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WASHINGTON – State league presidents have begun in earnest tackling the thorny public and internal issues surrounding mutual bank conversions with an eye on strengthening the credit union charter. With input from both CUNA and CUNA Mutual Group, the American Association of Credit Union Leagues disclosed this month it has formed a special 13-member task force on conversions of which one mission is to develop “a library of information and tools” that Leagues and their members can use. “This is a huge, emerging system-wide issue that League presidents felt had to be addressed before and during conversions if and when they take place,” explained Susan Newton, executive director of the American Association of Credit Union Leagues The “AACUL Cooperative Business Model Task Force,” as it is known, has already had two meetings since January and is slated to complete a final report to its leadership by mid-July. Chairman of the task force is Michael Mercer, president/CEO of Georgia Credit Union Affiliates, who said he was apparently selected because of two previous conversions in his state, the former Atlantic Federal CU of Waycross and Heritage Bank of the South in Albany Vice chairman is David Chatfield, president/CEO of the California/Nevada Credit Union Leagues. Apart from focusing on long-term “charter enhancements” which task force members said include investment powers, business lending and field of membership, an AACUL summary document outlining task force goals said it would be developing strategies “that will shed light on the dilution of members’ influence and economic interest in their credit union.” Another goal would be to identify “a range of options for leagues to implement during all stages of a conversion process” in an apparent reference to media campaigns similar to those launched in Texas, Michigan and elsewhere. In addition to Mercer and Chatfield, other state League CEOs on the panel include: David Adams, Michigan; John Annaloro, Washington; Guy Hood, Florida; Scott Sullivan, Nebraska; Dennis Tanimoto, Hawaii; Ken Watts, West Virginia; and Gary Wolter, Alabama. In addition to Newton, who apart from her ACCUL post is also senior vice president of League relations at CUNA, also providing guidance on the task force from CUNA are Eric Richard, general counsel, and Bill Hampel, chief economist. Aiding the Task Force work from CUNA Mutual is Larry Blanchard, senior vice president of corporate and legislative affairs. “It’s obvious we want to use all the resources we can from within CUNA and CUNA Mutual to provide the data we will need,” said Newton emphasizing the “coordination” that must take place on an issue so paramount to the movement. Newton said a major Task Force mission will be to ascertain capital considerations and other factors that have triggered the decisions by CU boards to seek conversions and then follow through on such plans. “We want to look at all different types of research exploring the reasons given by those converting as to what they see as their perception of the weakness of the credit union charter,” said Newton. Strengthening the charter is a key issue in CURIA but the task force will also look at steps “that might be necessary” at the state level, she said. Annaloro, a Task Force member and chief staff officer of the Washington League, said the panel is simply examining the “grass is greener” concept in focusing on those weaknesses in the charter as in the investment area or perhaps on field of membership where there are outdated regulations. He said his own state has been one at the forefront of conversion battles including the widely publicized Columbia Community CU at Vancouver as well as another involving a converted Seattle credit union which was done quietly and without media attention. He said he expects to offer his own insight on what has occurred and he praised the peer makeup of the panel “for having a lot of great people” with broad experience. Newton said the Task Force expects to present its recommendations for dispersion to state Leagues at a summer meeting of AACUL in New York. The Task Force also has slated another meeting in June in Washington, she said. [email protected]

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