Every time credit unions come up with something that will benefit their members, such as NCUA’s new field of membership regulations, the banking lobbyists think it is their God-given right to immediately spout off with their take on why any such move is bad for humanity. What’s almost worse is that credit union publications, including this one, seem to rush in to give banking industry mouthpieces a high-profile platform to blast credit union initiatives. Right on the heels of announcing approval of the new membership regs, for example, spokespersons from such groups as the American Bankers Association (ABA) were quoted chapter and verse in credit union media. All comments were inflammatory and decidedly anti-credit union, of course, but also not factual and thus misleading. Why do we give their misguided rantings so much prime exposure? Put the shoe on the other foot. On those rare occasions when a credit union spokesperson does decide to comment on something the banking industry announces, does anyone think the banking industry media come looking for someone to espouse the credit union viewpoint in a prominent position in their industry’s publications? Not on your life! Is the credit union media simply more committed to presenting fair and balanced news reports that present all sides of a controversial banks versus credit unions issue? Has anyone ever seen a credit union spokesperson giving the credit union rationale for a new CU regulation on the front page of any banking publication? Or even a credit union response to a banking industry accusation? I certainly have not and I’ve looked long and hard. Think about it. The banking industry announces that they feel they should be in the real estate business. They have their top guns explain why they should be allowed to stray from their original purpose. Do they also include comments from the heads of CUNA and NAFCU giving their take on such a move from a credit union and consumer viewpoint? No way. Keith Leggett, a banking industry economist by trade, has become very well known in credit union circles, but not for his views on the economy. His real job has become chief credit union basher for the ABA. As such, he is quoted a lot by CU media outlets. Every time credit unions announce something, he is the first one out of the box to charge that the credit union action is bad for all God’s creatures, but especially the poor banking industry. His comments are always outrageous and more often than not, flat out wrong. Nevertheless, they are always given good play in credit union media. As if that is not bad enough, credit union spokespersons see a need to immediately respond in great historical detail to every dumb thing he and his ilk offer up. By doing so, it just gives more credibility to the same old, same old flawed rhetoric that bankers spew forth non-stop. I’m reminded of the old classic. If Leggett would say to CUs, “Do you still beat your dog?” it is obvious that if the reply is yes, that’s a bad thing. No one should beat their dog. If the answer is no, that means that you once did beat your dog, but have now stopped. Carrying this hypothetical thesis a step further, credit unions avoid the simple answer, “Never did.” Instead, they choose to respond by giving the history of famous canines that have been beat, by listing most frequent types of beatings, by citing their mortality rate, and by giving statistics that prove why historically one should never beat any living thing, especially dogs. There’s a better way to deal with the single-premise banker attacks: When banks say, “Actions that liberalize credit union membership and services increase the American taxpayers burden,” credit unions should say, “No they don’t.” Period. Charges are easy to make; proving them is a lot harder and probably even impossible. No need to drag out every credit union defensive statement in response. More examples: Banks say, “NCUA has overstepped its bounds.” CUs say, “No it hasn’t.” Period. Banks say, “The expanded (FOM) regulation issued today is contrary to the Federal Credit union Act and the Credit Union Membership Access Act.” Credit unions respond, “No they aren’t.” Period. Banks say, “Allowing credit unions to expand with no regard to the common bond requirements of the law encourages the continued unbridled growth of large bank-like credit unions at the expense of small credit unions and tax-paying banks.” Credit unions respond, “Not true.” Period. And then there is ABA’s Mr. Leggett. He says, “I think credit unions are becoming more and more predatory.” CUs reply, “You are mistaken.” Leggett says, “.(I) get regular calls from small credit unions complaining that their FOMs are being poached.” Credit unions respond, “No self-respecting credit union would call you.” Period. Leggett says, “Congress made it clear that they did not want credit unions very involved in business lending.” Credit unions answer, “You are wrong.” Period. Leggett calls NCUA, “cheerleaders for credit unions.” Credit unions say, “Not so.” Period. Here’s the punch line: Leggett says the banking industry won’t sue credit unions over the new FOM regs until “they find a more fact-based than theoretical case this time around.” You mean all the accusations above and dozens more like them are not based on fact? Who’s surprised? And finally this Leggettism: NCUA is making too many changes too quickly with its FOM rule. The current rules need to be given a chance to work before more changes are made because there is no trend to guide decision making on the updates. Really? It appears that Leggett is not only an ABA economist, the banking industry’s leading anti-credit union antagonist, but now has become a self-appointed federal regulator. Busy guy. 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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