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The merger trend among small credit unions, particularly in Wisconsin, surfaced anew last week with disclosure by the $1.4 billion Landmark Credit Union that it had merged with four small Milwaukee area CUs. Three of the four were victims of loan losses, net worth problems or had been buffeted by the March bankruptcy of Central States Mortgage Co., the industry CUSO that closed its doors in February after running afoul of subprime mortgages. Several of the four were reportedly investors in Central States or had interest in CU Fleet, a troubled Wisconsin vehicle leasing firm. The four newly-merged CUs, with assets totaling $125 million, include three from the same Milwaukee suburb, West Allis. The four merged institutions are WISCOR Credit Union, Lifetime Credit Union and Allco Credit Union, all of West Allis, and First Security Credit Union of Elm Grove. Only WISCOR was considered in sound financial shape, said officials, and it sought out the merger with Landmark based on a need for economic efficiencies and a desire to improve its product line. Ron Kase, president/CEO of Landmark in New Berlin, also a Milwaukee suburb, acknowledged that all of the mergers took place over the summer and were being announced to the public in a phased schedule as computer conversions take place at each of the CUs. Only the WISCOR announcement was made public in a press release distributed to Wisconsin media last week, but news of the other mergers will be issued about one a month until yearend, said Pat Ransom, Landmark’s vice president of marketing. Kase said the lag time was implemented to allow smooth computer switches to take place at each of the CUs and avoid member confusion. Landmark said that for two of the CUs, which it did not identify, were acquired in a bidding procedure instituted by regulators. Suzanne Cowan, director of the Wisconsin Office of Credit Unions, declined to discuss bidders but said that the NCUA had a role in pushing ahead with several of the mergers, two of which were approved in June. Cowan said Landmark was acting properly in doling out the merger announcements to ensure smooth transitions. “That’s a wise move,” said Cowan. Among the three most troubled CUs, the $35 million First Security reported losses of $2.3 million as of June 30 after experiencing a $153,000 write-down at yearend. Allco lost $455,000 in 2008 and $700,000 in the first half of 2009. –[email protected]

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