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LATHAM, N.Y. – They come in bundles of 50, 60, 70 a day. They require hours of time to investigate and process. They are subpoenas seeking information on financially delinquent individuals, and they’re causing a major headache for many of New York’s credit unions. “It’s basically a fishing expedition by law firms or collection agencies,” says Mike Lanotte, senior vice president of advocacy services and general counsel for the New York State Credit Union League (NYSCUL). “They don’t know if the person is a credit union member. Credit unions are spending a lot of time answering these requests, and they want some relief from the numbers.” At Central CU in Rego Park, N.Y., receiving 300 to 500 subpoenas a week is not out of the ordinary. Executive Officer Arlene Rudin not only has interns working on the problem-Central CU partners with the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths & Adults-but she also has hired a full-time employee to deal with the requests. By law, credit unions are required to process requests for financial information when issued by subpoena. The first step is to verify if the person named in the judgment is actually a member of the particular credit union. In some cases, the inquiry stops there if no match is found in the CU’s membership records. If a match is found, however, the CU must then fill out and return an accompanying questionnaire. And, in some cases, the CU is required to complete the questionnaire regardless of whether a CU member is identified. “I don’t care if they send me these things if they knew at some point the person had an account with Central CU,” Rudin says. “But, I have a big problem when they send them out randomly.” “It’s definitely an onerous burden,” Rudin continues. “I feel most sorry for the credit unions that are much smaller than we are-that have only two or three employees-and are getting the same stuff we’re getting.” [Central CU has nine full-time staff members, including the person hired recently to handle the subpoenas.] In response to concerns expressed by New York’s credit unions, the League has drafted what Lanotte calls “anti-subpoena spamming” legislation that seeks to curtail the number of inquiries credit unions receive. According to Lanotte, the current process has resulted in only a 2% positive response rate that persons sought are actually CU members. The legislation also seeks an “investigative fee” to be paid to credit unions for their time and effort. “The bottom line is that they’re taking away resources from credit union members,” Lanotte says. For Rudin, the issue has become one of her top priorities. She’s spoken to legislators about the burdens put upon her credit union, and she’s committed to supporting the League with their efforts. At a minimum, Rudin wants inquiring companies to first run a credit report on each individual. “Give me something that indicates these people have an account at my credit union,” she says. “Then bother me with it.” [email protected]

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