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BATON ROUGE, La. – The level of tension being felt by credit unions in New Orleans which face falling capital levels, rising deposits and increasing recovery work can be measured in a misunderstanding that took place on October 4 and 5 between the NCUA and the $208 million ASI FCU. Earlier in the year NCUA sent a revised merger manual to all federally insured credit unions which, likely because of storm related postal delays, did not arrive at ASI until October 4. ASI interpreted the arrival of the manual as a not-too-subtle signal from the agency that it should prepare to merge and swung into self-preservation. “The NCUA special actions team is paying us another visit today,” the credit union wrote in an October 4 letter to the Louisiana congressional delegation and other legislators. “We may soon be suffering at the hands of the NCUA because of the decision to keep our ATMs up and running with stand-in limits when ASI’s system went off-line as a result of Hurricane Katrina. The stand-in limits allowed many dishonest members to take money from the ATMs that they did not have-to the tune of about $4 million dollars. The other option would have been to bring our ATMs down altogether the moment we went offline, which would have left members stranded without access to cash to evacuate.” But NCUA announced on October 5 that the merger manual was not meant to pressure the credit union to merge and NCUA spokesman Nick Owens reiterated that the agency was committed to working with all the Gulf Coast credit unions to help them succeed in the storm recovery period.

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