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Court rules Polish and Slavic CU didnt violate ECOA
BROOKLYN, N.Y. (7/19/11)--A federal court has dismissed a lawsuit against Polish & Slavic FCU, saying the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based credit union did not violate the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) when it denied a Belarusian man membership. Andrei Chizh had filed suit Sept. 13, 2010, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Brooklyn, saying he was unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of national origin when he was denied application for membership in Jan. 6, 2010. He is Belarusian. The credit union had told him he should fill out an application to a Polish/Slavic organization within its field of membership to qualify for membership, according to court documents. Polish & Slavic FCU, the nation's largest ethic based credit union with $1.4 billion in assets. ECOA makes it unlawful for any creditor to discriminate against any applicant, with respect to any aspect of a credit transaction. According to court documents, Chizh maintained that by applying for plural accounts via membership at the credit union he was an applicant for credit. The credit union maintained he had not applied for credit and was denied membership because the documents he submitted--a driver's license with a post office address instead of a permanent physical address, a letter from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an expired Belarusian passport, and a copy of a bank statement that was "extremely poor quality"--did not meet the credit union's membership standards. Red flags were also raised when he presented 20 different credit cards in his name, many of them issued in 2009. In agreeing with the credit union and dismissing the case, U.S. District Judge Sandra L. Townes said in the July 11th opinion that Chizh "seeks to conflate the process of applying for membership with the process of applying for credit. He had asserted that ECOA "protects not only people who filled a credit application, but also people who intend to apply for a credit account. "Neither the facts nor the law support this interpretation," said Judge Townes. "A precondition for credit eligibility is different from an aspect of a direct application…applying for membership in a federal credit union or for a savings account does not automatically constitute a direct application to a creditor for an extension of the right to defer payment. No count has read a requirement into the ECOA that federal credit unions must apply the rules governing an application for a credit card, personal loan, vehicle loan, mortgage or other extension of credit when considering for a savings account, a checking account or membership in the organization." Courts, she said, "have done just the opposite."


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