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CUNA’s initial estimates for its annual Governmental Affairs Conference indicated that attendance was going to be way down. As credit unions and vendors are pulling tight on the purse strings, one of the first things to go is conference travel and marketing.However, by an ironic stroke of fortune for the GAC, the NCUA Board announced the possibility of a 56-basis-point premium for natural person credit unions to cover the $1 billion U.S. Central capital infusion not long before the meeting was scheduled to take place. Attendance ended up being down but not nearly as much as originally anticipated.Certainly this boosted credit unions’ clout on the Hill and GAC income, but it also demonstrates the critical nature of this matter for credit unions. (I also find it ironic that people complain the government doesn’t react until crisis strikes; I guess we’re all guilty of that.)With that, I’ll begin the top five list-in no particular order-of things you did NOT hear echoing through the concrete halls of the Washington Convention Center last week.My ROA is too high. Listening to credit union executives in the sessions and around the halls of the GAC, they are truly concerned that the possible NCUA insurance premium will do some serious material harm to their institutions if the NCUA follows through with it. Fortunately, after making this announcement in a rather in-your-face way, the agency seems willing to listen to other ideas. While credit unions are rightfully cautious about criticizing their regulator at times, this is an issue where they really need to passionately express their point of view.NCUA Board members getting mauled. Again, primarily with the corporate recapitalization plan, I was quite surprised the conversation was pointed but relatively tame. I realize that there is a modicum of professionalism that should be maintained, but credit unions really need to leave some type of impression on the agency and its representatives in order to avoid potentially negative action.Credit unions outnumber the banks, yet the comment letters the banking regulators receive from their constituents far exceed the comment letters from the credit union industry to the NCUA, which is a shame. With everything that is happening in credit unions’ sphere, from delinquencies to cram-downs to a potential premium, I found it disconcerting that the lines to meet with the NCUA Board members and agency executives didn’t sprawl down the vast hallways of the convention center.Which brings me to a third thing that was not heard at the GAC last week: I just haven’t walked enough. The convention center is sprawling and seems cavernous at times relative to the 4,000-plus GAC attendees. Personally, I was sick of being jammed into the Washington Hilton, shoulder-to-shoulder up and down all those stairs, that the conference had outgrown, but the vastness of the WCC doesn’t lend itself to the sense of community and, frankly, the knees of some of the graying executives and volunteers that attend. Not sure what can be done about the latter, but hopefully the GAC will grow into the WCC like a well filled-out adult from a gangly adolescent.Not that the GAC is immature; the operations appear very professional, the curriculum is solid (if not always executed in an interesting manner), and lawmakers know that this is an event they should not miss. Attendees also recognize the importance of attending such a conference: discussing credit union issues with lawmakers on their turf. The timing at the beginning of the congressional session is perfect, because a lot of the hot topics (i.e. cram-downs and deposit insurance) are up for action, even in the very same week as happened this year. A big topic of discussion was concern over how cram-downs would affect credit unions’ subordinate mortgage loans, loan losses, provisioning and pricing, among other things.A rush of news. In the past, these events would produce some news. NCUA Board members would make big announcements or a lawmaker would introduce a new credit union bill. Nothing like that this year.And speaking of not making news, while some had speculated that ABC would run an expos? on credit union executive travel the same week, it had not aired as of press time. While I understand ABC wanting to make something of their investment, I’m not sure what they could do with it. One thing is for sure, Washington in February would never be considered a junket.And finally, whether its legislative fights like cram-downs or regulatory tests like the corporate stabilization plan or the exigent economic times, what you didn’t hear was credit unions backing down from a challenge.–Comments? E-mail [email protected]

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