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LYNCHBURG, Va. – The Virginia Bureau of Financial Institutions has alerted state-chartered credit unions that state regulators are assessing their options in collecting data on state-chartered credit unions’ service to people of modest means. In the state agency’s Winter 2006 Quarterly Newsletter, BFI referred to the NCUA pilot for collecting data from federal credit unions on how they’re serving “people of small means as termed in the Federal Credit Union Act, and stated, “It is important to note that NCUA will collect data from only selected federally-chartered credit unions. The Virginia Credit Union Act, and the acts of all 47 states with credit union laws, does not mention `people of small means.’ That term is unique to the FCUA. Therefore, at this point state-chartered credit unions are not being solicited for information on how they document and serve `people of small means.’ “It seems clear that with 47 state credit union acts, data collection to determine and define `people of small means’ in the states will be difficult to assess in the aggregate. But there is also a clear intent of state regulators to cooperate in gathering information to respond to the Congressional mandate to determine how well the credit union industry is serving people of modest means,” the newsletter read. NASCUS spokesperson Kate Hartig confirmed NASCUS has met with the General Accounting Office and NCUA on the issue. Indeed, in NASCUS President/CEO Mary Martha Fortney’s March 7 Special Message from the President and CEO, she wrote, “During the past several months, NASCUS has been in dialogue with the NCUA, the GAO and other involved groups to address issues related to documenting service to credit union members.” Fortney continued to explain that GAO staff first met with NASCUS at the association’s Arlington, Va.-offices on Jan. 13. The GAO, she stated, was asked by the House Ways and Means Committee to further study CUs and their tax-exempt status, services and field of membership and are comparing CUs with other depository institutions. In response, NASCUS gathered information from state regulators and the NASCUS Advisory Council Board to address the GAO’s questions and communicated to GAO about the complexity of the state credit union system, as well as the difficulties in comparing different states and charters. Also in January, wrote Fortney, NCUA Executive Director Len Skiles and Deputy Executive Director Jane Walters briefed the NASCUS Board on the agency’s plans to gather information for its data collection pilot of federal credit unions. “We continue to be a resource to NCUA as the program proceeds for federal credit unions. We have had several meetings with the NCUA and facilitated discussion with Massachusetts and Connecticut regulators, who have experience in collecting data through their state-CRA requirements. NASCUS will continue discussion with NCUA on this topic,” Fortney wrote. Last month, just prior to CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference, GAO staff met with NASCUS again, at which time NASCUS Board members provided the GAO with the state regulatory system’s perspective. “.The NASCUS Board emphasized the need to further educate the GAO and the Congress about the differences between the charters and the role of state regulators. This insight will be key to understanding and analyzing any state data collected,” she added. Fortney told Credit Union Times that when the NASCUS Board met with the GAO in January and February, “it was clear that the GAO understands that data collection is a chartering issue, not one of safety and soundness,” she said. She added that GAO staff who met with the association’s board admitted they weren’t familiar with the credit union dual chartering system and weren’t aware there were 47 different state acts. “It was interesting to hear them state that,” said Fortney. As a result of those meetings, GAO asked each of the nine NASCUS Board members to provide GAO with documentation from their respective state acts that describe the purpose of credit unions in their state. The nine states represented on the NASCUS Board include: Washington, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, Vermont, California, Texas, Iowa and North Carolina. “They need to see it for themselves,” said Fortney, adding that GAO also asked the board members to provide them information on the different credit union types in their state and the number of CUs for each type. NASCUS will be the conduit for getting the information from the state regulators to GAO. Fortney said GAO did not set a deadline for receiving the information. NASCUS and GAO intend to have another meeting, but Fortney said a date has not yet been set. -

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