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CU System Archive

CU System

Rapper CU robber found guilty

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SPOKANE, Wash. (12/4/07)--A U.S. District Court found a Spokane rapper who dubbed himself “Dead Poet,” guilty Friday of armed bank robbery and attempted witness tampering. While awaiting sentencing by Judge Lonny Suko in a few weeks, John “Bobby” Vigil, 26, will remain in jail (The Spokane-Review Dec. 1). A unanimous jury verdict was handed down after a weeklong trial. Vigil, who has recorded his own rap music under the recording artist title “Dead Poet,” took the stand Thursday in his own defense. He said that he was not one of three men who held up Speedway FCU in Spokane Nov. 26, 2006, making off with nearly $10,000. The jury rejected Vigil’s claim that the third man involved in the credit union heist was Dustin Rockstrom, one of his long-time friends. Vigil maintained that he was taking a shower at his home, during the time of the robbery. However, he did admit to accompanying Rockstrom and his brothers, Brad and Greg, to Montana after the credit union holdup. Vigil testified that he lied to an FBI agent concerning his whereabouts the day the robbery occurred, and that he threatened a woman who had been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury. Dustin Rockstrom testified for the prosecution that Vigil was at the credit union during the robbery. Rockstrom awaits sentencing after he pled guilty to being an accessory after the fact.

Social network unveiled for CUNA Gen Y conference

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AUSTIN, Texas (12/4/07)--A “social networking sandbox” created to encourage discussion on the challenges of serving young adults and to provide hands-on social networking experiences for credit union people was unveiled Monday at the 2007 Your Essential Strategies (YES) Summit in Austin. Christopher Morris, Web manager for the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Councils, presented the “sandbox,” called the YES CU Community during the “Serving 18 to 30s” session. YES CU Community offers basic social networking tools, such as: profiles, the ability to add friends, the ability to write messages on others’ walls, forums, blogs, groups, and video and photo sharing. After the session, attendees were given homework--to participate in different activities on the network. “Josh Jones, Summit organizer and CUNA manager of young adult programs, and I wanted to bring another practical tool for attendees to the conference,” Morris said. “The summit already has a blog year-round--the YES CU blog. Social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook, are growing immensely and are a huge untapped market for credit unions reaching out to young adults.” Seventy percent of young adults are on social networking sites--but many credit unions are not because they don’t know where to start and they can’t get over the mystique, Morris added. “This social networking sandbox will allow attendees to play around and get comfortable with the technology.” The YES CU Community is open to anyone associated with the credit union movement. For more information, use the links.

CU System briefs (12/03/2007)

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* WESTBROOK, Maine (12/4/07)--The Maine Credit Union League raised $25,000 with its sixth annual Maine Credit Unions’ Ending Hunger Walking Tour. (From left) Brenda Davis, executive director of Cross Roads Ministries, a food pantry, receives a plaque from Luke Labbe, president/CEO of PeoplesChoice CU in Biddeford. Labbe is a member of the league’s board, and chair of the tour. (Photo provided by the Maine Credit Union League) … * SANTA ROSA, Calif. (12/4/07)--Redwood CU of Santa Rosa announced that it contributed $67,619 to the United Way. The credit union exceeded its goal of $63,500 by 6%, and last year’s efforts by more than $10,000. The funds will benefit non-profits in the Bay Area. To encourage contributions, Redwood CU held weekly prize raffles, casual days, company-paid lunches and ice cream parties. Credit union executives also held a car wash and cleaned employees’ cars as a reward for their contributions to the campaign. (Photo provided by Redwood CU) … * PORTLAND, Ore. (12/4/07)--The merger of Southwest Corporate FCU and Northwest Corporate FCU was completed Dec. 1. The merger will expand Southwest’s membership to 1,500 credit unions and $14 billion in assets. Southwest will continue to operate a Northwest regional office in Portland (News Now Sept. 28) …

NCUF becomes Better Business Bureau accredited charity

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WASHINGTON (12/4/07)--The National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) has been approved to use a new seal as an “accredited charity” of the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Only charities that meet the BBB Wise Giving Alliance’s Standards of Charity Accountability are eligible to participate in the seal program. Before national charities can apply to use the seal, they must undergo an in-depth independent evaluation by the watchdog affiliated with the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “This seal of approval from a respected affiliate of the Better Business Bureau sends a strong message to Community Investment Fund (CIF) investors and all donors that the National Credit Union Foundation is a charity they can trust,” said NCUF Executive Director Steve Delfin. “We will use the BBB Accredited Charity as a symbol of our commitment to strong accountability, ethical practices, and sound stewardship of our donors’ funds.” Unlike other charity-monitoring groups that focus solely on a review of charity finances, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance evaluates each charity’s governance, fundraising practices, solicitations and informational materials, as well as expenditures. “The standards go well beyond what government regulators require,” Delfin said. NCUF was found to exceed the BBB Wise Giving Alliance Standards on several fronts. For example, the standards require that charities spend at least 65% of contributions on programs. In the past year, NCUF spent over 89% of contributions on programs. “National charities that display the BBB Wise Giving Alliance seal can do so with pride,” concluded Alliance President/CEO Art Taylor. “Not only are they attesting to their organizations’ adherence to sound standards, they are helping to increase donor confidence and strengthen public trust in giving.”

Wisconsins largest CU merger continues to provide savings

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PEWAUKEE, Wis. (12/4/07)--The planned merger between Summit CU and Great Wisconsin CU, both of Madison, Wis., will provide Wisconsin families with increased access to affordable financial services, according to Brett Thompson, president/CEO of the Wisconsin Credit Union League. “No matter the size of the credit union, it’s still a member-owned cooperative,” said Brett Thompson, president/CEO of the Wisconsin Credit Union League. “Like all credit unions, it will continue to return its earnings to its members.” The combined credit union will have more than $1 billion in assets and 20 locations statewide. The Wisconsin Bankers Association has criticized the merger, stating that credit unions have abandoned their original mission. The bankers also have stated that the resulting credit union will be larger than most of the state’s banks, and that credit unions’ tax-exempt status makes them unfair competitors (The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Dec. 2). Wisconsin banks have more than 87% of the market share in deposits, and assets totaling more than $145 billion--which is eight times more than the total asset size of the state’s credit unions combined, the league said. “Credit unions continue to struggle competitively against banks and are looking for ways to more effectively and efficiently serve their members,” Thompson said. “Credit unions focus on serving the needs of their members, not making profits.”

Six CUs partner with online peer-to-peer lending initiative

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SAN FRANCISCO (12/4/07)--Six credit unions have partnered with Zopa, an online peer-to-peer lending initiative that has recently begun operations in the U.S. Zopa, or Zone of Possible Agreement, originated in the United Kingdom several years ago. It seeks to help those in need of small loans by matching them with lenders. The credit unions that have partnered with Zopa include: Addison Avenue FCU, Palo Alto, Calif.; Affinity Plus FCU, St. Paul, Minn.; FirstTech CU, Beaverton, Ore.; FORUM CU, Indianapolis; Provident CU, Redwood City, Calif.; and USA FCU, San Diego (Net Banker Dec. 2). Using Zopa, borrowers can apply for loans that have terms of up to five years, with interest rates varying from 8.7% to 16.99%, depending on credit scores. When a loan is approved, borrowers can receive the money immediately (Wall Street Journal Nov. 28). Lenders purchase Zopa certificates of deposit (CDs) to fund the loans. Interest rates are capped at 5.1% on the CDs, the newspaper said. Borrowers create profiles describing themselves and their needs to attract lenders. Lenders and borrowers sign legally-binding contracts. Borrowers are required to pay the loans back monthly by direct debit, according to Zopa’s website. Similar to the credit union motto, social lending is “like borrowing and lending with your friends and family--except there are thousands of people you can lend and borrow with,” the website stated.

CU responds to breach issues new cards

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FAIRHAVEN, Mass. (12/4/07)--In response to the fraudulent use of 60 to 70 accounts last month, First Citizens FCU has issued new credit cards to affected members. The $386 million asset, Fairhaven, Mass.-based credit union--which has branches in Falmouth, Hyannis and Orleans--issued new Visa cards to 138 members (Cape Cod Times Nov. 30). The breach of card data became evident after several First Citizens members patronized a restaurant chain--Not Your Average Joe’s--that had been compromised by thieves who stole credit card information earlier in the fall, said Charles Simpson, president of First Citizens. When it was discovered that charges to the affected credit cards had been made in other areas of the state as well, the matter was then turned over to the U.S. Secret Service, local police said. The case is still under “active investigation,” according to a spokesman for the Boston office of the Secret Service. Only a few members of First Citizens had unauthorized charges billed to their card accounts, Simpson said. First Citizens’ officials examined the recent activity on all accounts to ascertain who had used their card at one of the chain’s restaurants in the past few months, Simpson added.

Regulator to auction off Huron River Area CU-owned homes

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FORT MEYERS, Fla. (12/4/07)--The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and DebtX of Boston will hold an online auction Dec. 13 to sell $26 million of bad loans on homes in the Lehigh Acres and Cape Coral, Fla.-areas. Participants will be limited to select investors and financial institutions. The auction will not be “like eBay,” according to DebtX CEO Kingsley Greenland (Florida News-Press Nov. 30). The debt was accumulated by Huron River Area CU of Ann Arbor, Mich. The credit union made construction loans on the homes during a surge in real estate last year. The average loan balance on the 100 homes is $261,000, and the average value was $360,000 when the loans were made, the newspaper said. Huron River Area CU was liquidated by the NCUA Nov. 18. The credit union’s member accounts were purchased and assumed by Detroit Edison CU of Detroit. The NCUA took over the credit union in February after it was placed into conservatorship by the Michigan Commissioner of the Office of Financial and Investment Services (News Now Nov. 19).

Delaware league coordinates media exposure

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NEW CASTLE, Del. (12/4/07)--The Delaware Credit Union League (DCUL) recently worked with area media to coordinate information about the credit union movement in general and specifically about Delaware credit unions. Alice Smith, DCUL communications director, dealt with several reporters who were preparing articles about credit unions (Together Nov. 20). As a result, an article titled “Credit Unions Offer Members a Variety of Services,” appeared in the August Morning Star Business Report, was published in Sussex County. Credit unions interviewed for the article include: Del-one FCU, Dover; Dover FCU, Dover; Seaford FCU, Seaford; Southern Delaware Postal Employees FCU, Houston; and Sussex County FCU, Seaford. Leslie Papas, financial institutions reporter for The News Journal, contacted the DCUL for sources and information on the National Share Insurance Fund, as she prepared her article that focused on the insuring of excess funds. Although Delaware credit unions did not appear in the main article published Oct. 28, the side bar on “Protecting Deposits” mentioned the credit unions’ insurance fund. The DCUL continues to work with the Delaware Business Ledger in preparing its annual “Book of Lists.” The Business Ledger highlighted credit unions in its October issue--in recognition of Credit Union Week--and featured mini-articles on the free patriotism CD--sponsored by Delaware credit unions and donated to schools and libraries. Also mentioned were the Del-One corporate center opening and back-to-school donations, the DCUL’s publications award, the Newark-based Louviers FCU scholarship program, and the definition of a credit union.