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CU System briefs (12/18/2009)

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* GREENSBORO, N.C. (12/21/09)--After being contacted by credit unions in his district and throughout North Carolina, U.S Rep. Walter Jones (R-3rd) co-sponsored House Resolution 3380--the Promoting Lending to America’s Small Business Act of 2009. Jones became the first North Carolina sponsor of the bill, which would raise the credit union member business lending cap to 25% of assets. “Congressman Jones has seen firsthand how credit unions are providing solutions for business owners and government entities across the state,” said Dan Schline, senior vice president of association services for the North Carolina Credit Union League. North Carolina credit unions’ grass roots efforts paid off, said the league (weekly update Dec. 17) … * RALEIGH, N.C. (12/21/09)--A credit union's surveillance video helped identify for arrest a suspect charged with kidnapping, rape and attempted murder. Michael Lynn Rogers of Raleigh has been charged with repeatedly raping and using a knife or razor to cut a woman multiple times. The woman told police they were at an ATM at State Employees CU before he drove her to a park and assaulted her. Investigators obtained a copy of the ATM's surveillance tape and used it to help identify the suspect. They also gleaned information from an ATM card and state motor vehicle department records (The News and Observer Dec. 17) … * GREAT FALLS, Mont. (12/21/09)--A Great Falls, Mont., man received more than eight years in prison for robbing Great Falls-based Family First CU in 2006 (Great Fall Tribune Dec. 18). Jason Albritton, 35, also will repay the $135,742 he took from the credit union. On June 19, 2006, Albritton, armed and wearing a ski mask, entered the credit union and ordered everyone to the floor. He then pointed his gun at an employee and followed her to the credit union’s vault. He emptied money from the vault and teller drawers before leaving. Albritton also has been convicted of robbing a Florida bank in 2006 ... * BOULDER, Colo., and DENVER (12/21/09)--Two Colorado credit unions have received the go-ahead from regulators and members to complete a merger, which will be effective Jan. 1. Premier Members FCU, a $312.2 million asset credit union in Boulder, and Colorado United CU, a $72 million asset credit union in Denver, said Colorado United's membership voted overwhelmingly in favor of the merger. Its three branches will be rebranded as Premier Members. Rhett B. Rowe, president/CEO of Premier Members, will keep his position as CEO, while Colorado United President/CEO Branda Abbott will become Premier Members' president and chief operating officer. All other Colorado United employees will remain with the credit union (Mergers & Acquisitions Week Dec. 23) …

CUs holiday food drives make sure theres plenty

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MADISON, Wis. (12/21/09)--With the tough economy adding pressure to food banks across the nation, credit unions took steps to help ensure no one goes hungry during the holidays. Beginning with Thanksgiving collections, many have continued collecting food items throughout this month so many can have a holiday meal on Friday. Here's a sampling of what credit unions have done:
* Credit Unions Care Foundation of Virginia made a $10,000 donation to food banks and
Click to view larger image Security Service FCU volunteers help sort more than one million pounds of food collected in the seventh annual Food4SA campaign in San Antonio. From left are Victoria Keller, Joe Rodriguez, Lisa Gambill, Megan Gwinn, Mary Valdez and Melissa De Hoyos. The credit union and media partners News 4 WOAI, Magic 105.3 FM and the San Antonio Express-News collected the amount in four weeks for the San Antonio Food Bank. The collection will make 834,000 meals for needy families. The food bank, which already provides food for 25,000 people facing emergency or financial calamity each week, reported a 35% hike in first-time families asking for help. (Photo provided by Security Service FCU)
the Salvation Army to distribute to all areas of the state. "The economy has strained our communities and limited resources. Our foundation has made it possible to help in this time of need by donating a total of $5,000 to food banks across the Commonwealth and $5,000 to support the Salvation Army's work in Virginia," said Gerrianne Burkes, president/CEO of Herndon, Va.-based Northwest FCU and chairman of the foundation. * First CU (Chandler, Ariz.) members and employees donated nearly 800 pounds of non-perishable food for local food banks in Tucson, Flagstaff, Chandler and Mesa. The food is equivalent to 614 meals. "This year more than ever folks are struggling," said Desiree Hoogerhuis, community outreach coordinator. * More than 65 of Troy, Mich.-based Genisys CU employees, family members and friends helped pack 300 food boxes at the Baldwin Center for Thanksgiving Day dinner. Today they will repeat the act, helping pack an estimated 300 more boxes for Friday's holiday meal (Michigan Monitor Dec. 7).
Click to view larger image Louisiana Credit Union League staff compiled gift bags with food items for more than 200 homeless people in the New Orleans area. The project, which will benefit the homeless ministry at St. Mark's United Methodist Church, honors the late Carolyn C. Ricks, former LCUL compliance director, who initiated the league's annual outreach projects many years ago. From left are: Jennifer Green, assistant vice-president); Courtney Miceli, EFT/compliance specialist; Jill Kitchens, director of education; Shannon Morneault, accountant; Jennifer Plaisance, senior accountant; Angela Gervais; and Christopher Johnson, network specialist. (Photo provided by the Louisiana Credit Union League)
* Altura CU, based in Riverside, Calif., launched a canned food drive the first week of December to help local food banks, schools and non-profit organizations. The staff at each branch selected a local organization to help. The donations were collected through Saturday at all 14 branches. "News reports have confirmed that food banks and other charities that provide food items have seen a huge increase in requests, sometimes with record numbers turning out," said Cindy Thomas, regional director at Altura. * Cabrillo CU, San Diego,
Click to view larger image Numerica CU, Spokane, Wash. contributed more than $14,000 to the KREM 2 (CBS) Tom's Turkey Drive to raise food and donations for 2nd Harvest Food Bank of the Inland Northwest. The two day event surpassed its goal to collect 10,000 turkeys/meals for its 10th anniversary. Numerica's contribution involved a $12,000 sponsorship, a $1,500 contribution at the Volunteer Kickoff and $2,000 during the live drive. This year for the first time, Numerica conducted a T-shirt Design Contest for youth in kindergarten through 12th grade. Here, from left, Dennis Cutter, Numerica president/CEO, and Tom Sherry, KREM2 chief meteorologist, present Abigail Swanson with a $100 savings account for her winning design. (Photo provided by Numerica CU)
also heard that food donations were down this year and rallied to help. More than $300 of food items were donated by 60 employees to St. Vincent De Paul food bank. "This year we realized a food drive before the holidays season begins would help the local food bank immensely, so we asked staff to bring a non-perishable food item to our staff meeting," said Anne Legg, vice president of marketing. * In November, staff and members were so generous that North Districts Community CU, Gibsonian, Pa., had to make three trips from the credit union to The Lighthouse Pantry in nearby Butler with goods collected during its food drive (Life is a Highway Dec. 4). It's now in the middle of a "Keep Them Warm" clothing drive to benefit the Light of Life Mission in Pittsburgh. * In Missouri, credit unions across the state went above and beyond. Among the credit unions participating in holiday drives, including food drives, were Show Me CU, Mexico; Gateway Metro FCU, St. Louis; Anheuser-Busch Employees' CU, St. Louis, Vantage CU, Bridgeton; and American Eagle CU, St. Louis (The Missouri difference Dec. 16).
Food wasn't the only thing on the holiday agenda for many of the credit unions. For example, on Thursday, all Wausau, Wis.-based Connexus CU employees spread good cheer in the community with a number of volunteer activities. They included packaging and delivering more than 3,500 non-perishable food items to local pantries, caroling for residents of a hospice house; preparing, serving and cleaning up after lunch at the Salvation Army; wrapping gifts for United Way's Bundle of Joy program; transporting and organizing gifts for the Neighbors Place; ringing bells for the Salvation Army; and playing bingo with residents of Harmony House.

Shoppers creativity to avoid debt is seminal CUNA tells IAPI

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NEW YORK (12/21/09)--With the holiday shopping season running at full bore, consumers are being creative in how they spend and pay for items and services so they don’t run up card debt, the Credit Union National Association told The Associated Press Friday. The article was picked up by ABC News Friday. Consumers are paying with cash, with direct debits from bank accounts, by using layaway payment methods, by taking advantage of free financing and even by cashing in frequent flier miles, the AP said. Bill Hampel, chief economist at the Credit Union National Association, describes the consumer switch as “seminal.” “People are trying a lot of new behavior in how they're spending and how they are paying for it in response to a very scary economy,” he added. To read the article, use the link.

Heartland pays Amex 3.6 million in settlement

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PRINCETON, N.J. (12/21/09)--Heartland Payment Systems has agreed to pay American Express $3.6 million related to a 2008 hacking of Heartland’s payments network that cost card companies, credit unions and other financial institutions hundreds of thousands of dollars. “This settlement marks the first agreement with a card brand related to the intrusion,” said Bob Carr, Heartland chairman and CEO. Heartland also has disputes with other card brands including Visa and MasterCard (IDG News Service Dec. 17). More than 130 million credit and debit card numbers from card processor Heartland and Hannaford Bros., a Maine-based grocery store chain, were stolen by hackers in separate breaches. Thousands of credit unions and other financial institutions were forced to re-issue credit and debit cards to cardholders whose numbers and personal information were compromised as a result. Heartland has been sued by credit unions, financial institutions and other individuals for the costs they incurred to re-issue cards. Credit unions likely lost between $2.50 and $3.50 per card in re-issuing costs, and additional dollars for staff time (News Now Aug. 18). Albert Gonzalez, 28, a former Secret Service informant, and two others were charged conspiracy and conspiracy to engage in wire-fraud. Gonzalez also pleaded guilty to charges involving other breaches, including TJX, Office Max, Barnes and Noble and Boston Market (News Now Sept. 15). Gonzalez could face up to 20 years for wire-fraud conspiracy and another five for conspiracy if convicted on the Heartland and Hannaford breaches. He also faces a $250,000 fine per charge.

Guys I gotta go...were being robbed

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STOCKTON, Calif. (12/21/09)--On Dec. 15, Allied CU CEO Frank Michael participated in a conference call with the Credit Union National Association’s Small Credit Union Committee. During the call, Michael suddenly needed to sign off. “Guys, I gotta go ... we’re being robbed,” he told the group. A gunman was waving his revolver at Michael behind the glass window of his office. Two individuals, each wearing hooded sweatshirts and masks, had entered the Stockton, Calif.-based credit union in a takeover-style robbery. One jumped the counter and emptied the drawers on the teller line, while another held a member and put a gun to her head. One of the robbers made his way to Michael’s office, which is located by the teller line. When Michael saw the gunman, he immediately exited the conference call. Members of the Small CU Committee later commented on how calm Michael sounded when he signed off. After hanging up, Michael called the police. The gunman watched him make the call, but didn’t do anything to stop him, he said. “They were on their way out,” Michael told News Now. “They can’t stay too long.” After the men left, Allied CU called for victim assistance to help the traumatized member who had a gun to her head. Nobody was injured. Police caught the robbers a few miles outside of the credit union after tracking them with a global positioning system (GPS) device that was in a stack of $20 dollar bills. “My staff did a great job,” Michael said. “They responded the way they were supposed to. They gave them the money and then got them out the door.” Takeover robberies are not new to Allied CU. The credit union had two takeover robberies in November. They have since deployed GPS devices and installed glass over the teller counters. “That made a difference,” Michael said. “We’re always prepared.” The glass helps police lift fingerprints, and the GPS device allows police to track the robbers after they leave the credit union. The device is activated after the cash is lifted off the till. When Michael called the police, they were already tracking the men, he said. Credit unions should think about what they can do to assist police with apprehension, Michael said. For instance, formica countertops don’t retain fingerprints, but glass does. Credit unions also can look into different tracking devices and work with police to see what solution works best for them. Dye packs can help recover stolen money, while GPS devices can help catch thieves, he said. It’s also important to prepare staff for robberies by talking through what could happen and teaching them how to respond. After Tuesday’s robbery, the staff is doing great. “The fact that the robbers were caught restored their confidence,” Michael said.

College aid community informed about CU financing options

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WASHINGTON (12/21/09)--Recent presentations from executives at Credit Union Student Choice are making consumers aware of the financing solutions offered by a new entrant in the market--credit unions. Officials from Credit Union Student Choice, a credit union service organization (CUSO) that provides turnkey private student lending services to nearly 100 credit unions nationwide, were featured on the agenda at several events, including the California Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (CASFAA) conference. Held after a decision by the California government that could result in a 30% increase in costs for students attending state colleges and universities, the conference addressed the increasing importance of private student loan options. “During a period of incredible economic difficulty for lenders, families and colleges, the entrance of credit unions into the private student loan marketplace is one of the few bright spots in college financing,” said Scott Patterson, executive vice president at Student Choice. “During my panel discussion at the CASFAA conference, the audience was extremely impressed with the program being offered through our partner credit unions and eager to learn more,” he added. “Administrators play a key role in the lending process, and it’s critical that we educate them about the options we provide.” Student Choice President Jon Jeffreys represented the CUSO at a panel discussion at the Consumer Bankers Association Student Lending Conference in Washington, D.C., alongside executives from some of the largest student lenders in the country, including First Marblehead, Citibank’s Student Loan Corp. and U.S. Bank. “The opportunity to speak at this conference serves as testimony to the expanding role and increasing influence of credit unions within private student lending,” Jeffreys said. “While the national lenders focused squarely on the challenges in the market, the story of Student Choice, our credit unions and the 10,000 members we’ve helped thus far is extremely positive.” Executives from Student Choice also were at conferences for the Career College Association and the Ohio Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators to heighten awareness of credit union financing options. “Feedback from the financial aid officers who’ve worked with Student Choice has been overwhelmingly positive,” Patterson said. “By offering zero origination fees, a unique line-of-credit structure, and market-leading interest rates, credit unions are providing superior value to borrowers.”

Vermont CUs EconomyofMe fin lit debuts at CUs

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (12/21/09)--Four Vermont credit unions hosted musical artists Nyke Van Wyk and Joe Gattuso last week to kick off the Association of Vermont Credit Unions’ (AVCU) new financial literacy project, EconomyofMe. Van Wyk and Gattuso traveled to North Country FCU, South Burlington; Members Advantage Community CU, White River Junction; Bryant FCU, Springfield; and Granite Hills CU, Barre. They played for an hour in each credit union’s lobby (Newslines Express Dec. 18).
Musical artists (left) Joe Gattuso and Nyke Van Wyk performed at four Vermont credit unions last week. During their performances, the Association of Vemont Credit Unions met with key staffers to discuss financial literacy project for teens, EconomyofMe. (Photo provided by the Association of Vermont Credit Unions)
While they entertained, AVCU staff met with CEOs and key employees at the credit unions to discuss EconomyofMe. EconomyofMe will interact with Vermont’s 14 to 18-year-old population through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, mobile devices and music. The students will have the opportunity to learn from articles, videos, blogs and games to enhance their personal financial literacy knowledge. They also can ask questions and participate in contests. The goal is to build a statewide community to share ideas and knowledge to empower high school students financially, AVCU said. “Now, more than ever, we’re aware of the effect the economy has on each of us,” said Colin Ryan, AVCU project manager. “We make and spend money, draw on resources, build savings and invest in ourselves every day. In many ways, each of us is already running our own personal economy...the economy of me.” The purpose of the presentations was to identify credit union personnel with connections at high schools statewide who can bring EconomyofMe to the schools, said AVCU President Joe Bergeron. AVCU will continue meeting with more credit unions.