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WASHINGTON – The National Community Reinvestment Coalition has not given up its effort to force mainstream credit unions under the Community Reinvestment Act and is approaching the effort on a number of fronts, according to the minutes of a June 17 meeting of the organization’s “Credit Union Team.” The meeting’s minutes depicted NCRC staff and executives as being mildly disappointed that the organization had received only lukewarm support from the American Bankers Association for their CRA for CUs effort. They noted at the time of the meeting that they were unaware of the ABA reporting on NCRC’s Credit Unions: True To Their Mission, their last study alleging that credit unions need CRA, in any ABA outlets. “Things are winding down with the ABA’s involvement,” the minutes said. “JT [John Taylor, NCRC President] hasn’t heard anything more about them getting their members to lobby for CRA for CUs and hasn’t heard if they ran a piece on our CU report in one of their papers as they said they would.” But the minutes also record someone taking a cautionary note regarding the ABA. “ABA could get good GOP co-sponsors for a `CRA for CU’ bill; so still keep them in mind,” the minutes said. The minutes reveal that Taylor had “strongly” approached the banker members of the Banker Community Collaborative Council, that “consists of representatives from 12 to 14 of the nation’s top banks” about support, only to have them turn him down. “Not a large bank concern,” the minutes said. But despite the relatively tepid ABA support, the team discussed seeking banker support and funding for political efforts on Capitol Hill and for conducting a “mystery shopping” study on mainstream credit unions. “Mystery shopping” studies typically send members of minorities or women into financial institutions to document whether they are treated fairly or face discrimination and it’s an effort that the organization cannot mount without “additional funding” the minutes said, funding which the group wanted to come from banking associations. “NCRC to meet individually with bank trade associations: ABA, ICBA, and ACB,” the minutes read. “(MG [Monica Gonzalez, NCRC vice president] to schedule through James Ballentine and others at the associations).” The plan was for Taylor and others to meet with the associations to discuss partnering and funding ideas, including getting the banking groups to fund the mystery shopper study at CUs. But Taylor, contacted about the meeting, said that the meetings with the banking groups had never happened and said that it would be a mistake to make out the minutes to be more than they are. “We often meet to discuss ideas and share information,” Taylor said. “Those are meeting minutes, not a point by point plan of action,” he added. The group agreed that the Regulatory Relief bill could be a possible vehicle for a CRA for CUs proposal and noted that CURIA would likely be incorporated into the measure. Gonzalez was also detailed to meet Florida Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz who, the minutes said, was “upset about Eastern Airline CU making significant competition for small community banks” in her district. (Editor’s note: The CU’s name is actually Eastern Financial Florida CU.) She was also detailed to follow up with Oscar Ramirez, the legislative director for Texas Democrat Al Green about possibly joining with Massachusetts’s Democrat Barney Frank to start circulating a Dear Colleague letter to call for hearings. It could not be determined as of press time whether or not any of these strategies came to fruition. Significantly, the minutes also depicted the NCRC staff and executives reaching out to community development credit unions to try to gain their support. NCRC research and policy analyst Noelle Melton was to draft a letter to the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions’ board and to Cliff Rosenthal, its executive director, making the case. The letter should be “carefully crafted” the minutes said, for example to Rosenthal “we appreciate your kind words, but think it’s important for leaders to step forward since the progress of CUs doesn’t match their capacity.Should be the voice of small CUs.Having CRA for big CUs would be directly beneficial for your members.they use CDCUs in order to accomplish their goals bringing a $1 trillion industry.shouldn’t have to wait for them to come around, it’s their mission.” Taylor said he had not sent that letter, preferring to speak to Rosenthal by phone first. Rosenthal confirmed that he had seen no letter and that he had not heard from the NCRC in months. “Essentially I am a little shocked,” Rosenthal said. “I mean we are members of the NCRC and we are not consulted about or included in these plans. How many of their members really know what is going on with them?” Rosenthal reiterated the Federation’s belief that mainstream credit unions are growing steadily better and more proficient in how they work with lower income members and that the Federation would not support any move to force mainstream credit unions under CRA. For his part, Taylor pointed out that the NCRC is not only concerned with credit unions but has fair lending initiatives in a number of different areas. “We are equal opportunity when it comes to spreading the fair lending message,” Taylor said. -

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