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In action long sought by CUNA, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last month proposed that credit unions engaging in certain limited securities activities may also be exempt from registration requirements and related costs as long as such activities are conducted under the terms applicable to the corresponding bank exceptions. Essentially, what this means for credit unions is that they would not have to pay what can be exorbitant fees merely by offering these sort of services to their members. In fact, in many cases it could mean the difference between offering the services or not. In an environment in which credit union members have come to expect (and deserve) affordable services from their credit union, that could be a major blow to a number of credit unions. This proposal has the potential for ensuring credit unions can continue to offer services their members may desire. The proposal issued by the SEC implements provisions of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act that authorized by statute 11 broker activities banks and their employees may engage in without having to register with the SEC and be regulated as broker-dealers. The exceptions from the SEC registration that would apply to credit unions include networking arrangements under which credit unions could partner with a broker to offer members a range of services, including securities brokerage. Also, credit unions may be able to act as custodians and engage in securities transactions on behalf of members, as well as maintain sweep accounts. Comments are due to the SEC by August 2. CUNA’s Brokerage Activities Task Force (the BATForce), chaired by CUNA Vice Chairman Juri Valdov, will be developing CUNA’s response. CUNA has been working with the SEC on securities related issues for more than three years under the auspices of the CUNA BATForce, which includes representatives from the National Association of Federal Credit Unions, CUNA Mutual, the National Association of Credit Union Service Organizations, and others. The task force has also been working with the SEC, as well as NCUA, to address the agency’s concerns about credit union service organizations (CUSOs) that had developed networking arrangements subsequent to NCUA’s Letter 150. The SEC has questioned such arrangements in light of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley amendments. The approach of the CUNA BATForce has been (and will remain) to craft a credit union-developed solution to this issue that reflects a wide diversity of opinion and views. Working diligently, and with a unified approach, the CUNA BATForce has corresponded and met personally (in the form of the entire BATForce at times, and key members of the BATForce and the staff at other times) with principles at the SEC. Throughout, the CUNA BATForce has had one aim: To ensure that credit unions may continue to offer affordable services to their varied memberships. This is a very important issue for credit unions, particularly for those that have made the decision to offer these sorts of services to their membership. CUNA and the Leagues are encouraging all interested credit unions to share their views with CUNA on this proposal so that a diversified and representative commentary can be provided to the SEC.

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