credit Union, Westwood; and Eddie Daniels, CEO of Tri Link Federal Credit Union, Bound Brook. [email protected]</p>

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