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Since my debate with Jim Blaine at CUNA’s GAC has been the subject of a number of comments in your newspaper, I thought it would be appropriate to give my views. First, while I certainly wish the tone could have been more positive, I have no regret about participating in the debate. Free and open discussion of issues is always valuable, and I applaud CUNA for encouraging that discussion. Second, I want to say that I appreciate the fairness with which I was treated by CUNA and the audience. A number of members of the audience talked to me after the debate and several have written to me to apologize for the tone of the debate. No apology is necessary. One thing is clear to me from the experience: like the community bankers and directors I know, credit union employees and directors are most concerned about serving consumers, and in that regard we have much in common. I was disappointed that we did not have more give-and-take on important substantive issues. From my perspective, I have drawn the conclusion from the debate that the major difference in view is that bankers see the credit union tax-exemption as based on a concept of a reasonable common bond and, in general, serving people of low and moderate income. It appears that many in the credit union industry now see the tax-exemption as based on the not-for-profit, cooperative nature of credit unions. The point I tried to make in the debate is that bankers might be able to agree with that concept if credit unions would agree to be taxed under the general rules applicable to other not-for-profit cooperatives – as, for example, in Subchapter T of the Internal Revenue Code. Under those general rules, most credit unions would not be taxed, but the new breed of aggressive credit unions would. We have many mutual savings banks in the ABA that are also not-for-profit cooperatives in form, and they are doing quite well. I suspect this may be the focus of the public policy debate on this issue. C. Kendric Fergeson Chairman American Bankers Association Washington, D.C.

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