CUNA’s attempts to craft a package that would include legislation to increase the credit union member business lending cap to 27.5% of assets and extend FDIC deposit insurance for bank transaction accounts would have to overcome one influential group: the American Bankers Association.
James Ballentine, chief lobbyist for the ABA, said his trade association adamantly opposes such a deal because a Transaction Account Guarantee bill would also extend the same share insurance benefits to credit union non-interest paying transaction accounts.
“[Credit unions] would certainly be included, and we would ask that they would be included,” Ballentine said. “So asking for that and more, we certainly think is a bit of an overreach.”
The bank lobbyist said efforts to increase the MBL cap have not succeeded because “facts indicate there are a number of credit unions that have more than enough business lending capacity already.”
Additionally, he said, the bill would benefit a select few credit unions.
“There are over 7,000 credit unions and about that many banks, and we’re not going out and requesting something that would only apply to 29 banks,” he said. “We would never do that, and I think Congress recognizes that.”
CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney disagreed with that claim, saying “it’s not true, but even if it were, so what? They can’t have it both ways. The important thing most credit unions understand is it’s important to raise the cap, because it ought to be an individual credit union’s decision how to best serve its members.”
Letters to Congress on the subject from CUNA say 500 credit unions, not 30 as claimed by bankers, are currently managing business lending to the cap.
Ballentine said credit unions that want the MBL cap increased are “aggressive and outspoken on the issue,” and have made their position known to CUNA and NAFCU.
“Sometimes the vocal majority can overwhelm the silent majority,” he said.
Ballentine added that the ABA has heard from many credit unions who oppose the legislation; many have called ABA Senior Economist Keith Leggett, who pens the “Credit Union Watch” blog to voice their opinion, he said.
Ballentine said he was not familiar with an April 20 poll conducted by American Banker that revealed only 55% of banks oppose raising the credit union member business lending cap. Additionally, the poll found that 28% of participants were in favor of it, and another 17% would approve of lifting the cap if credit unions were also required to maintain enough capital to cover potential losses.
“I can tell you that we just finished our summer meeting in Chicago with a number of bankers across the country and [the opposition] was unmistakable,” Ballentine said. “You can’t misinterpret how strongly they felt on credit union issues. At that meeting, they made it clear to us that they are adamantly opposed to the cap increase.”
The seasoned lobbyist was hesitant to speculate on the odds of getting S. 2231 passed during the current Congressional session, but said based upon the history of previous efforts, it’s “not good.”
“More important, the days for legislative activity on the Hill are short, and Congress is getting closer to going home every day, so I’d put the odds at long. I don’t think my credit union brethren could disagree with that,” he said.