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DES MOINES, Iowa-Banks should try a new tact in their battle against credit unions, former NCUA Chairman Norm D’Amours told the Iowa Bankers Association back in September. Northwestern Financial Review published D’Amours’ remarks from which the press was barred at the Iowa bankers’ conference on Sept. 21 after a Credit Union Times request. “Banks have been losing almost every battle they’ve engaged in with credit unions,” D’Amours told the bankers. “The usual complaint that banks bring to legislators is that credit unions have all the powers banks have but are given competitive advantages. Well, that approach hasn’t gotten banks very far over a long number of years. In my opinion, banks are not going to win that fight because, in fact, there are still some things banks can do that credit unions can’t do. And, most people don’t really care about such fine distinctions anyway. But what people and legislators do care about is whether credit unions are doing what they are supposed to be doing.” The banks have been using a divide and conquer method of attacking credit unions, branding larger, more diversified credit unions as “a new breed.” D’Amours emphasized that you cannot generalize credit unions and not all big credit unions are evil and not all smaller ones are good. “The credit union industry is controlled by well paid insiders of a few trade groups which themselves are controlled by a relatively small minority of very large dues paying credit unions,” he stated. He reasoned that because the large credit unions are paying groups like CUNA higher dues, smaller credit unions are being drowned out of discussions. “The large credit unions are running the show because the trade groups are controlling federal and state legislative agendas, regulatory lobbying and everything else that is credit union related,” D’Amours accused. “The largest and most dominant credit union trade group is the Credit Union National Association. The prime motivation of the trade groups is the dues and services income they receive from credit unions.” And, while credit unions are non-profits, insiders are not. D’Amours pointed out that CUNA President and CEO Dan Mica, a former colleague of his in the House of Representatives, was being paid more than the head of the American Bankers Association. CUNA Vice President of Communications and Media Outreach Pat Keefe said he is unsure what D’Amours’ motive in attacking CUNA is. “However, we find it troubling and we’re saddened that a former regulator of credit unions would have such harsh things to say about a trade association. We feel that our number one goal is to represent our members and we feel we’re doing that,” he said. He added that CUNA members, by and large, have told them as much. Banks should be touting the fulfillment of their Community Reinvestment Act requirements. He pointed to a November 2003 Government Accountability Office study that said banks are serving low-income people better than credit unions. D’Amours was a big proponent of CRA-like regulation for credit unions while at NCUA but was unable to advance anything on the issue though he introduced items a number of times. He knocked CUNA for saying the report was biased and that the trade association “followed their usual pattern of ignoring the facts, and castigating and demonizing anyone who challenges or disagrees with them.” Additionally, the banks should point out how they help many smaller credit unions with back office assistance and these efforts should be “intensified, structured, and quantified.” [email protected]

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