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WASHINGTON – In a letter delivered to every member of Congress, CUNA President and CEO Dan Mica expressed his outrage at the American Bankers Association’s priority list, which puts taxing credit unions as a “superpriority” over terrorism, corporate reforms, and accurate accounting. Mica said he initially thought ABA’s “Government Relations Priorities for 2004″ might have been an “April Fool’s prank.” “My staff quickly assured me it was no joke; from that point on, this list burned in my hands,” he wrote. Along with credit unions, FDIC reform and defending Gramm-Leach-Bliley were among the “superpriorities.” Fighting terrorism, corporate and accounting governance, and preventing crimes like identity theft and robberies fell below that, under the heading “priorities.” “In essence,” Mica wrote, “the bankers are saying that taxing not-for-profit, volunteer-led credit unions which serve 85 million consumers is MORE IMPORANT (Mica’s emphasis) than protecting the financial system from exploitation by terrorists, mandating ethical corporate behavior to prevent another Worldcom implosion, and ensuring accurate accounting to thwart an Enron-like debacle.” ABA Director of Public Relations Charlotte Birch said of the letter, “I think it shows that rather than argue the real issue, they’re trying to deflect attention with a rather desperate, whiny, `tell them to stop picking on us’ plea and maybe it should be up for an Oscar.” She pointed out that there is no immediate anti-terrorism action on the legislative front and that the ABA and its members have thoroughly covered PATIROT Act and corporate governance matters. To the contrary, Mica said, it is the bankers who are whining. “The ABA’s ranking of its superpriorities and priorities, placing credit union taxation so high is just one more reason why you must tell the banks to stop their whining, get off the backs of America’s credit union members, and get on with the business of serving the nation’s commerce and economy,” he wrote. He called the ABA’s priority ranking outrageous and “completely out of touch with the gravity of the real challenges facing our financial system and our nation.” Mica pointed out that on April 20, the Senate Banking Committee had grilled regulators on the safety of the banking system from terrorist activity. “Further, for a national trade group, which represents institutions that depend on the public’s trust and confidence, this action must raise red flags as to the ABA’s ability to properly evaluate and advocate public policy issues,” he wrote. The letter continued, “Perhaps the real lesson to be learned is that the ABA is having trouble convincing anyone to think seriously that banks, on the heels of posting record profits of $120.6 billion (their most profitable year ever) face a true challenge from the nation’s credit unions. Further, as the assets of the entire credit union movement are less than one-tenth of total bank and thrift assets (that is, $629 billion for credit unions and $9.1 trillion for banks), it is difficult to see how – let alone why – credit unions present any sort of competitive challenge to banks.” [email protected]

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