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CU has network outage in Vancouver tornado

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FEDERAL WAY, Wash. (1/14/08)--Only one credit union--iQ CU--was affected by the tornado that touched down in the Hazel Dell neighborhood of Vancouver Thursday, says the Washington Credit Union League. The league and the Washington Credit Union Foundation received updates Friday from two credit unions with facilities in the area--Columbia CU and iQ CU, David Bennett, league director of publications, told News Now Friday. "The funnel cloud passed directly over iQ CU's Operations Center," he said. "It didn't lose power, and there was no physical damage to any of its facilities." However, the credit union reported that "something zapped our network and we were down for a couple of hours," he said. "The operations at Columbia CU were unaffected, although some chaos in the area had the credit union on edge," Bennett said. "We should be thankful that there were no serious injuries," he told News Now, noting that people reported the tornado "came out of nowhere." He noted that a tornado in January "is extremely rare." Columbia CU has $771.7 million assets, and iQ CU has $374.2 million. It was not known whether employees or members' homes were directly affected by the rare twister.

Vermont papers look at the state of co-ops

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (1/14/08)--Although the number of credit unions has declined for years due to mergers, the number of members of credit unions has grown dramatically, author Stephen Morris pointed out in Vermont newspapers about the current state of cooperatives. Morris’ article published in the Barre Times-Argus and the Rutland Herald (Jan. 6) focused on the many co-ops doing business in Vermont and mentioned credit unions to exemplify the importance of co-ops. Vermont currently has 31 credit unions, in addition to business cooperatives such as Mad River, Hunger Mountain and Cabot Creamery. The cooperatives “dot the state’s economic landscape,” he said. Yvonne Garand, Vermont State Employees CU business development director, also was interviewed for Morris’ article. She articulated Vermont credit unions’ mission. “We’re not serving our customer base for the benefit of our outside shareholders, but for the common benefit of our members. They are the recipients of any benefits we create,” she stated in the article.

CU System briefs (01/11/2008)

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* JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (1/14/08)--The ATM card of a murdered pregnant Marine, whose disappearance last month received national attention, was used at a Marine FCU ATM by a man who attempted to cover the surveillance camera with a rag while withdrawing funds from her account, said police working on the case (CNN.com Jan. 11). Investigators announced Friday they had discovered the buried body of Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, 20, who had been missing since Dec. 14. Someone withdrew funds from her account on Dec. 14, and the suspicious activity at the ATM occurred on Dec. 24 … * ROSEVILLE, Minn. (1/14/08)--An employee was ambushed and pistol whipped during a robbery attempt by two masked men at Teacher FCU in Roseville Thursday morning. The two men hid in the parking lot and when the unidentified employee arrived to open the credit union, they attacked the victim. One suspect took the employee inside while the other entered the employee's car and waited. When the armed robber inside learned the employee wasn't authorized to open the vault, he struck the employee in the head several times with the barrel of the gun. The victim's head injury required medical attention. The robbers left in the stolen getaway car without any money. The hijacked car was found abandoned about 20 minutes later Star Tribune and TwinCities.com Jan. 10) … * PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (1/14/08)--Florida Aircraft FCU announced it will ground its name and become Velocity Community CU, effective Jan. 28. Florida Aircraft FCU was founded in 1958 to serve employees and family members of Pratt & Whitney Aircraft. It has grown to 24,500 members and more than $230 million in assets. The Velocity logo is a stylized V-Wing, emphasizing looking forward approach while recalling its aviation heritage … * RANTOUL, Ill. (1/14/08)--Credit Union 1 was held up Wednesday morning by one of two men who took a taxi to the robbery, then tried to use the loot to buy a new car. The taxi driver waited while one man robbed the credit union. After the heist, the taxi took the two to a nearby car dealership. Police arrested the men while they were trying to buy a car. Virgil D. Richmond, 19, will be charged for felony robbery and burglary. An unidentified 51-year-old man living at the same address as Richmond was detained but released without being charged. The cab driver said he received an unusually large fare for the cab drive (The News-Gazette Jan. 10) … * UTICA, N.Y. (1/14/08)--The Federal Bureau of Investigation is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and indictment of the suspect in a lunch-hour robbery of the Utica branch of New Hartford, N.Y.-based GPO FCU Thursday morning. The suspect, a heavyset man carrying a dark-colored handgun, fled the scene on foot or in a vehicle. No one was hurt. An undetermined amount was taken (UticaOD.com Jan. 10) …

ID thief steals 665000 from HELOC

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FEDERAL WAY, Wash. (1/14/08)--Using a combination of forgery and a phone tap, an identity thief stole $665,000 from the credit union account of a Madrona, Wash., couple. A representative of Woodstone CU, an $86.2 million asset, Federal Way-based institution, phoned the couple Friday to inform them that $450,000 had been transferred from their home equity line of credit (Seattle Post-Intelligencer Jan. 10). Shortly thereafter, another caller contacted the couple, explaining that the amount transferred was actually $215,000 more--$665,000. Woodstone and the Secret Service began an investigation after the theft had been discovered. One of the victims told Seattle police that the money had been transferred to a New York bank and then out of the country. Investigators informed the man that an identity thief had mimicked his signature, and when representatives phoned to verify authorization of the transfer, the thief intercepted the credit union’s phone call--through a phone tap. The case is currently being reviewed by the Secret Service, Seattle police said.

More green projects bloom among CUs

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MADISON, Wis. (1/14/08)--More credit unions are engaging in green practices and projects to help the environment. Credit Union Resources Inc., the wholly-owned service corporation of the Texas Credit Union League (TCUL), announced that it partnered with Affiliated Power Purchasers International (APPI) in October. The AAPI Savings Solution program assists TCUL members in reducing electricity and natural gas costs (LoneStar Leaguer Jan. 9). The program will provide cost-savings benefits to credit unions, said Tom Doge, senior vice president and chief sales officer for Credit Union Resources. “Anything that reduces the operational expenses of a credit union is good for the members too.” The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) announced it is looking for volunteers to serve on a green advisory committee. Members will discuss how credit unions can be leaders in going green and protecting the environment (Life is a Highway Jan. 3). The latest segment of Pennsylvania Newsmakers, sponsored by the PCUA, featured PCUA President/CEO Jim McCormack and the Pennsylvania Credit Union Foundation Executive Director Joe Wambach discussing the PCUA’s “go green” initiative (Life is a Highway Jan. 4). Redwood CU in Santa Rosa, Calif., recently earned a Top Commercial Real Estate Projects of 2007 award from the North Bay Business Journal. The award recognized the credit union for “Green Reuse,” or taking an existing commercial building and remodeling it to be environmentally responsible.

December CU CEO Confidence Index drops

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (1/14/08)--Credit union CEOs are not as confident as they once were regarding their members’ and institutions’ financial futures, according to a recent survey based on Southwest Corporate FCU’s quarterly CU CEO Confidence Index for December 2007. CEOs’ perspectives of their members’ current financial conditions dropped to 13.14 in December from 23.88 in September 2007, and expectations for the future decreased to 11.08, from 31.08 during the same period. Overall confidence dropped to 23.80 in December, from 34.27 in September. While the marker for credit union’s current financial condition fell about 8 points, to 49.48, the drop was twice that amount for credit union’s financial condition in six months. Loan growth anticipation also dropped to 9.54 from 23.51, and share growth 13.92 from 15.30. “Even though CEOs previously had concern over their members’ situations, it didn’t translate into outlook for their institutions,” said Brian Turner, manager of advisory services. “The unrelenting doom-speak about the housing slowdown, impairment exposure and slower job growth apparently is finding its way to CEOs.” The survey’s results also demonstrate a “domino effect” on CEO outlooks. Concern for members translates into lower loan and share growth expectations, and “throw into the mix anticipation for lower market rates, and CEOs worry about the impact lower asset yields and stagnant share rates will have on gross margins,” Turner said. Despite lower confidence levels, share growth at credit unions will increase in the first quarter, stabilizing in the second quarter, Turner said. Loan growth, slow in the first quarter, will improve during the second quarter. Surplus liquidity also will change, and credit unions will see that revenue from investment portfolios will increase as home and vehicle sales remain dormant, Turner added. The yield curve has a traditional shape, which is good for asset yields. Credit unions have room to lower non-term share rates to help support margins, although rising term certificate demands could offset benefits. During the next six months, credit union managers should re-employ monthly loan maturities to the market’s relative value profile and manage the growth in term of share certificates, Turner advised. The Confidence Index survey had a 23% response rate. The number of respondents, 194, was the largest in the survey’s four-year history.

CUs test results in lead-paint recall of coin banks

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RALEIGH, N.C. (1/14/08)--About 1,300 fish coin banks issued by Coastal FCU are being recalled after the credit union had the banks tested and found excessive levels of lead. TJ Promotions of South El Monte, Calif., in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, is recalling the plaster banks, which are shaped like a fish and are orange with white stripes (consumeraffairs.com and product-rviews.net Jan. 11). The $1.747 billion asset, Raleigh-based Coastal FCU provided the coin banks--which were manufactured in China--as gifts to members in North Carolina from February 2006 through September 2007. The fish coin banks contain excessive lead paint levels, violating lead safety standards. Coastal FCU informed the U.S. Product Safety Commission about the problem in September after it had the fish coin bank independently tested with a state agency, Joe Mecca, Coastal FCU community relations director, told News Now. “We had the product tested for our own soundness of mind, due to all the prevalent concerns about lead paint in children’s products,” Mecca said. “The agency told us that there was lead content, and that we should notify the distributor and the Product Safety Commission. The commission told us it was a problem to be handled by the distributor--TJ Promotions--which is the standard policy in cases such as these.” To inform members about the problem, Coastal FCU put posters in all of its branches, placed a notice in its quarterly newsletter in October, and had all employees inform members to whom they remember giving the bank, Mecca said. Because the banks were a free gift, the credit union is not certain who received them, he added. Most of the banks available were not handed out, so they were recalled before they could be issued, Mecca explained. Replacement banks are being custom-designed by a U.S. manufacturer and will be given out to members, he added. There have been no reports of illness or injury from the product. Members should immediately take recalled coin banks away from children and return them to the location from which they were obtained. Members will receive free replacement banks as soon as they are available, according to TJ Promotions. For more information, use the links.

New Jersey New York groups hope to form CUs

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MILLVILLE, N.J., and QUEENS, N.Y. (1/14/08)--Community-based nonprofit groups in New Jersey and New York are looking to bring more credit unions to those states in 2008. In New Jersey, Tri-County Community Action Partnership, a Bridgeton-based nonprofit, announced at a news conference Thursday it is combining its efforts with local financial institutions and has requested approval from the state to start a credit union (TheDaily Journal.com Jan. 11). The credit union would provide services such as check cashing, mortgage lending and other fundamental banking services. Colonial Bank was the first contributor with a check for $100,000, said Millville Mayor James Quinn, who also is a bank director. The reason for the contribution is that it is often hard for people with poor credit histories to obtain loans from a regular bank, Quinn added. In New York, Queens Community House, a borough-wide nonprofit group, hopes to open a credit union sometime this year to serve the communities of Corona, Elmhurst, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, according to Zoe Sullivan, director of employment and community development for Queens Community House (Queens Chronicle Jan. 10). Rather than draw customers away from banks, the purpose of the credit union would be to provide an alternative for people such as low-income residents and immigrants, who may not have access to financial services, Sullivan said. Currently, Queens Community House is conducting research to determine area residents’ financial needs and how a credit union might help them. The goal of collecting 1,000 surveys almost has been reached--with 845 already collected--Sullivan said.