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CUs call for less reg burden in field hearing
Wausau, WIS. (11/1/11)--The increasing number of regulations imposed on credit unions is costly, confusing to members, and creates "an unnecessary burden without any measure of the effectiveness of these changes," Central City CU CEO and Credit Union National Association (CUNA) board member Pat Wesenberg said in testimony delivered before a Monday House Financial Services financial institutions and consumer credit subcommittee field hearing.

She reiterated CUNA's recent call for the National Credit Union Administration to impose a moratorium on new regulations for at least the next six months and reinstate the RegFlex program. "There are no new, material systemic problems with the credit union system, and current safety and soundness concerns within natural person and corporate credit unions are being well managed, Wesenberg said.

Credit union executives Pat Wesenberg and Mark Willer are among those that testified during a Monday House Financial Services financial institutions and consumer credit subcommittee field hearing on regulatory burden. (Wisconsin CU League photo)
Wesenberg added that she is concerned by potential new regulations from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

"In the wake of the financial crisis, credit unions face what might be best described as a crisis of creeping complexity related to regulatory burden.  It is not necessarily any one single regulation that is overly burdensome but rather the totality of regulations, the frequency with which the regulations change, and the sometimes varying application of the regulation by field examiners which sometimes conflicts with or expands upon the original intent of the regulation," Wesenberg added.

Mark Willer, COO of Eau Claire, Wis.-based Royal CU, also testified on behalf of his credit union. Willer said the current regulatory environment harms his credit union's central goal of "providing services designed to improve the economic and social well-being of all Members from all socio-economic backgrounds and to return financial value to all those who participate in our Member-owned financial cooperative."

Recent financial regulatory legislation, "while well intentioned," has resulted in "significant unintended consequences that confuse and financially harm the very consumers they intended to protect," Willer added.

Wesenberg said this regulatory creep has forced her $178 million in asset, 22,000-member credit union to hire a full time compliance officer and has redirected her lending staff's priorities to training for the constant changes. "This is valuable time that could be spent trying to develop products that would help serve our membership better during these extremely difficult economic times," she said.

Both credit union representatives said their credit unions also deal with increased software costs and other compliance costs as a result of new regulations. "If regulations continue to come from so many directions, I don't see how we will be able to keep up," Wessenberg said.

Mosinee, Wisconsin Mayor Al Erickson, Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council representative Bethany Sanchez, and bank and business representatives also testified during the field hearing.

For more on the hearing, and a recent story on CUNA's discussion of regulatory priorities with the NCUA, use the resource links.
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