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CU System

Hoel recognized for Wegner Lifetime Achievement Award

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WASHINGTON (3/12/08)--Bob Hoel, one of this year's recipients of the the National Credit Union Foundation's Herb Wegner Memorial Awards, was featured last week in the Fort Collins Coloradoan. Hoel, former executive director of the Filene Institute in Madison, Wis., and now a Filene Fellow, received the Wegner Lifetime Achievement Award for his research benefiting credit unions and consumers. The annual award honors risk-taking, innovating and transformational leadership, Steve Delfin, NCUF executive director, told the Coloradoan (March 6). Hoel is also a former business professor and chairman of the marketing department at Colorado State University. He recently was appointed as the Northern Colorado representative to the Public Service CU's board, representing members of the former Norlarco CU, which was acquired by Public Service CU. NCUF presented the award at an annual dinner in Washington D.C. last week. Other Herb Wegner Award recipients were Harriet May, president/CEO of Government Employees CU, El Paso, Texas, who received the Individual Achievement Award, and the State Employees' Credit Union Foundation in North Carolina, which was presented the Outstanding Organization Award.

Wisconsin league Bankers bill is a bait and switch

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PEWAUKEE, Wis. (3/12/08)--Testimony by banks for a banker-supported bill in the Wisconsin State Assembly is an example of “bait and switch”--just another attempt to eliminate credit union competition in the financial marketplace, according to the Wisconsin Credit Union League. AB 897 would require the largest (more than $100 million in assets) Wisconsin credit unions, at significant cost to all of the state’s taxpayers, to provide annual reports of how they serve their communities, the league said. “Banks control 91% of the assets held in Wisconsin financial institutions,” said Brett Thompson, president/CEO of the league. “But it seems they want more, and now they’ve set their sights on the largest credit unions. The bill would regulate them more heavily and make it easier for banks to take them over.” The Assembly Financial Institutions Committee heard testimony last week. Testimony by league representatives detailed how credit unions deliver $176 million to their members annually--chiefly through higher rates on saving, lower rates on loans, and lower and fewer fees. A variety of studies, including those cited by bankers, have proven that Wisconsin credit unions outperform banks in meeting the financial needs of their communities--essentially doing better on their own than banks do under regulation of the federal Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), the league said. Credit unions’ self-initiated REAL Solutions effort illustrates why the CRA is unnecessary for credit unions, the league said. REAL Solutions is an initiative by credit unions in several states to provide affordable services and wealth-building opportunities to their members and community, regardless of profit. Examples of the services include free checking with no minimum balance, free ATM access for members, loans as small as $50, alternatives to payday loans that cost less than storefront lenders, credit re-builder programs and free financial education. Wisconsin credit unions received the Governor’s Financial Literacy Awards in 2006 and 2008 for improving the financial health of Wisconsin citizens through REAL Solutions.

CUs try to stem tide of homeowner walkaways

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (3/12/08)--Credit unions may see an increase in the number of members whose mortgages are "upside down," meaning they owe more on the house than the house is worth. And some delinquent members may be tempted to give up on paying their mortgage. California is one of the states hit hardest by the crisis in financing homes, and it is starting to experience "walkaways," people who stop paying the mortgage and hand over the keys without being foreclosed (USA Today March 11). Credit unions are trying to help borrowers weather the downturn, according to The Sacramento Bee (March 10), despite the number of businesses cropping up that advise borrowers how to walk away from the mortgage. One such credit union is SAFE CU, based in North Highlands, Calif. Paul Rigdon, vice president, told the Bee the $1.345 billion asset credit union had no foreclosures by its members until 2007. Since the housing crisis began, it has had two borrowers walk from their mortgage payments and others have hinted they might do the same. Rigdon tries to persuade potential walkaways to hang on because giving up will affect their credit for some time. "We don't want to take their homes," he said. "With the market the way it is, foreclosures are in nobody's best interest," he said in the article. Another California credit union, The Golden 1 CU, based in Sacramento, is launching a $20 million program to help those who have lost their homes get into another one and to rebuild their credit, said the Bee. CEO Theresa Halleck told the newspaper the people who are victims and have lost their home in the past 18 months can apply for mortgage repair loans with fixed rates and a 30-year maximum term. Borrowers who use the loans cannot make a second mortgage for two years, to avoid accruing high debt loads, and they must enroll in debt counseling.

AACUL honors Floridas Hood with Farley award

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From left: Dr. Richard M. Heins; Guy Hood; Gene Farley; and American Association of Credit Union Leagues Chairwoman Rosie Holub, president/CEO of the Missouri Credit Union Association. (Photo provided by the Florida Credit Union League)
WASHINGTON (3/12/08)--Florida Credit Union League President/CEO Guy M. Hood was honored by the American Association of Credit Union Leagues (AACUL) as recipient of the Eugene H. Farley League Leadership Award. Hood began his career 38 years ago as a field representative for the Alabama Credit Union League and moved up through the ranks to senior vice president of technical services before joining the Florida league in 1988. He credited much of his success to Alabama league President Gary Wolter. The award was created in 2000 to recognize outstanding efforts of league personnel. Sponsored by AACUL, it is endowed by a contribution from Dr. Richard M. Heins, former CEO of CUNA Mutual, university professor and businessman. Farley is the former president/CEO of the Virginia Credit Union League. Upon receiving the award, Hood donated the monetary portion to the Florida Credit Union Foundation to assist in the funding of the REAL Solutions program. The award was presented last week in Washington at a reception during the Credit Union National Association's Governmental Affairs Conference.

D. Edward Wells CEO case goes to jury

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (3/12/08)--A trial of a former credit union chief executive and her husband accused of embezzling money from members has gone to a jury. Carol Aranjo, the former chief executive of now-defunct community development credit union D. Edward Wells CU, along with her husband, Alphonso Smith, allegedly stole $1.5 million from the credit union. Jurors began deliberating the case Monday afternoon. So far, 29 individuals have testified during the five-week trial (The Republican March 11). The couple’s defense lawyer stated that the amount they are accused of stealing is “preposterous.” He blamed the credit union’s board, who he said never questioned Aranjo about the money. He also said the missing funds were due to poor bookkeeping, the newspaper stated. Prosecutors said Aranjo used the funds to purchase a sauna and a timeshare in Mexico. Aranjo and Smith also are accused of using the money to pay personal debts. Aranjo and Smith face were charged with embezzlement, conspiracy and tax evasion. If convicted, Aranjo could face up to 14 years in prison (News Now Feb. 19). D. Edward Wells was liquidated in 2003 by the National Credit Union Administration after it suffered significant losses.

Financial group drops takeover bid for Canadian CU

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HIGH RIVER, Alberta (3/12/08)--Western Financial Group has dropped its $345 million takeover bid for Community Savings CU in the wake of the credit union’s board of directors decision not to forward the takeover offer to its members for a vote. Western Financial said Monday it was disappointed with the news that the proposal was not on Community Savings’ March 18 shareholder meeting agenda (The Canadian Press March 10). Included in the proposal was an offer by a subsidiary of Western Financial--Bank West--to acquire the credit union for roughly $345 million in cash, shares and payment to members. The credit union’s board instead unanimously supported a proposed three-way merger with two other Alberta credit unions (Canada.com March 8). The credit union had proposed merging with Servus Credit and Common Wealth CUs. The three--among the four largest credit unions in Alberta--announced Feb. 8 they were considering a merger because they faced competition from British Columbia-based credit union, Vancouver City Savings, Canada's largest credit union (News Now March 7). The driving force behind the credit union’s decision was that Western Financial wanted to turn the credit union into a bank, said Murray Haubrrich, Community Savings president/CEO.

CDCUs financial counseling service has good year

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NEW YORK (3/12/08)--During its first year, more than 40 credit unions offered BALANCE, the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions’ free financial counseling and education service, helping more than 1,000 members. BALANCE also offers foreclosure prevention advice and debt consolidation. “BALANCE is such a valuable benefit to our members that we will make it one of our core services, without outside subsidy,” said federation CEO Cliff Rosenthal. This year’s program was offered at no cost to CDCUs under $35 million in assets, an increase from last year’s offer to CDCUs under $25 million in assets, Rosenthal said. Most of the federation’s 232 member credit unions qualify for the free service. Women’s Southwest FCU, Dallas, was one credit union helped by the program. “Some people don’t want to or can’t come into the credit union and talk to us about their finances, and this program allows members to discuss their financial issues with someone truly anonymous on their own time,” said Women’s Southwest CEO Teri Portillo. A group of credit unions funded the bulk of the cost of providing BALANCE to small credit unions. Credit unions that helped launch the program include:
* America First CU, Odgen, Utah; * Andrews FCU, Suitland, Md.; * Boeing Employees CU, Seattle; * GTE FCU, Tampa, Fla.; * Navy FCU, Vienna, Va.; * Orange County Teachers FCU, Santa Ana, Calif.; * Patelco CU, San Francisco; * Suncoast Schools FCU, Tampa, Fla.; and * Truliant CU, Winston-Salem, N.C.

CU System briefs (03/11/2008)

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* HARRISBURG, Pa. (3/12/08)--Nominations have closed for two open poisitions on the Pennsylvania Credit Union Service Centers Inc. (PaCUSC) board of directors. Running unopposed were Ralph Canterbury of Clearview FCU and Karl Larson of AmeriChoice FCU. Canterbury currently is chairman of PaCUSC and has served on the board since 1994. Larson will be serving his first term. Their terms begin in May at the conclusion of PaCUSC's shareholders meeting (Life is a Highway March 10) … * RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (3/12/08)--Fawn Imboden, director of development at America's Christian CU in Glendora, Calif., was named HRD Network's Virginia Baldauf Human Resources Professional of the Year. The award, named after a former HRD Network president and retired San Mateo CU human resources executive, is presented to the HR professional who demonstrates achievement in leadership, vision/focus, teamwork, communication, risk-taking, interpersonal skills, innovation, development and ethics. Other HRD Network awards included: Trainer of the Year, Melissa Cleborne, training manager at Meriwest CU, San Jose, Calif.; and Patti Reed Scholarship, Leida Mateo, vice president of finance and chief financial officer at SONEPCO FCU, Reno, Nev. (Photo provided by the California Credit Union League) … * IOWA CITY, Iowa (3/12/08)--Fredrick Krause, former president/CEO of University of Iowa Community CU, Iowa City, died March 1 (Iowa City Press-Citizen March 6). He was 77. Krause was president/CEO of the credit union for 31 years, from 1968 to 1999. He started his career in financial services almost by accident when he was approached to start a credit union at his base while serving in the Air National Guard. He later became assistant manager of Collins CU in Cedar Rapids. Funeral services were March 7 …

Prolific robber advises Hire more security guards

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (3/12/08)--Credit unions and financial institutions need to take one significant action to thwart robbers, according to an experienced thief: Hire more security guards. Rennell Baker, who is facing a possible 180 years in prison for committing seven banks heists, told the South Bend Tribune he always avoids financial institutions with security guards, and he doesn’t understand why more financial institutions don’t have them (Associated Press March 10). Baker, who stole more than $26,000 from financial institutions between December 2006 and October 2007, according to court documents, is set to be sentenced April 8. Baker is one of the most prolific bank robbers in the South Bend area in a long time, police said. Security guards, however, don’t necessarily mean a credit union won’t be robbed. And if a robber is brazen enough to commit a robbery with an armed guard present, safety may become an issue. In the past four years, seven incidents involving security guards and shootings at credit unions were reported in News Now. In the most recent, Devarence Damon Kimbrough, 22, of Elkhart, Ind., was shot during an attempted armed robbery of Berrien Teachers CU Jan. 18. He died later at a hospital (Niles Daily Star Jan. 21). Kimbrough was one of two men who entered the credit union and exchanged gunfire with a security guard (Tribune Jan. 18). Earlier this week, a second suspect in the shootout was arrested (WSBT-TV March 11). Glenn M. Dooley-Porter was apprehended Sunday at a motel in Elkhart, Ind., and charged with armed robbery.