Whoever said credit unions don't make enough news to fill a bigand getting bigger weekly credit union publication must be hidingin a cave. Time for some more Catbird Seat observations: A pledgeform sent out to credit unions begging for donations to support thelets-all-become-banks activities of the Coalition for Credit UnionsCharter Options is very telling. The group is asking for $25,000from credit unions with assets of a billion dollars or more. Thesuggested contributions scale slides down in five CU asset categorysteps to the bottom rung which is credit unions under $100 million.From them the coalition would like a mere $2,000. Apparently thecoalition has concluded that larger credit unions can afford moresubstantial charitable contributions. Or could it possibly be thatthe anti-credit union, anti-NCUA, Coalition figures that CEOs andboards of the over one billion dollar credit unions have more togain if and when their credit union converts to a bank charter? Andthus the big boys would be eager to pony up more member cash tomake it happen? One CU CEO recipient of the Coalition's plea foroperating funds made this observation: “Maybe if they `folded'their mailing to put the solicitation form first, results woulddiffer?” As events continue to unfold in areas ravaged by Katrina,it appears certain, sad to say, that the current number of creditunions, 9,062, will be dipping below the 9,000 mark much soonerthan I anticipated in an earlier column. I haven't had muchpositive to say about rookie North Carolina Republican CongressmanPatrick McHenry who is proposing legislation that is designed tocurb NCUA powers when it comes to bank charter conversions. But Itake my hat off to any guy as unpopular as he is among credit unionfolks who will stand up in front of them to speak. McHenry is onthe program at the upcoming NAFCU Congressional Caucus. Be nice tothis one term legislator. Kudos to CUNA for its leadership inannouncing R.E.S.C.U. which stands for Relief Effort and Supportfor Credit Unions. Better late than never. Coordination amongcredit unions and CU groups is sorely needed when disasters likeKatrina occur. Everyone wants to help, but often confusion reignsregarding what's the best way to achieve swift and maximumeffectiveness to assist the needy. Besides CUNA's ability tocoordinate an industry wide response, they can play a critical rolein keeping the glory seekers and scammers at bay while makingcertain that generous credit union industry contributions of timeand money get to where they will do the most good as efficiently aspossible. Good leadership here. Marvin Umholtz is a name longfamiliar on the credit union scene, and more recently someone whohas become best known as a person in the forefront of those oncecredit union individuals who have done a flip flop. By seeking toeliminate credit unions one at a time, Umholtz has gotten probablya lot more ink in this publication than he deserves. Recently, hereally put his foot in it. He stated that because of NCUA's actionsin regard to the two Texas credit unions soon-to-be-banks that thefederal regulator “needs a watchdog.” He's got it all wrong. NCUAwas just doing its job, but got out lawyered into a judicialdefeat. It's Umholtz's new coalition group (see above) that needs awatchdog to protect credit union members. So do the small number ofcredit union CEOs and boards who see nothing wrong with puttingpersonal greed before the interests of members. In ruling in favorof bank charter conversions in Texas, the judge called NCUA'sactions “arbitrary and capricious.” That's offensive to NCUA andcredit unions, but think how the banking industry must have feltwhen another judge recently labeled the FDIC as “a corrupt agencywith corrupt influences on it” in handing down a decision againstthe bank regulator. Makes me wonder if a big mouth is a requirementto be appointed a judge? Speaking of watchdog, as I was above,that's exactly the word some credit union folks like to use todescribe the function of credit union supervisory committees. Butis that really the role they play in today's credit unions? Dependswho you ask. Current members of supervisory committeesunderstandably defend their importance. But ask many CEOs,especially of the larger credit unions, and they will tell you inconfidence that the only way to describe supervisory committees is“unnecessary.” Although I also have seen a dramatic transformationin their function in credit union governance over the years, Iwouldn't go that far. In many credit unions, supervisory committeesserve as an excellent training ground for new board members. Inmany others, it is the supervisory committee that hires, fires, andworks with the external auditor. And has the internal auditorreport directly to them. Remember that old and controversialdebate? Unfortunately some supervisory committees try to act likethey are more powerful than the board of directors and in extremecases even attempt to act like a board. On the other end of thisspectrum, there are far too many credit union supervisorycommittees that do nothing other than get elected. One thing iscertain, the role of CU supervisory committees has undergone changeand many more changes are on the horizon. These are the types oftopics you will always find on the program agendas at meetingstargeted at members of these committees. Which leads to thisquestion: Are credit union supervisory committees still needed?Parting shot: credit union groups have proudly announced that theyare getting back into formal financial counseling training. Hasn'tfinancial counseling always been one of the things that makes acredit union different? Comments? Call 1-800-345-9936, Ext. 15, orFax 561-683-8514, or E-mail [email protected].

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