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CUNA seeks Treasury backing for interchange delay
WASHINGTON (3/29/11)--In its continuing efforts to pursue relief for credit unions, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Monday encouraged the U.S. Treasury Department to support a delay in the debit fee interchange statute’s implementation. In a meeting with Treasury Deputy Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions Lance Auer and others, CUNA also urged the department to continue its support of legislation that would increase the cap on credit union member business lending (MBL). The Obama administration has publicly endorsed the MBL plan that CUNA says would boost both credit availability for small businesses and the jobs market at no cost to taxpayers. Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) has introduced legislation that would increase the MBL cap to 27.5% of a credit union’s assets. Auer indicated that the administration’s previous support for this legislation had not changed because the legislation itself has not changed since last year. CUNA also urged Treasury to support legislative reform to make supplemental capital available to credit unions, pointing out that U.S. credit unions are the only credit cooperatives in the world without access to such capital. CUNA also raised credit union concerns on regulatory examination issues. On interchange, CUNA asked the Treasury officials to support bills in the House and Senate that would order a delay in the implementation of the interchange rule contained in last year’s Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. That provision orders the Federal Reserve to set limits on the interchange fee that could be charged to merchants who use the debit card system. The interchange language was added to the Dodd-Frank bill “at the 11th hour,” CUNA notes, without congressional hearings. Although it contains a small-issuer exemption that covers all but three credit unions, CUNA and many other parties are concerned that the small-issuer exemption will not work in practice. While CUNA maintains that the government should not engage in price-fixing in interchange fees at all, at a minimum the association urges the U.S. Congress to “stop, study, and start over” on the issue, and asked Treasury to add its voice to that message. Also, as noted, CUNA raised another key credit union issue, noting the important role that supplemental capital could play in enabling credit unions to contribute to the economic recovery by serving their members more extensively. In addition, the CUNA representatives discussed concerns credit unions have with the regulatory examination process. Earlier this year, after an exhaustive look at credit unions' increasing frustrations with the examinations, CUNA developed a 64-page guidance document titled "Supervisory Issues and Examinations: Guidance For Credit Unions During The Current Economic Times And Beyond," and a 24-item bill of "examination rights."


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