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LYNCHBURG, Va. — It’s been more than a year since Navy Federal Credit Union quit CUNA and the Virginia Credit Union League.But leaders of both trade groups expressed hope again last week that new policies and the industry’s plight in the economic crisis might bring the nation’s largest CU back into the fold. “We would certainly welcome them back, and we remain in contact with their management as we work toward that goal,” explained Rick Pillow, president/CEO of the Virginia league, which since the fall of 2007 has led a quiet campaign to get Navy Federal to rejoin.The latest move was the Nov. 1 hiring of a well-known former Richmond lawmaker and lobbyist, Witt Clement, to represent the trade group. Clement replaces the league’s previous firm, which had ties to the payday industry that triggered Navy Federal’s departure from CUNA and the league.Navy Federal’s management had complained of a conflict of interest in the firm, Williams Mullen of Washington, which represented CUs and the Community Financial Services Association, the national trade association for payday lenders.A spokeswoman for Navy Federal said, “it was aware of the hiring of the Richmond law firm, but the situation has not changed” regarding reaffiliation.Pillow said the Virginia league leadership is heartened by hiring of Clement, a partner in Hunton & Williams and “a respected former lawmaker who has no payday clients.” Clement is former Secretary of Transportation in the administration of Virginia Gov. Mark Warner and a 14-year member of the Virginia House of Delegates.Pillow said he understands Navy Federal’s original view, but the national turmoil has made industry unity paramount and so “we’d hoped discussions could resume” with Navy Federal management, led by CEO Cutler Dawson.A CUNA spokesman echoing Pillow said the national trade group would also “welcome Navy back into the national organization.”On another disaffiliation, CUNA and the leagues have long been interested in also getting Pentagon FCU to reaffiliate, which has been out of the trade groups for nearly eight years. But a Pentagon spokesman said “there is no change” in the Pentagon position.Separately, the Virginia league said its first major safety and soundness radio and billboard ad campaign started in October and sharp gains in consumer awareness have occurred as hits on the “Find a Credit Union” search service have more than doubled.In an e-mail sent to members this month, the league noted, “As of Nov. 18, 1,889 search results have been returned with a listing for a Virginia-based credit union, compared to 802 for all of October and 767 for September.”–jrubenstein@cutimes.com

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