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CU suspends membership vote on conversion proposal

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ODESSA, Texas (2/18/08)--First Basin CU has chosen to suspend the membership vote scheduled for Feb. 21 at a special meeting regarding its conversion proposal, according to a letter sent to members by First Basin CEO Shem Culpepper. The credit union decided to suspend the vote for a number of reasons the letter stated. It has come to the attention of First Basin that members have received calls telling them that if they don’t vote against the conversion, they will lose their money on deposits and their accounts will be closed, Culpepper wrote. “The conversion to a mutual savings bank would not result in any member losing his or her money or any account being close,” he wrote. Culpepper cited “numerous other false statements” being circulated by opponents of the conversion proposal, such as rate and fee changes. The First Basin board also wants to evaluate whether it can reward members by returning a portion of the credit union’s net worth to them, in the form of a cash payment to all eligible members upon conversion, Culpepper wrote. The board wants to continue retaining its one-member, one-vote structure. “Our goal is to continue to operate First Basin as a safe and sound financial institution and to provide members with great products and services,” Culpepper concluded.

Oakland elected vice chair of National CU Foundation

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SEATTLE (2/18/08)--Gary Oakland, president/CEO of BECU, Seattle, was unanimously elected as vice chairman of the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) board. Oakland will chair NCUF’s Fundraising Committee. He represents investors in the Callahan Fund, a sub-fund of the Community Investment Fund, which provides NCUF’s underwriting support for the Biz Kid$ financial education series on national public television. Francois Henriquez, senior vice president and general counsel for US Central FCU in Lenexa, Kan., was elected as NCUF board secretary. Henriquez will continue to chair NCUF’s grants committee. Dennis DeGroodt, president/CEO of Missouri Corporate CU in St. Louis, was reelected as NCUF treasurer. DeGroodt will continue to chair NCUF’s finance committee. After the NCUF officer elections in Denver two weeks ago, new NCUF Chairman Allan McMorris presented awards to NCUF’s two most recent chairs, Mary Cunningham, who directed the adoption of REAL Solutions and Credit Union Development Education; and Chuck Purvis, who directed the creation of the Community Investment Fund. Cunningham will remain on the NCUF Board in a non-voting capacity as immediate past chairman. Purvis has now rotated off of the NCUF Board, but plans to participate in NCUF programs.

N.H. league testifies before state passes 36 payday cap

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MANCHESTER, N.H. (2/18/08)--New Hampshire has passed a 36% cap on annual interest rates for payday and title loans, putting a stop to 400% interest and the payday lending cycle of debt.The New Hampshire Credit Union League recently testified before the state legislature before the measure’s passage. New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch promises to sign the bill into law. The New Hampshire Senate passed a bill closely aligned with the House version Thursday. “The league testified on payday lending options that credit unions provide to consumers at both the hearings on the House bill and the Senate bill,” Rob Kimmett, senior vice president with the New Hampshire Credit Union League, told News Now. “These options were part of the debate that the Senate held on the floor prior to voting on the bill.” Roughly a dozen states are enforcing an interest rate cap at or around 36%. About 90% of payday lending business is generated by borrowers who have five or more loans per year, according to the Center for Responsible Lending. The average borrower has more than eight transactions per year for a loan that is marketed as a two-week loan, so borrowers end up routinely paying more in interest than they borrowed, the center said.

CU evolves from airline through merger

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MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. (2/18/08)--The 3,300 members of the former Hopewell CU are experiencing enhanced benefits since the Jan. 31 merger with 75,000-member Clearview FCU. Members of the $614.5 million asset, Moon Township, Pa.-based Clearview have automatic teller machine cards, direct deposits and Web-based bill payments--services that were not available at Hopewell (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Feb. 14). The genesis of Clearview dates back to 1953, when it started up as Allegheny Airlines FCU with 1,390 members and assets of $826, 541. Airline industry fluctuations and changes in federal credit union regulations have led to changes in the credit union’s name and mission. For 12 years after its inception, the credit union operated out of National Airport in Washington, D.C., before relocating to Pittsburgh where the majority of the airline employees had always been based. Since the mid 1960s, the credit union has expanded, contracted and expanded again. Clearview has had six mergers since its inception, counting the recent Hopewell merger. It has evolved from a one-branch counter business to a full-service lender with eight branches, including two that opened in the past two months.

Texas league voter poll Electorate likes CUs

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (2/18/08)--Texas Democrats and Republicans hold favorable views of credit unions by a wide margin, according to the Texas Credit Union League (TCUL) Poll of Texas Primary Voters. Roughly half of Democrats (52%) and Republicans (47%) belong to credit unions, the poll indicated (PR Newswire Feb. 15). Also, most Democratic (83%) and Republican (80%) voters support the Texas State legislature in considering the passage of a new law that would crack down on identity theft and fraud. The TCUL commissions primary and general election voter surveys every two years on politics and key issues for credit unions. The poll also indicates that Hillary Clinton leads Barack Obama in the Texas Democratic primary contest, 49% to 41%. In the Texas Republican primary race, John McCain (45%) and Mike Huckabee (41%) are locked in a statistical tie, with Ron Paul trailing at 6%. For more poll results, use the link.

IToday ShowI to profile BizKid

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WASHINGTON (2/18/08)--The Today Show was scheduled to profile a Biz Kid this morning in a segment titled, “Raising Financially Savvy Kids.” The Biz Kid, Christian, was featured on Biz Kid$ episode 106. Christian is a credit union member from Spokane, Wash., who is actively involved with Junior Achievement. Biz Kid$, a TV series underwritten by America’s Credit Unions to teach children about money, is scheduled to air on 290 PBS stations in 47 states. The show is produced in association with Junior Achievement Worldwide and WXXI Public Broadcasting. Funding is led by the National Credit Union Foundation and the Washington Credit Union Foundation. The Biz Kid$ team created and produced "Bill Nye the Science Guy,” an award-winning show that taught children about science.

CUs on the Tube Filenes VirtualFinance project

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MADISON, Wis. (2/18/08)--The Filene Research Institute has posted a video for its VirtualFinance project that introduces Second Life, a virtual social networking environment, to credit unions. Second Life allows users to create “avatars,” or characters mimicking themselves that interact in a virtual environment. Avatars can communicate with others through instant messaging, visit “islands” or places of interest, and make financial transactions. A team of Filene i3 researchers is currently using Second Life to create a credit union island. Avatars can visit the island to find out more information about the credit union and make transactions using currency, called Linden Dollars.

CU System briefs (02/15/2008)

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* RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (2/18/08)--California Agribusiness CU, Buena Park, donated $1,000 to an urban demonstration farm in Pomona. The money will be used to install an above-ground drip irrigation system. The Tri-City Urban Demonstration Farm is a community farming project developed by Randy Bekendam of Rancho Cucamonga. The idea came about with the creation of Operation ETHAN (Everyone Together for Healing All Neighborhoods) after the shooting death of Ethan Esparza in Pomona in November 2006. From left are: Randy Bekendam’s wife, Pam, Denbo and Randy Bekendam ... * GERMANTOWN, Md. (2/18/08)--Mid-Atlantic FCU has become a Federal Housing Administration-approved lender, which allows the credit union to provide loans to more families in Montgomery County. FHA loans are insured by the government and serve borrowers who do not have good credit histories. Mid-Atlantic has more than $200 million in assets ... * NEW YORK (2/18/08)--The National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions confirmed the participation of Rodney Hood, National Credit Union Administration vice chairman; Martin Eakes, CEO, Self-Help CU, Durham, N.C.; and Bob Dorsa, president, ACUMA, for a workshop at the Center for Responsible Lending March 18-19 in Durham. The workshop will address lending in the housing market, foreclosure prevention, innovative lending products, secondary markets and servicing options. The workshop is designed for credit unions, housing professionals, other community-based mortgage lenders and is a collaborative program of the Federation’s Community Development Credit Union Mortgage Center and the Community Development Credit Union Institute ... * INDIANAPOLIS (2/18/08)--FORUM CU in Indianapolis has been honored as one of the top 125 places in the nation for employer-sponsored workforce training and development by Training Magazine for the second year in a row. Factors influencing the rankings were tied to business objectives, number of trainers, employee turnover and retention. Some of the FORUM CU training programs highlighted include the “Branch Buddy” program that helps new employees transition from training to branch jobs, the INSPURE sales and service training, and the LEAP leadership classes. FORUM has $1.0 billion in assets ... * VANCOUVER, Wash. (2/18/08)--Employees of Columbia CU, Vancouver, planted trees throughout the Vancouver Heights Neighborhood as part of the “Neighborhood of the 150th” celebration sponsored by the credit union. The program honored Vancouver Heights for its spirit of community through the city’s Sparkles Award program. Columbia CU and the City of Vancouver partnered to honor the neighborhood with Columbia sponsoring 150 trees. About 90 volunteers planted 87 trees, served food or helped with the event. From left are: Pam Betteridge, Columbia CU assistant vice president of sales and service; Trish Garrison, Columbia CU branch manager; Ken Davis, volunteer and Columbia member; DJ Peterson, Columbia CU branch manager; Dave Robison, Columbia CU indirect lending loan officer; and Nancy Olmsted, Columbia CU vice president of marketing. In addition to the tree-planting, Columbia has committed to building Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified branches, with one underway at a retail development in Vancouver. (Photo provided by Columbia CU) ...

IBusiness WeekI includes SECUs Blaine on credit scores

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RALEIGH, N.C. (2/18/08)--James C. Blaine, CEO of State Employees’ CU (SECU) in Raleigh, N.C., was quoted in an article in the Feb. 18 issue of BusinessWeek, focusing on lending industry standards and consumer credit scores. Blaine, who oversees the needs of 1.4 million members in his $14.95 billion asset credit union, told the magazine in the article, “Sinking Credit,” by Peter Coy, that he favors a more equitable process, other than credit scores, as a yardstick for issuing loans. All SECU members who meet the credit union’s underwriting standards get the same flat rate--now 6.25%--regardless of their credit history, Blaine told the magazine. “You shouldn’t abuse a good [people] just because they don’t understand the financial system,” Blaine said in the interview, adding that subprime borrowers default because of high interest rates, not FICO scores. There’s not much difference between his credit union’s borrowers with the lowest scores and those with the highest, he said. Of these members who would be traditionally classified as subprime borrowers, 1.25% defaulted on their home loans, which is below the 7% that analysts expect at larger lenders such as Washington Mutual, according to Business Week.