FRAMINGHAM, Mass. – Against a backdrop of bankers once again crying foul over forays by Wal-Mart Stores, the Massachusetts Department of Banking this week began holding a series of statewide public hearings on the retailer's application to cash checks at its stores. Taking a jibe at the banker complaints, the Massachusetts Credit Union League said while the giant retailer remains a potential for formidable competition to all financial institutions including CUs, it is a typical bank approach "to try to either legislate or regulate competition." Wal-Mart already offers checking cashing in 45 other states and sells money orders and transfers, but is required by Massachusetts law to apply for the planned service at 44 stores in the state. The first of the public hearings, where the issue of Wal-Mart's bid to charter an industrial loan bank in Utah was raised, was held in Pittsfield Monday with a second of seven hearings slated in Framingham tomorrow night. Objecting to the Wal-Mart service is the Massachusetts Bankers Association which argues the retailer is fostering poor financial management practices by appealing to low- and moderate-income customers "who will want to make impulse purchases" instead of cashing checks at a bank or using direct deposit.

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