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Despite the lazy, hazy days of summer, there is still lots of news being made in credit union land during these traditional vacation days. As usual, the NAFCU Annual Conference and Exhibition was again a big newsmaker. (See most timely and comprehensive coverage in this issue.) A couple thousand credit union folks showed up earlier this month at the gigantic (4,800 rooms) Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas to become totally immersed in all things credit union (and maybe lose a buck or two in between). Typical of the three major national credit union conferences held each year, besides the sights and sounds the meeting location made available, attendees were offered a jam-packed schedule. It included caucuses, bonus sessions, a golf tournament, forums, summits, receptions, PAC events, a silent auction, lots of networking time, numerous sponsorships, award ceremonies, an annual business meeting, installation of new association officers, and big name and no name entertainment. Also, a sold out exhibition hall featuring virtually every CU vendor, cyber cafes, welcome booths staffed with locals, a NAFCU Pavilion, informational displays, tons of conference related literature, door prizes, meal functions, a record 156 page issue of Credit Union Times at each attendee’s hotel room door, general sessions, a full schedule of concurrent educational sessions, an orientation for first timers, a long list of informative national and homegrown speakers, and industry VIPs everywhere. Whew! Meetings like NAFCU’s squeeze so much into their four-day conferences that trying to take in everything from check in to check out is like getting a drink of water out of a fire hose. The most conscientious conference goer was busy from early morning till late at night just following the formal schedule of events. Getting from hotel rooms to the cavernous expo and meetings area became an endurance test and provided proof that the Mandalay Bay is the world’s second largest hotel. If sleep wasn’t a requirement, that left only a few precious moments for private dinners, receptions, Vegas shows, pool time, and an occasional swing through the massive casino to challenge Lady Luck. NAFCU has long had a reputation for putting on a top notch annual conference that is a model of professionalism and organization with something for everyone. Just based on the number of timely topics, important credit union issues covered, and speaker selections, this year’s event was no exception. At some point, however, NAFCU, and CUNA too, might consider concentrating more on the at-the-time really major issues rather than offering a four-year credit union college course in four days. But the NAFCU conference wasn’t the only newsmaker. The charter conversion flap in Texas heated up as Community Credit Union decided to sue NCUA; anti-NCUA legislation was introduced by a freshman politico from North Carolina; a conversion debate featuring high profilers on both sides was held; and still another group, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), decided to stick its nose in credit union business. Also, several banking industry trade groups jumped on the anti-NCUA bandwagon weighing in against the CU federal regulator’s firm stand on conversion compliance; the NCUA two-person board made it clear that they didn’t intend to buckle under enormous outside pressure; a Wisconsin CURIA co-sponsor, one of nearly 80 to date, did a flip flop under pressure from the banking industry and pulled back her sponsorship; and the Credit Union Times online poll went berserk. Let’s look a bit closer at a couple of these: First, the spokesperson for CAGW (who has a letter on page 16) should have read my column last week on minding your own business. That group jumping into the fray makes no sense. Its avowed purpose is to stand up for consumers. Yet, it supports thousands of credit union members becoming bank customers which entitles those switched consumers to be subject to excessive banking industry fees. These fees by the way continue to set new records. It is well-known that they are the backbone of continuing record banking industry profits. CAGW admits it knows very little about credit unions. It gets nearly all of its information on CUs by reading inside the beltline of Washington, D.C. publications. It confesses it never sees Credit Union Times because “it can’t afford a subscription.” CAGW’s credibility in this fight is nil. Second, freshman Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI) will come to regret that she bowed to banking lobbyists to withdraw her co-sponsorship for CURIA. By trying to avoid taking sides on proposed legislation that bank lobbyists are determined to defeat at all costs, she dug herself a big hole. She has underestimated the grassroots lobbying prowess that will be generated by Wisconsin credit union forces when she comes up for re-election. Say goodbye Gwen. Maybe she can get a job at a Wisconsin bank in Nevada? Third, although I can’t prove it.yet. it appears that the Credit Union Times online poll is being manipulated by pro-conversion forces for the first time since the poll was introduced several years ago with a question regarding then NCUA Chairman Norm D’Amours. Response to these polls is always good. But in this one, seeking an opinion on NCUA’s firm stance regarding a compliance issue (trivialized as “the way a piece of paper is folded”), the numbers from the day it was introduced shot upward at an unprecedented rate. On the first two days, almost two-hundred persons voted. As this is being written, it went over 1,000 votes. Approximately 85% of voters feel NCUA is being too strict regarding the infamous fold. My suspicion is that somewhere out there is a credit union e-mail requesting that everyone with a computer vote yes in the poll. Although the poll’s mechanism doesn’t allow multiple votes from the same computer, single votes from dozens of individual computers will register. If I locate such an e-mail (a good possibility), I’ll let readers know. If I am right, maybe the NCUA supporters ought to get moving with a similar plan before the poll expires?

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Peter Westerman

 

Credit Union Times

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