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One of the personal joys of writing a weekly column of opinion for Credit Union Times every single week since April, 1990, is both getting candid reader reactions, but also observing the emergence of developments related to the various topics covered here. For example, NAFCU’s CEO Fred Becker took me to task for a passing reference in a recent column that the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund’s (NCUSIF) claim that it is backed “by the full faith and credit of the federal government” may not be as obvious as he, NCUA, and others think it is. A number of credit union CEOs agree with me that it may not be such a sure thing as Becker thinks it is. Look at it this way. If all alternatives already in place to protect members’ funds fail for whatever reason, the last step before turning out the lights is to go to the United States Congress for assistance. If Becker and others have complete faith that that august body will automatically bail out credit unions (remember the s&l crisis?), they have a whole lot more faith in Congress than I do. The operative word here is “automatically.” Can anyone ever really predict what Congress will do? Also keep in mind that banking industry lobbyists would jump for joy if it looked like credit unions might disappear for whatever reason, especially large CUs. Would these lobbyists be trying to convince Congress to bail out credit unions? Not likely. Maybe just the opposite? There is no such thing as a free lunch and there is no such thing as a sure thing. Over on the CUNA side, CEO Dan Mica took strong exception to my saying in another recent column that the credit union industry doesn’t have a comprehensive list of issues, but badly needs one, especially one that is constantly updated. But we have such a list said Mica. It’s called Renaissance. Without re-debating the ongoing merits of CUNA’s Renaissance project, let me respectfully say baloney. Renaissance is already a couple of years old and getting older fast. But more to the point, it was never intended to be an all inclusive list of major issues facing CUs, but more of a CUNA and CU wish list targeted at the legislative and regulatory process. There are many emerging issues that have nothing to do with Renaissance and over which CUNA has no influence or role to play. Where does Renaissance fit into major issues such as selling credit union credit card portfolios? Credit unions switching to private insurance? The record number of CEOs retiring? The changing role of CU volunteers? No bounce check programs? The harm being caused by NCUA Board Member Deborah Matz’s speeches in which she consistently advances her personal political agenda? A variety of charter conversions? And many more. CUNA does not have a leadership role to play in every single issue facing credit unions, many of which have only recently surfaced. Nor do any of the other CU trade groups or for that matter, the state and federal regulators. Speaking of lists, an issue that one audience member at the CUNA Symposium thought needed addressing was the confusing array of credit union organizations and terminology and the mind-boggling number of acronyms used to refer to them. “Is there a comprehensive list of acronyms and what they stand for available someplace?” he asked. Everyone will say yes and quickly refer to their own lists, all of which are incomplete either because of ignorance of some groups or terms, or political considerations. Thanks to Sharon Kelly, CEO of Alaska State Employees FCU, we learned that there is at least a list of credit union-related terminology and the acronyms used to abbreviate them. Sharon put the list together after one of her board members requested it. What’s an RFPA, EFAA, STAMP, RFP, POA, FOIA? They are all there in her list of over 300 such acronyms. Add to this list the current and growing number of credit union organizational acronyms and the list would probably reach close to 500 entries. As might be expected, another recent column urging credit unions to treat vendors as partners rather than hucksters brought a number of thank you’s from suppliers serving the credit union market. Several provided specific examples of how badly they were treated but insisted on remaining anonymous for obvious reasons. Even a couple of CEOs spoke up to say they agreed it’s a problem. As for other reactions, an American Bankers Association (ABA) staffer (and paid subscriber) sent me an e-mail saying he thought my column on banks converting to Sub Chapter S Corporations and why was a fair portrayal of the situation. Not long afterwards, the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) released additional information on its proposal that state-chartered banks be allowed to organize as LLCs (Limited Liability Companies). Quick translation: even more tax breaks for banks than those available via the Sub S Corp route. As usual credit union trade groups didn’t object but used the occasion to remind bank lobbyists to return the favor regarding the long-standing tax-exempt status of credit unions. Finally consider this irony, referring back to my column on Congressman LaFalce’s so-called federal credit union expansion act that would in reality put federal handcuffs on state-chartered credit unions if ever enacted as proposed. While this anti-state-charter bill is on the table, there are those who would strengthen state-charters at the federal level by earmarking a seat for them on the NCUA Board. So what will it be? Rein in state-charters and make them beholden to the federal government? Or give them an equal voice on the all-powerful governing body of the regulator of federal and federally insured credit unions? It appears from the above that a variety of opinions leads to different and interesting viewpoints. That’s a good situation. Comments? Call 1-800-345-9936, Ext. 15, or Fax 561-683-8514, or E-mail [email protected]

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Peter Westerman

Credit Union Times

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