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Like many persons involved in credit unions, I work hard to keep current with the ever-lengthening list of credit union issues. Yet, it often seems that the more information I digest, the more I end up with more questions than answers. Questions like these: What will it take for lawmakers, especially those at the state level, to wake up and realize that the latest anti-credit union attacks by the banking trade groups on a state by state basis could eventually lead to the total demise of the long admired and respected credit union dual chartering system? Don’t Utah politicians realize that they may have won the battle, but have definitely lost the war as state tax monies have decreased rather than increased because of bank attacks? Who are the winners? Who are the losers? Can anyone think of a more brilliant public relations move than Utah’s America First FCU donating the money it will save by converting to a federal charter, an estimated $1.3 million, to budget-strapped Utah schools? Do the banking forces realize that rather than gaining any new funds, by just three credit unions abandoning their state charters, the state will suffer a $200,000 drop in revenue? Do they really care? Will state regulators lose their jobs? As banking industry lobbyists do consistently, has any credit union organization ever written a strong and detailed letter to any banking industry regulator protesting bank-friendly legislation or regulation and in the process outlining why its passage would harm consumers? Would bank regulators be influenced by a flood of letters from credit unions commenting on pending banking legislation? Is NCUA influenced by the threatened mailbox full of letters promised by bankers unhappy over recent NCUA regulatory moves? Or are credit union interests content to sit idly by while banking groups spout off about what they think credit unions and their regulatory bodies should be allowed to do and not do? Doesn’t it concern anyone that so many so-called credit union leaders don’t do their homework and are making decisions with so little basic knowledge about even the most important credit union issues? Shouldn’t they be ashamed at how little they really know? Would they even admit it? Now that CUNA’s Project Differentiation is being streamlined and undergoing a major format change, has anyone ever heard of it in the first place? Is it little more than credit unions talking to each other? Are small credit unions, recently re-defined by NCUA as those under $10 million in assets, really credit union “icons” as described by NCUA Board Member Deborah Matz? As she claims, are small credit unions really what many people think of when they think of credit unions? Including the over 90 percent of members who belong to larger credit unions? Who suffers if small credit unions merge into larger CUs? Members? Volunteers? Staffs? Are small credit unions a good thing for members, or for bank attack politics? Or both? Or neither? Are credit union mergers of any and all size credit unions a good thing for members? Is it bad for credit union members that soon there will be less than 9,000 credit unions from a one-time high of 24,000? Should credit unions be allowed to expel members for simply being rude and obnoxious to staff and/or other members? Have any credit unions done so? Although total bankruptcies have jumped to 1.6 million, setting another new record, will bankruptcy reform ever pass? Or is the solution to appoint three dozen or more bankruptcy judges to handle the increased workload? Do credit unions in states other than Wisconsin know what taxes banks pay and do not pay? In light of the runaway switching of charters by ever larger banks from “C” Corporations to Sub Chapter “S” corporations, should state leagues undertake banking industry tax studies? Can any conclusions, as they might apply to NCUA, be drawn from a recent announcement by the FDIC that it has reduced its staff by over 675 persons last year? Will the fact that a recent Credit Union Times Internet poll showed overwhelming support for an NCUA replacement for Dennis Dollar be a person with credit union experience have any bearing whatsoever on President Bush’s eventual appointment? Is it proper for a credit union sponsor to criticize the credit union serving its employees for building a new facility that in its judgment is too elaborate, especially a sponsor that is teetering on bankruptcy? Why hasn’t the credit union industry ever been able to launch an effective national advertising and public relations campaign that the majority of credit unions will accept, use, and support financially? Can anyone identify the current CUNA campaign slogan? Are state-by-state ad campaigns more effective? Or counter productive? Should credit union trade groups be thrilled when general media columnists mention credit unions even when those columns contain misconceptions and flat out errors about what makes a credit union a credit union? To repeat, isn’t the best defense a good offense? Does it seem contradictory that NAFCU openly opposes a private insurance alternative for credit unions, but supports membership in the Federal Home Loan Bank Board by privately insured credit unions? Are there too many credit union organizations? While new ones are regularly created, are any besides NARCUP discontinued? What other credit union groups have outlived their usefulness? Can you name at least one? This leads to a final question. Several years ago, during a free wheeling discussion session with a group of credit union CEOs in Hawaii, one of them asked, “Why do you always answer a question by asking a question?” To which I replied: “What’s wrong with that?” Nothing! As frustrating as it may seem, it is nevertheless important to keep asking questions until those who pay the freight get satisfactory answers. 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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