News articles that ran last summer in Minnesota about “Lenders Gone Wild” helped prompt a state Senate hearing on safety and soundness.The daylong hearing of the state Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee probed the financial conditions of financial institutions in the state.Executives assured lawmakers that conditions are relatively stable, although the watch list for both banks and credit unions is rising, according to the Minnesota Credit Union Network, the NCUA, the FDIC, the Minnesota Bankers Association and state regulators.“Just like others elsewhere, we do have our share of rising delinquencies and charge-offs, and I commend the committee for doing the right thing to hold this kind of hearing. But speaking for Minnesota credit unions, I think the data show our problems are not as severe as Florida, Arizona or California,” said William Raker, president/CEO of US FCU of Burnsville.Net worth ratios for Minnesota credit unions as of June 30 are at 10.19% compared to 10.03% for credit unions in the rest of the country, said Raker. He also noted that credit union charge-offs are 0.98%, compared to 1.15% in the U.S.Keith Morton, director of NCUA’s Region IV, told the panel that as of June 30 “only three of the 156 credit unions in Minnesota have Camel ratings of 4 or 5,” suggesting that CUs are weathering the difficult economic climate.“The press attention on the stability of financial institutions in Minnesota was something that NCUA generally welcomed” testified Morton. “The public has a right to know about the financial institutions in which they place their money and their trust.” He added, “NCUA is mindful of the volatile climate and has increased staff in Minnesota in order to adequately and assertively manage any safety and soundness issues.”Morton also said that while some Minnesota CUs have “aggressive strategies,” most have steered clear of risky loan and investment products that have plagued other parts of the country during the economic crisis.The Oct. 6 hearing led by the committee’s chairwoman, Sen. Linda Scheid (DFL-Brooklyn Park), had been called to look into the safety-soundness issue and the possible need for higher levels of regulation and examination.–[email protected]

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