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Fed interchange surveys must not impose burden CUNA

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WASHINGTON (11/16/11)--The Federal Reserve should ensure that its interchange market surveys, which are still under development, collect the data needed to accurately reflect all costs associated with debit card programs and debit card transactions while limiting the reporting burden for the financial institutions, the Credit Union National Association and other finance industry trades said in a recent letter to the Fed.

The Fed earlier this year released for public comment separate sample surveys to collect information on costs, debit card usage, and interchange fees: One survey is for debit card issuers, and another is for payment card networks.

Issuers and payment card network representatives will be required to respond to these surveys. Issuers will also be required to respond to a separate survey that requests information on the use of general-use prepaid cards in federal, state, and local government-administered payment programs and the interchange and cardholder fees charged when these cards are used.

The Fed surveys are intended to compile aggregate or summary information concerning the costs incurred, and interchange transaction fees charged or received by issuers or payment card networks in connection with debit card transactions.

The Fed would then use this information to generally monitor the interchange rule's impact on markets and, more specifically, to monitor the effectiveness of the interchange fee limitation exemption for small issuers.

Revising these surveys would benefit the Fed, debit card issuers, payment card networks, and the debit card marketplace, the letter said.

CUNA, the American Bankers Association, the Consumer Bankers Association, the Financial Services Roundtable, the Independent Community Bankers of America, the National Association of Federal Credit Unions, the Midsize Bank Coalition of America, the Clearing House Association, and the Clearing House Payments Company cosigned the letter to the Fed.

In the letter, the trades recommended that the Fed ensure that the surveys are drafted "with sufficient specificity and direction to elicit complete and accurate information reporting" while also allowing for cost accounting differences across issuers.

The letter also encouraged the Fed to ensure that the reporting burden "falls on the proper party, particularly with respect to government-administered, general-use prepaid cards."

The letter also suggested that financial institutions that are exempt from the interchange rule still be allowed to respond to the interchange issuer survey.

Doing so would help the Fed "collect information that will allow it to make well-informed decisions based on a robust understanding of the debit card marketplace," the letter added.

For the full letter, use the resource link.

Higher loan limit stabilizes housing market CUNA

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WASHINGTON (11/16/11)--The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) stressed that restoring the Federal Housing Administration loan limits "will provide consumers in all markets access to safe, affordable mortgage financing," and will stabilize the mortgage market as private investors re-enter the market, in a letter to members of Congress.
CUNA in the letter urged Congress to restore FHA mortgage loan limits by supporting H.R. 2112, the minibus conference report. The letter was cosigned by the National Association of Realtors, the Mortgage Bankers of America, the National Association of Homebuilders, and other groups.
Language that would return the FHA's insurance limit for single-family home loans to $729,750 is attached to the minibus spending bill.
The mortgage legislation, known as the Homeownership Affordability Act of 2011, was introduced earlier this year by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), and co-sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). The legislation would allow the FHA to guarantee mortgages up to $729,750, or 125% of local median prices for single family homes, through Dec. 31, 2013.
The maximum conforming loan limit was previously set at $729,750, but fell to $625,500 on Oct. 1 when a loan limit extension could not be agreed to by Congress. The Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) of 2008 requires that Congress set maximum conforming loan limits each year.

CUNA testifies today on community bank bill

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WASHINGTON (11/16/11)--Credit Union National Association (CUNA) President/CEO Bill Cheney will tell members the House Financial Services subcommittee on financial institutions today that community-based institutions need to be able to "spend more time and resources serving their members or customers, and less time complying with burdensome regulations that have been the result of negligence and misdeeds perpetrated by the largest banks or unregulated financial services providers."

Cheney is scheduled to testify on the Communities First Act (H.R. 1697), which would loosen some community bank regulations and expand the ability of certain banks to incorporate under Subchapter S of the Internal Revenue Code.

In prepared testimony, Cheney notes that the same bank representatives that are aggressively lobbying to increase the bank tax advantages under Subchapter S also are working to impose additional taxes on credit unions, arguing that credit unions' federal tax status provides a competitive advantage and that imposing additional taxes on credit unions would "level the playing field."

This type of banker opposition to credit union priorities, which often comes in the form of banker testimony at credit union hearings, helps bank shareholders, but ultimately harms consumers and small businesses, according to CUNA  testimony.

Further, banker opposition to credit union legislation to raise the credit union member business lending cap "has meant that hundreds of thousands of jobs that could have been created through additional credit union business lending have gone uncreated," Cheney is expected to tell the subcommittee.

Cheney is also expected to call for greater credit union access to supplemental forms of capital.

The CUNA CEO is scheduled to appear before the subcommittee at 2 p.m. (ET). Other scheduled witnesses include National Association of Federal Credit Unions CEO Fred Becker, academics, and bank trade group representatives.

Election analyst Charlie Cook to speak at 2012 GAC

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WASHINGTON (11/16/11)--One of Washington, D.C.'s most-trusted voices on all-things political, Charlie Cook, is scheduled to address the Credit Union National Association's (CUNA) 2012 Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC), which will be held here March 18-22 at the Washington Convention Center.

Cook, with an encyclopedic knowledge of the political landscape and a keen eye for the broad implications of the latest political changes, has also made a name for himself as a political journalist. Known for penning a twice-weekly column for Roll Call, Capitol Hill's renowned newspaper, before joining the National Journal Group in 1998, Cook currently writes a weekly column for both the National Journal magazine and the Washington Quarterly.

Cook serves as editor and publisher of the Cook Political Report, providing premier, non-partisan political analysis on elections and campaigns for the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, state governors and the president of the United States.

Cook also is regularly featured as a political expert on national media outlets including: ABC, CBS, Good Morning America, The Today Show, Nightline, Meet the Press, This Week, CNBC, MSNBC, C-Span, and National Public Radio. Cook has also served as an election night analyst for CBS News, NBC News and CNN.

In his March 20, 11 a.m. (ET) GAC address, Cook will discuss today's political environment, the balance of power on Capitol Hill, and how it all could be affected by the coming November elections. He will use poll numbers, economic indicators and historical data to forecast the fortunes of each party in a balanced, non-partisan manner and provide attendees with the concrete information they need to prepare for 2012 and beyond.

Cook will join former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and journalistic duo, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, as keynote speakers for the 2012 GAC.  Registration and housing information can be found using the resource link below.

CUNA's GAC is the credit union movement's premier political event and its largest national conference, each year providing more than 4,000 credit union executives and board members an opportunity to hear influential leaders from Congress, the Administration and the federal regulatory agencies.

Capitol Hill visits, when attendees meet face-to-face with their members of Congress and staff to discuss issues that concern the credit union movement, will take place the afternoon of Wednesday, March 21, and the morning of Thursday, March 22.

Recognized as the key conference to attend for political impact, credit union networking and industry updates, the GAC also offers a wide array of educational breakout sessions, the industry's largest exhibitor showcase, guest/family programs to tour Washington's sights, and special entertainment including an opening concert and the closing Gala Reception and Dance. And this year, the whole event will be kicked off by American Idol star Taylor Hicks, who will perform at the opening concert, sponsored by the CUNA Councils.

Hicks and his band will take the stage on Sunday night, March 18, at 8:30 p.m. (ET), after the grand opening of the Exhibit Hall.  Hicks, the fifth-season winner of American Idol in 2006, is known for his gritty, soulful, southern vocals and engaging live performances.

Additional speakers and session topics will be announced in the weeks to come.

Use the resource link for more information.

Inside Washington (11/15/2011)

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  • WASHINGTON (11/16/11)--Due to a scheduled power outage, the National Credit Union Administration's website will be unavailable from 10 a.m. to 5.p.m. (ET) on Saturday …
  • WASHINGTON (11/16/11)--Although it remains to be determined, Wal-Mart may be subject to supervision by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The giant retailer offers multiple card products through third-party institutions and check-cashing, remittance and wire transfer services. Whether Wal-Mart is subject to CFPB examination depends in part on the agency ruling that will define the scope of its nonbank supervision (American Banker Nov. 15). It is also contingent upon the confirmation of a director for the new agency. The CFPB is limited in its enforcement of financial institutions without a Senate-confirmed director. The Dodd-Frank Act authorizes the CFPB to oversee several nonbank financial service providers for compliance with consumer protection laws, including nonbank mortgage companies, payday lenders and private student-loan providers. The bureau also is allowed to examine so-called "larger participants" in other sectors, determine which markets it monitors and define "larger participants." In June, the agency issued a request for comment on which nonbank sectors it could examine. Among the sectors the bureau requested comment on were money transmitters and prepaid card providers. Wal-Mart offers both services …
  • WASHINGTON (11/16/11)--U.S. Sen. Scott Brown (D-Mass.) on Monday endorsed the nomination of Richard Cordray to lead the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). He is the first Republican to back Cordray's nomination (American Banker Nov. 15). Elizabeth Warren, the CFPB's chief architect and the former special adviser to the Treasury secretary in charge of getting the agency off the ground in its first year, is challenging Brown in his bid for re-election. This summer, 44 Republicans sent a letter threatening to filibuster the nomination of any director unless the new bureau is overhauled and Congress is granted more oversight. Brown was one of three Republicans who did not sign the letter …
  • WASHINGTON (11/16/11)--The Treasury Department's Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund) has opened the fiscal year (FY) 2012 funding round of the Native American CDFI Assistance Program (NACA Program). This funding round makes available roughly $12 million, subject to final congressional appropriations, in awards to Native Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), and entities proposing to become or create Native CDFIs that primarily serve Native American, Alaskan Native or Native Hawaiian communities. Application information and materials can be found on the CDFI Fund website