GREENSBORO, N.C. – The week of June 6 was a busy one for the North Carolina Credit Union League when it comes to media coverage. On Friday, June 10, the Charlotte Business Journal published an opinion article written by League President/CEO John Radebaugh on the merits and value of the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act (CURIA). Radebaugh wrote his article, “Credit Unions Vying for Change” at the invitation of Charlotte Business Journal editor Robert Morris who had met with Radebaugh and other NCCUL representatives recently as part of the League’s strategy to get accurate information about CURIA out to the public (CU Times June 8). In his op ed, Radebaugh stated that since the first credit union was formed in North Carolina in 1919, “credit unions have made a name for themselves as providers of low-cost, quality consumer financial services.” Currently, 2.7 million North Carolina consumers are credit union members. “Credit unions have grown for one simple reason – we are serving our members well. But like any other business, credit unions have to embrace future opportunities for growth – or risk failure. That’s why credit unions nationwide have helped to develop legislation in Congress that will give them more flexibility in the coming decades to continue quality services to consumers – including those of modest means,” Radebaugh wrote, referring to H.R. 2317. The League president explained that, “Known as CURIA, this legislation is aimed at assisting credit unions in serving their members more effectively – whether members are trying to establish their own businesses, plan for their retirement or just enter the financial mainstream.” He made it clear that, “The credit union bill just introduced in no way changes credit union fundamentals – we are nonprofit financial cooperatives that return earnings to members, not stockholders. Rather, CURIA will improve the ability of credit unions to serve all of their members.” Radebaugh went on to describe some of the provisions of CURIA – it would increase the cap on member business loans to 20% of total assets from its current 12.25% cap; allow CUs to provide check cashing and remittance services to nonmembers within the credit union’s field-of-membership. This provision, he stated, “creates an opportunity for credit unions to meet the basic financial needs of these consumers at a lower cost. It also provides an opportunity to introduce a traditionally un-banked segment of society into the financial services mainstream.” He continued by stating that, “We recognize and accept that the banking industry is not enthusiastic about this legislation. In fact, in a statement submitted last year to the financial institutions subcommittee, the American Bankers Association in particular opposed giving credit unions more flexibility to better serve consumers. They argued if any credit union wants to modernized its service, let it change its charter to a mutual savings bank. “From our point of view that is akin to telling banks, You want to sell insurance or real estate? Become insurance companies – or join the National Association of Realtors.Credit unions have chosen not to block any of these initiatives by the bankers. Nor have credit unions chosen to stand in the way of the `Community Banks Serving Their Communities First Act,’ introduced in May – even though the bill offers billions of dollars of tax benefits to banks.” Radebaugh concluded his op ed stating that, “With so much regulatory and tax relief flowing to banks, it’s hard to see why they oppose passage of CURIA. By doing so, they deny capital to the people who are creating jobs and economic opportunity in our state. They also show a lack of regard for people who like that group of farmers in Lowe’s Grove in 1919 – are just beginning to pursue the American Dream.” In addition to Radebaugh’s op ed piece appearing in the Charlotte Business Journal,” a second article – this one about the North Carolina Credit Union League’s recently released study on The Benefits of Credit Unions to North Carolina Consumers of Financial Services – was published by the Winston-Salem Journal in their June 11th edition. The article by Journal reporter Richard Craver states that according to the findings of the study commissioned by the League, “North Carolina consumers saved $396 million on financial transactions in 2003 because credit unions provide competitive services in the state.” Craver’s article went on to describe other results of the study -credit unions saved their members more than $336 million in 2003 by charging them lower rates on loans, higher rates on deposits, and lower fees on checking accounts and closing costs on first mortgages; North Carolina bank customers saved $34 million in 2003 as a result of CUs. It also cited banking officials’ allegations that credit unions “compete unfairly because they aren’t subject to the same tax and regulatory standards as large and small banks,” and quoted Paul Stock, an EVP with the North Carolina Bankers Association about how some CUs are acting like “less-taxed and less-regulated banks instead of staying with their original mission of providing help to people of modest means.” Craver’s article further noted a 2003 CUNA study that found credit unions “can offer lower-priced services by operating with lower overhead.and having lower loan-loss expenses than banks.” It concluded by quoting Radebaugh’s comments on the League’s study findings: “Even with the strong presence of credit unions in North Carolina, we still have just 2 percent of the deposit base. The last time I checked, most banks are still reporting strong, if not record, revenues.” -

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