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RENO, Nev. – While a strong proponent of credit unions expanding business loans, NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar insists such loans are “not right” for every CU for a variety of reasons, and “I could not sleep at night if I thought every credit union in America would start business lending.” The chairman’s comments came as part of a “Sound Off” Q&A session during CUNA’s annual Future Forum conference held recently. Responding to an audience question on his views, the departing NCUA head went on to defend the legal authority and history of CUs offering such loans in the wake of fresh banker attacks challenging the practice and their expansion. Dismissing banker criticism aimed at the agency, Dollar maintained that credit unions “have had authority to do business lending since passage of the Federal Credit Union Act of 1934,” followed up with regulations adopted in 1984. He went on to note that permitting CUs to expand business lending is a key way to help the 45 million Americans now living in underserved areas with CUs in their market gain access to credit. The result is that the expansion can “make a difference in these communities.” In addition, Dollar said there has long been a need for CUs to serve the small business borrower who “wants to start a carpet cleaning business, tree trunk removal or run a lawn care business.” Reaching out to new borrowers can “break the cycle” and force them to turn away from payday lenders, Dollar concluded. Fielding other questions from CUNA delegates, Dollar renewed his support for a risk-based Prompt Corrective Action bill in Congress suggesting again that weighting the asset mix in computing the 7% capital ratio should count heavily in determining application of the regulation. He said the “one size fits all” formula does not work and that there has to be weighted differences between CUs holding “30-year fixed maturity notes and those holding Treasuries and overnights.” Dollar also stressed that he strongly welcomes comment letters from both big and small CUs on issues before the NCUA Board since “they help us shape more effective regulation.” He noted that a new trend has been the receipt of comment letters from banks, and on that score “we received 500 comment letters” on recent field of membership changes. “Your critics are copying your strategies,” said Dollar, adding “it’s more important that we have letters from those impacted by the regulation.” It used to be, he said, “that we seldom heard from bankers,” but that has changed. In an interview with Credit Union Times after his remarks, Dollar, whose NCUA chairman’s term is now up, declined once again to divulge his future plans saying, “Look, I’m still in the batter’s box” and intend “to stay there” until he is asked to leave. “I’ve heard 20 rumors right here at this conference about what I’ll do next, but I’d rather not talk about it until it happens,” said Dollar when asked whether he would stay in government or return to business. -

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