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SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California credit unions meeting here for the California Credit Union League’s annual Government Relations Rally took an aggressive message to state legislators: that because of the massive acquisition of community banks by multi-state banking conglomerates, credit unions are one of the only locally-owned depository institutions left in the state and need to provide more services to help consumers build savings, own homes, and develop small businesses. “California’s credit unions are no longer playing defense against the banking industry,” said CCUL President/CEO David Chatfield. “Instead we are moving forward with a positive agenda. We are now the primary financial institutions for one out of every five Californians. As bank holding companies continue to buy up successful community banks, the role of credit unions in the local economy must evolve to fill the void and meet the needs of California’s communities.” At the rally April 13 and April 14, 150 credit union leaders from throughout California met with legislators to build support for credit union initiatives such as a bill, S.B. 1292, that would give CUs greater ability to provide lower-income consumers with services like check cashing, money orders, and money transfer services to families in other countries. Chatfield predicts the state’s banking industry will oppose any credit union initiatives to bring affordable financial services to more of the state’s residents. “The fable they (the banks) will tell in Sacramento is that the modest growth of credit unions is somehow damaging helpless community banks,” said Chatfield. “The truth is that multi-state bank holding companies have grown from 41% of the market in 1984, to 71% in 2004, while credit union market share during the same period remained almost flat, at just under 10%.” Chatfield accused bankers of leaving out another truth – that many small banks are “deliberately” striving to increase their profitability “merely to make themselves attractive targets for takeovers that enrich management and stockholders.” “There is a monster munching on community banks, but the dragon is big banks, not credit unions,” said Chatfield.

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