LAYTON, Utah – When it comes to both credit unions and Wal-Mart Stores, the chairman of the American Bankers Association, Harris Simmons, is clearly out of touch with his fellow bankers. That’s the view of John Lund, the chairman of the Utah League of Credit Unions, who charges Simmons has been out of the mainstream with his crusade to destroy CUs and is in the same boat by his apparent acquiescence in letting Wal-Mart win a Utah beachhead through its industrial loan application. Most of the banking industry opposes the Wal-Mart application, said Lund, but Simmons is forecasting its inevitable entry into Utah. Lund made his comments in an interview during the trade group’s annual meeting held at the Davis Conference Center in this Salt Lake suburb. Alluding to banking hypocrisy over large profits this year, Lund, who is executive vice president of America First FCU of Ogden, said self-interest is apparently a guiding force in Simmons’ Wal-Mart view. That’s because “he would have to go against Wal-Mart” and the existing corporate ILCs in Utah which are dues-paying members of the Utah Bankers Association.

There are nearly 40 ILCs in the state handling a variety of card and limited business functions and operated by such firms as Goldman Sachs, Toyota, G.E., and Target Stores. The FDIC held three days of deposit insurance hearings on the Wal-Mart bid last month with vocal opposition from scores of independent banks from across the Midwest and West complaining of the dangers of mixing commerce and retail banking. Lund said those views run counter to Simmons’ comments expressed recently in a Salt Lake newspaper about dropping the barriers to the Wal-Mart application even though the Utah Department of Financial Institutions has yet to formally accept the Wal-Mart application. A department spokesman said under its rules if it does accept the application it would hold public hearings just as the FDIC did in Washington and Kansas City. On other topics, Lund, joined by Scott Simpson, president/CEO of the league, and incoming vice-chairman Brett Blackburn, said the industry has fared well on various fronts in 2006, despite court and regulatory setbacks on underserved and FOM expansion. Tough regulatory burdens, however, lie ahead in dealing with new legislation like the Bank Secrecy Act, they said.

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