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SALT LAKE CITY – If nothing else, the leadership of the battle-scarred Utah League of Credit Unions pronounced itself “more unified than ever” and satisfied that while “we didn’t win in the legislature, we stopped the bankers.” “It was an all-out national assault” by the national banking lobby that Utah CUs endured, recalled the outgoing chairman of the League, James Hofeling in a yearend review at the annual meeting here. The American Bankers Association, he said, “picked out four states which it decided would be the easiest to conquer” and Utah was one of them apparently because of its long legislative and court history of battling bankers. The other states, said Hofeling, who also is president of Jordan Credit Union, Sandy, are: Iowa, Florida and New Mexico. Utah, he noted, is also the home of Zions Bancorp. a fierce CU antagonist and the state’s largest bank whose chairman, Harris Simmons, has long boasted before the national trade group of his intent to make an example in Utah of curbing CU expansion. Hofeling, joined by the League’s president and CEO, Scott Earl, said the banking strategy of “divide and conquer” failed and on that score association membership should be gratified. In his remarks, Earl recalled the year’s long legislative fight showing snippets of TV commercials and recorded radio tapes of both the League and Utah banker groups at the annual meeting. Earl noted the broad public support received for the CU cause in public opinion polls and he said 45,000 e-mails were sent to Utah lawmakers. The bill, stripped of the tax provision, was in its 14th substitution before it finally passed the Senate. The bankers “thought the skids were greased” and they weren’t, said Hofeling. Earl noted that the Utah Bankers Association and its affiliated Resolution Alliance “spent $2.1 million” for the ad campaign in trying to make “Utah a premier case” in the ABA assault. Earl pointed to a U.S. Banker cover magazine article in its March issue quoting Simmons as being confident the tax bill would pass in Utah and establishing a national precedent. The Zions Bank executive compared the Utah battle to the “Crimean War” that “has gone on for years.” The U.S. Banker also quoted Gordon Dames, CEO of Mountain America CU who described bankers as a “lonely and unhappy group” whose goal is to stifle competition at all costs. The article noted that “with state and federal budgets in tatters, the banking industry smells an opportunity” it refuses to drop. The next phase in the CU/bank struggle over taxes, said Earl, begins anew next month with appointment of the 12-member Financial Institutions Task Force set up under the bill waiting the governor’s signature. Seven members of the panel are to be named by the House leadership including House Speaker Marty Stephens, vice president of Zions Bank, with the Senate leadership naming the five other members. A spokesman for Stephens said “the appointments would be made probably in the next couple of weeks.”

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