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CU System briefs (11/24/2008)

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* JACKSON, Miss. (11/25/08)--A man was shot to death Saturday while allegedly attempting to break into a vehicle at an apartment complex behind Jackson-based Magnolia FCU. The man was identified as Brandon Lenard of Jackson, 20. Witnesses said Lenard was breaking into an SUV when the owner of the vehicle caught him inside the vehicle (WLBT.com Nov. 24) … * HARRISBURG, Pa. (11/25/08)--The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association board approved a contribution of $10,000 to the Pennsylvania Credit Union Foundation from Pacul Services Inc. (Life is a Highway Nov. 24). The board also approved adding an existing investment policy of both PCUA and Pacul to make funds available for equity investments … * ORLANDO, Fla. (11/25/08)--An Orlando woman who headed a theft ring that defrauded several Central Florida banks and credit unions was sentenced to 20 years in prison, followed by 20 years' probation. Lucie Mae Thomas, 42, pleaded guilty to racketeering, grand theft and forgery. Thomas and seven others, who also pleaded guilty, set up accounts with bogus checks and withdrew cash from the accounts, netting about $5,000 daily, said prosecutors. The institutions lost more than $100,000 (Orlando Sentinel Nov. 22) … * APPLETON, Wis. (11/25/08)--Community First CU, based in Appleton, and the J.J. Keller Foundation have agreed to match up to $30,000 each for the Women's Fund for the Fox Valley Region's year-end appeal (Post-Crescent Nov. 23). The challenge grant money will be used to support grants from the Women's Fund and programming to help meet basic needs and secure long-term economic security through financial education as part of the fund's Financial Fluency Initiative … * MINNEAPOLIS (11/25/08)--A man who robbed U.S. FCU Friday is believed to be the same person who robbed a U.S. Bank branch two days earlier, according to law enforcement officials. The man presented a teller at the credit union with a note demanding cash. The note was written on a torn piece of tan paper. The teller gave him the cash, and the robber fled (Associated Press via Star Tribune Nov. 22) …

INewsdayI touts CU benefits

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NEW YORK (11/25/08)--Credit union advantages were the focus of an article Sunday in Newsday, which noted that credit unions are a "viable alternative to a traditional bank" as credit begins to dry up elsewhere. Newsday listed the advantages:
* Better rates on loans and savings at credit unions; * Cheaper banking with free checking and lower fees; * Convenience through ATM networks and online banking; * More personal loans and payday-alternative loans at lower rates than payday lenders; * Mortgage loans with lower closing costs; and * Better rates on new-car loans.
The article also appeared in the Allentown Morning Call Sunday.

Economic crisis a chance to teach kids about money

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RICHARDSON, Texas (11/25/08)--Texans CU has a student-run branch to teach youth about finances. The branch of the $1.830 billion asset, Richardson, Texas-based credit union is located at the Career and Technical Education Centre in the Frisco Independent School District (Dallas Morning News Nov. 24). The ongoing U.S. economic crisis presents a great opportunity for parents to instill values and beliefs in their children, Jack Smith, Texans vice president of branch sales, told the newspaper. Cynthia Nevels, executive director of the Jr. Financial Literacy Academy Inc. in Irving, Texas, hopes that young people will learn that if they cannot afford something such as a house or car, then they should not buy it, she told the paper. Learning to pay bills on time will help kids get better loans in the future, Smith said. Although the current economic turmoil is painful for many people, it provides parents with a unique chance to teach their children valuable financial lessons, the paper said.

Local CUs banks in Yakima picking up business

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YAKIMA, Wash. (11/25/08)--Credit unions and community banks are doing well in Yakima, Wash., the Yakima Herald reported Monday. Yakima Valley CU increased its deposits by 4.7% between September and October. It also experienced a record number of account openings in the past few months, the newspaper said. Yakima Valley has $240 million in assets. Catholic CU reported a 1.8% increase in deposits between Aug. 31 and Oct. 31, the newspaper said. Catholic CU has $164 million in assets. Mina Worthington, Yakima Valley president/CEO, told the Herald that the rise in business at credit unions could be due to consumers’ perception that larger financial institutions aren’t as stable as smaller ones. Several credit unions in Yakima, including Yakima Valley and Catholic CU, also were recently awarded perfect five-star ratings from BauerFinancial Inc. High ratings are presented to institutions that are well-capitalized and can prove their deposits are secure. Credit unions practice traditional banking and have stayed away from subprime lending, BauerFinancial President Karen Dorway told the newspaper. To read the full article, use the link.

MnCUN state organizations launch fraud campaign

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (11/25/08)--The Minnesota Credit Union Network (MnCUN) has teamed up with organizations around the state to launch a fraud prevention campaign, the MnScams campaign.
Minnesota Credit Union Network and the Minnesota Fraud Enforcement Partnership participated in a press conference Friday launching the group's anti-fraud campaign. Speaking is Renee, a fraud victim, who warned consumers about techniques scammers use. (Photo provided by the Minnesota Credit Union Network)
The campaign was announced at a press conference Friday. With the theme, "No More Minnesota Nice," it will work to reduce fraud in Minnesota by educating citizens on how to recognize and report scams. The campaign was created by the Minnesota Fraud Enforcement Partnership, comprised of a network of state organizations, including MnCUN, banks, law enforcement agencies, and community groups. The partners will use a website, posters, brochures, table tents and other materials to educate Minnesotans about fraud. "Authorities will do as much as we can to help recover lost funds from fraud cases, but citizens truly must be the primary enforcers in fraud cases," said John Willems, director of the Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Department of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. “This effort will educate citizens and give them the tools they need to recognize fraud from the start,” he said. At the press conference, Renee, a fraud victim, shared how scammers used daily phone calls to gain her trust and develop a relationship with her. Through these communications, the scammers convinced her to send funds to redeem lottery monies she had supposedly won. In the end the criminals stole about $170,000 from her. "If you’ve won something, you don’t have to send money to claim your prize,” Renee advised other Minnesotans. “Don’t allow this to happen to you. Talk to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety [if you think you’re being scammed].” MnCUN will involve credit unions in the campaign and assist them in learning how to identify mass-marketing scams, the negative impact these schemes have on financial institutions, and how to report a fraud. The network also will distribute fraud education materials to credit unions to be placed in branches and disseminated to members. Every day scammers target thousands of Minnesota consumers in hopes that they will fall for the scams,” said Mark D. Cummins, MnCUN president/CEO. “Right now there is a great need for fraud education, and the need will only continue to grow as the economy continues to struggle. For that reason, the Minnesota Credit Union Network is committed to working with credit unions to educate consumers about how to identify and report scams,” Cummins said. Since September 2007, MnCUN has been a member the Minnesota Fraud Enforcement Partnership, the first enforcement program of its kind in the U.S. The collaboration consists of a variety of state and community organizations working to reduce Minnesotans’ losses from fraudulent sweepstakes, lottery schemes, and mass-marketing frauds.

Wisconsin CUs income grew 3 in nine months

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MADISON, Wis. (11/25/08)--Wisconsin credit unions’ net income grew about 3% during the first nine months of 2008, according to a new report from the state regulator. Credit unions made roughly $95.8 million through Sept. 30, compared with $93 million in the same period of 2007, said the Wisconsin Office of Credit Unions (The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Nov. 23). The regulator also indicated that the ratio of delinquent loans increased slightly to 1.21% from 1.16%--which the regulator said is a good rate for credit unions amid a slumping economy. However, a prolonged recession eventually will negatively impact credit unions even though they are conservative lenders, Suzanne Cowan, office director, told the newspaper. While credit unions are not-for-profit cooperatives owned by their members, the not-for-profit status that exempts them from income tax has been a point of contention with bankers who cite the exemptions as an unfair competitive advantage, the paper noted.

CUNAs Mad City Money gives students dose of real life

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MADISON, Wis. (11/25/08)--Heartland CU sponsored sessions of the Credit Union National Association’s Mad City Money budgeting simulation to more than 1,000 students during Wisconsin’s Money Smart Week last month. The two-and-a-half-hour, hands-on simulation gave students a taste of the real world--complete with an occupation, salary, spouse, student loan debt, credit card debt, and medical insurance payments.
Sally Dischler, president/CEO, Heartland CU, Madison, Wis., helps a student pay his credit card bill as part of the Credit Union National Association’s Mad City Money budgeting simulation last month. (Photo provided by Heartland CU)
With their net income filled in on their budget sheet, students visited nine merchants. They shopped for a home, a car, childcare needs, food and clothing; paid their credit card debt; and deposited money into a savings account at the credit union. The merchants were trained to sell, not assist students in making the right decision. By visiting the merchants, students experienced writing out checks and balancing a checkbook. Also, the Fickle Finger of Fate presented each student with an unexpected windfall and an unexpected expense. The students’ goal was to have less than $100 in their checking accounts. One advantage of a simulation is that the students get to experience the effects of their good and bad spending decisions on the “family” budget without the real-life consequences. “It’s an amazing experience to watch. Some students have little knowledge about how to write checks or budget, while others have had a checking account for many years,” said Sally Dischler, president/CEO of the $146.4 million asset, Madison, Wis.-based credit union. “Often, these kids find themselves with a negative balance after buying their luxury SUVs and have to downsize if they are going to meet their budget. “In the end, they walk away with the realization that life can be expensive,” she added. “One participant exclaimed that after this experience, she didn’t want to grow up."

European CUs expect U.S. economic crisis ripple

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BUCHAREST, Romania (11/25/08)--Current economic challenges facing the U.S. were topics of frequent discussion at World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) European Credit Union Technical Congress last week in Bucharest, Romania. Presenters at the week-long congress offered strategies to strengthen credit union movements and help individual institutions better face the anticipated ripple effect of the growing U.S. economic crisis.
World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) European Technical Congress attendees, from left, Florin Simion, executive director of the Central Federation of Romanian Credit Unions; Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer; and Grzegorz Bierecki, president of the National Association of Cooperative Savings and Credit Unions, listen to speakers at a Bucharest, Romania, meeting last week.
National Association of Cooperative Savings and Credit Unions’ Grzegorz Bierecki emphasized the need for greater unity among Eastern European credit unions at a Bucharest, Romania, meeting. (Photos provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
“These are challenging but promising times for credit unions,” Brian Branch, WOCCU's executive vice president and chief operating officer, told nearly 150 delegates from 10 countries attending. Attendees included officials of the Romanian government and the Central Bank of Romania. “People will be looking more and more to credit unions to help them face their economic challenges during this turbulent period,” Branch added. Delegates from Ireland, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, the U.S. and Uzbekistan attended educational sessions designed to help European credit unions continue growing and serving members as the U.S. economic crisis travels east. The economic ripples are expected to gather strength and pose greater challenges to European credit unions throughout 2009 and into 2010, according to local reports. “We're here to cooperate and support each other's work,” said Grzegorz Bierecki, president of the National Association of Cooperative Savings and Credit Unions, Poland's credit union trade group, and treasurer for WOCCU's board. “This is very important for us in Eastern Europe.” Educational sessions focused on financial management, credit union building, delinquency control, interest-rate setting and marketing. Seminars also stressed the importance of lobbying and developing model credit union law, policies and bylaws, and the proper role and authority of board members. Educational sessions were simultaneously presented in English, Polish, Romanian and Russian. The European Credit Union Technical Congress, co-sponsored by the Central Federation of Romanian Credit Unions, was the final of four sessions presented this year by WOCCU. Previous technical congresses were held in Guatemala, Fiji and The Gambia.

Michigan league relocates expands Lansing presence

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LANSING, Mich. (11/25/08)--The Michigan Credit Union League (MCUL) and its subsidiaries, CUcorp and CU Village, are changing facilities. The league is downsizing its headquarters in Northville Township through a building swap with Detroit Edison CU. Detroit Edison brought the 52,000 square-foot facility from the league. CUcorp and CU Village and select administrative staff took over the former Detroit Edison property in Livonia Friday. That building has 14,000 square feet. The trade will allow MCUL to move its headquarters to a new Lansing location at 101 S. Washington Square, Suite 900, by the first of the year. The new 8,700-square-foot location downtown includes the naming rights on the building. The league will now have 20 jobs based in Lansing. "The facility changes will save the MCUL and its subsidiaries about $250,000 per year," said league President/CEO David Adams. "The new headquarters is part of a long-term plan to enhance our presence in Lansing that will add to the grassroots lobbying the MCUL has already established in the state's capital. The moves also will ensure long-term operating-cost control," he said. The Lansing headquarters will house Legislative and Regulatory Affairs, Public Affairs, Education and CU Relations. All league/CUcorp and CU Village phone numbers, e-mail addresses and fax numbers will remain the same.

Why N.J. lawmaker backs municipal deposits for CUs

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TRENTON, N.J. (11/25/08)--A New Jersey assemblyman who introduced legislation last week to help local credit unions become authorized public depositories of government funds says he did so to help boost the state's economy. "We need to be doing more to help local businesses, said Assemblyman Fred Scalera (D-Essex/Bergen/Passaic). "Credit unions are the sparkplug to the local economy because they do most of the local lending to local members." Under the measure (A 3508), credit unions whose deposits are insured by the National Credit Union Administration wuld be authorized to receive government funds as qualified public depositories. The legislation also would allow out-of-state credit unions having a branch office in New Jersey to take government deposits. Currently, public depositories are limited to only institutions insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (News Now Nov. 20). By extending competition to credit unions, Scalera said, local governments will get the best return and help save taxpayer money. "Credit unions should have the same opportunity to compete to hold government funds," said Scalera. "Credit unions are just as safe and responsible as typical financial institutions backed by the FDIC." He introduced the bill Nov. 17. It likely will be referred to the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee for consideration, Scalera said in a press release.