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OLYMPIA, Wash. – The board of the $1 billion Washington State Employees Credit Union has voted to change the credit union’s bylaws to make it more difficult for the credit union to convert to a bank charter in the future. The board amended the portion of the bylaws that is most like a mission statement with the following additional sentence: “It is the Board of Directors’ intention that the credit union operate as a not-for-profit financial cooperative in perpetuity.” The credit union board also amended the bylaws to read that the credit union would have to gain the approval of a majority of voting members to convert to a federal charter and that at least 50.1% of the credit union’s members would have to participate in the vote for it be considered valid. In addition, any future charter-changing board would have to provide detailed disclosure statements to the credit union members at least 60 days in advance of the vote. Under the credit union’s current size of 123,000 members, a majority of at least 61,500 would have to vote to change the charter according to the new bylaws. Meredith Rafferty, vice chair of the board, explained that the institution had been involved in a review of its mission statement when the news about the four other credit unions in the state began to make an impression on the board members. “Our first inclination was just to kill the idea,” explained Rafferty, “to put language into place that would prevent a future board from ever doing this.” But then she explained that some board members felt uneasy about tying a future board’s hands in situations where some sort of charter change might really be in the best interest of the members. So she said that the board focused its changes on three areas: philosophy, disclosure and majority commitment. In the philosophy area, Rafferty explained that the board wanted to make sure it went on record with the intention that WSECU remain a financial cooperative forever. She said board members also wanted to make sure that credit union members in the future had adequate information about the potential charter change.

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