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WASHINGTON — Although credit unions for the most part have behaved responsibly, they could be hurt during a regulatory restructuring because an overzealous Congress might overreach, according to a panel of economic and political experts.“They may not notice us and leave us alone or more likely not notice us, and we’ll be swept up in what they do to others,” CUNA Chief Economist Bill Hampel said during a discussion during CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference.Lobbyist Sloan Rappoport said credit unions usually aren’t discussed at the highest levels of decision making, but that doesn’t mean they’ll come through the upcoming legislative discussions of restructuring unscathed.President Obama has said he wants to restructure a regulatory system that he thinks is outdated and doesn’t reflect current economic realities but hasn’t spelled out the details.Credit unions are especially concerned about the possibility that the NCUA could disappear as a separate agency and that credit unions could be regulated by the same agency that oversees banks.CUNA Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Mary Mitchell Dunn, who moderated the panel, said keeping the NCUA independent wouldn’t necessarily make it easier for the trade associations to influence.“It’s not always easy to affect NCUA because, as an independent agency, they have a lot of latitude. We are supporting keeping it separate not because it makes our job easier but because it’s better for the credit union system. We don’t want a system in which credit unions are paying for banks’ mistakes,” she said.Rappoport, who lobbies for credit unions and other financial clients, said “exempting anyone from the restructuring will be a hard political argument to make,” though he added that having a “one-size-fits-all regulator wouldn’t work well.”Victoria McGrane, a staff writer for Politico, said Congress is likely to approve a regulator for systemic risk, but disagreement continues over whether that would be done by the Federal Reserve or by another agency.Hampel said the goal of any restructuring should be to make the system more efficient and effective, especially since seven different financial institution regulators currently exist.He noted that the previous efforts to reform the system were interesting intellectual exercises but didn’t have a chance of passing because of the convergence of special interests. This time it will be different because of the current economic problems and the failures of some of the regulators, he said.McGrane predicted that the debate on restructuring won’t necessarily break down along party lines.“In the House, some of the Blue Dog [fiscally conservative] Democrats and moderates have said they want to focus on the issue and try to make the final bill more probusiness than some of their liberal colleagues want,” she said. “In the Senate, [Banking Committee Chairman Chris] Dodd likes unanimous votes on his panel so [Ranking Republican Richard] Shelby has a lot of sway and can foil the House Democrats.”–[email protected]

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