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There are probably very few among us who at some point while growing up were not on the receiving end of being told to “mind your own business.” Perhaps it is time to send that same message to the long list (and getting longer) of individuals and organizations who seem to somehow feel it is their God-given right to tell credit unions what to do? Why is it so many, completely removed from the credit union industry, think it is their prerogative to stick their nose into the business of CUs? One of many examples is this particularly outrageous one: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Vice Chair John Reich apparently saw nothing wrong with submitting written testimony to the Senate Banking Committee recently that laid out his views on “where credit unions have gone astray.” In doing so, he sounded exactly like a banking industry lobbyist, dragging out all the worn clichs from “level playing field” to “unfair tax advantages.” It is not only what he wrote that is outrageous, but the fact that he obviously thinks (or has been told) that he has any business blasting credit unions. The guy is supposed to be a regulator, not a banking industry cheerleader. Why he would criticize credit unions is obvious; more credit unions switching to bank charters has a direct benefit to the FDIC. Harming CUs helps his beloved banks. California/Nevada Leagues CEO Dave Chatfield summed it up nicely in a follow-up statement when he said, “We are extremely disappointed that not only the chairman, but the vice chairman of the FDIC have a history of publicly commenting on policy issues affecting credit unions, when they have no regulatory authority over, nor experience in working with, credit unions.” It is time to tell Reich, his boss, and the entire FDIC to mind their own business. If they don’t get that message, then perhaps it is also time for credit unions to mount an offensive that can best be described with the old clich, fighting fire with fire. Maybe NCUA Board members should begin making statements to bank regulators regarding how the banking industry has become a monopoly to the detriment of American consumers. NCUA Chair JoAnn Johnson might write and testify that a monopolistic bank like Citibank that controls 10% of banking assets (the maximum allowable under law) needs to be reigned in via stricter regulation. NCUA could also express its concern to bank regulators that banking fees are out of control and causing hardship to millions of consumers. And then point out that these fees have led directly to record-setting banking industry profits year after year. And ask: “where are the bank regulators?” What right does NCUA have to stick its nose into the affairs of bank regulators? None of course. It wouldn’t surprise me if the first time NCUA started to comment on how banks are seemingly operating with fewer and fewer restraints, if the FDIC wouldn’t tell it in ever so polite language to mind its own business. My point precisely. Supposedly impartial regulator Reich of FDIC and all his regulatory colleagues need to mind their own business, too. Colleagues like those at the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) which has also been attacking NCUA for the firm stance NCUA has taken on two large credit unions in Texas trying to become banks. NCUA is being chastised by OTS for not looking the other way when these credit unions didn’t comply with disclosure requirements to the letter. Something pre-voting both agreed to do. I say shame on OTS for its blatant attempt to go way beyond its regulatory authority in order to bring another “bank” under its regulatory wing. Here again, would it be appropriate for NCUA to publicly belittle OTS for how it regulates those institutions within its scope of authority? Nope. So, OTS, mind your own business. Then there’s North Carolina’s freshman Republican Representative Patrick McHenry. Although his state doesn’t “have a dog in the fight,” he wants a law enacted to strip NCUA of whatever regulatory authority they have involving credit unions wanting to run with the big boys (a.k.a. banks). Maybe any such proposal ought to include a rider prohibiting banking regulators from interfering in any way with a credit union regulator attempting to perform its legally mandated duties? But hey this guy is still wet behind the ears so credit unions shouldn’t be too hard on him even though CU groups ponied up some cash for his election campaign. But when Texas based Community Credit Union hires a seasoned D.C. law firm known for its junkyard dog lobbying tactics to get veteran senators and representatives from Texas on their bandwagon via strong letters to NCUA, even calling the federal CU regulator “hostile”, it’s time for all of them to also be told to mind their own business. Unless of course they think it also makes sense for NCUA officials to tell these same politicians very specifically how to craft laws. As proof how far out of their element these politicos are, they make numerous references to CU “customers” and how “customer” preferences change from time to time. Is it too much to expect of busybodies to at least do their homework? Ever hear of the Greenlining Institute? Neither have I. Out of nowhere, they are also pulling a Jimmy Durante (for you youngsters, a famous comedian long since deceased who always included in his act this line: “Everybody is trying to get into the act.”). Greenlining has written to the Senate Banking Committee telling it what credit unions should and shouldn’t do in the area of Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and attempting to tie it into the credit union legislative proposal known as CURIA. All these folks and many more that I don’t have the space to include here need to mind their own business. Or credit unions and their regulators just might want to give serious thought to reversing the tables at some point. Comments? Call 1-800-345-9936, Ext. 15, or Fax 561-683-8514, or E-mail [email protected]

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Peter Westerman

Credit Union Times

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