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Inside Washington (03/28/2008)

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* WASHINGTON (3/31/08)—Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is scheduled to deliver remarks this morning addressing financial institutions and financial markets. The event will be available for viewing via webcast beginning at 10 a.m…. * WASHINGTON (3/31/08)—President George W. Bush participated in a HOPE NOW roundtable Friday followed by a tour of a mortgage counseling facility in Freehold, N.J. HOPE NOW, announced in October 2007 by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, is an alliance of mortgage servicers, mortgage counselors, government officials and non-profit groups intended to develop strengthened efforts to help struggling homeowners keep their homes. Bush visited Novadebt, a housing counseling agency approved by HUD and a participant in the HOPE hotline, 888-995-HOPE, which connects homeowners to free counseling services by trained non-profit counselors… * WASHINGTON (3/31/08)—Congress may just be coming back to Washington from a two-week district work break, but the agenda lawmakers face looks an awful lot like their work list from earlier this year. (CongressDailyPM March 27) In the Senate, high on the list during the eight weeks preceding a Memorial Day recess, are the Iraq war and economic issues. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada also intends to revisit the Democrats' housing stimulus legislation. The House schedule for next week is unclear at this time but Democratic leadership sources said legislation providing $50 billion for other countries to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria is likely to be the only major bill on the floor. * WASHINGTON (3/31/08)—Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), a contender for the Democratic presidential candidacy, said he would back an overhaul of the financial services regulatory system. Among many other ideas, Obama called for a streamlining of regulatory agencies. He said banks and other institutions should be supervised according to their business lines and that the regulatory framework, which he said has failed to protect homeowners, must be brought into the 21st century. (American Banker March 28)… * WASHINGTON (3/31/08)--The Small Business Administration announced Friday it has launched a new website for National Small Business Week 2008, which is April 21-25. The website offers information about the SBA’s annual celebration of small businesses and includes details about events in Washington, D.C. from April 21-23 and in New York City April 24-25. It provides information about the week’s schedule, topical sessions, event locations, award winners’ biographies and sponsor information. In addition, information for Small Business Week award winners will be accessible on member-only sections. The SBA, in a release announcing the website, highlighted an interactive blog feature that will allow sponsors and the public to post content about Small Business Week events. Up-to-the-minute highlights, multimedia content and information will be updated to the Web site during Small Business Week events in real-time, according to the SBA…

CUNA Banker stance on Realtors CU anti-consumer

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WASHINGTON (3/31/08)--The operating principal behind cooperative financial institutions is that people lend to each other for their mutual benefit. To be successful there needs to be members from many financial stratums, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) said in a recently published letter to the American Banker editor. Bankers “get that” and that is what stands behind their constant push to have credit unions serve only “people of modest means,” the CUNA letter said. “(S)ince credit unions have no access to the capital markets, the only way to get the process going and to capitalize the institution is to have some members with money,” according to CUNA General Counsel Eric Robert. The CUNA letter was submitted to express credit unions’ “grave concern” regarding comments attributed by the newspaper to the head lobbyist for the American Bankers Association. Floyd Stoner was said to have hinted that the bankers association would challenge the application for a new credit union by the real estate agents' association. CUNA’s letter responded that credit unions "stand ready to defend the rights of consumers to pool their resources, in a cooperative structure, to form a credit union." And Richard warned readers to avoid attempts at “revisionist history.” “Modest means has never meant only low- to moderate-income people. It means people who are wage-earners, as indicated by the legislative history of the 1934 Federal Credit Union Act. “Current law does not limit credit unions to serving only people of modest means. It states credit unions are to serve consumers, especially those of modest means," he wrote, adding: “Bankers would serve themselves better to stop devising schemes to block the rights of consumers.” The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has submitted an application to form a credit union for its 1.36 million members and their families. The original American Banker story surmised that a Realtors' credit union could unite NAR and credit unions behind similar issues, creating "an even more potent lobbying force on issues such as expansion of credit unions' fields of membership and regulatory relief." That theory apparently was bolstered after House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) reportedly said at an ABA conference earlier this month, "Realtors and credit unions both have better grassroots organizations than banks do."

Federation okd as HUD counseling intermediary

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WASHINGTON (3/31/08)–The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) last week approved the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (Federation) as a federal housing counseling intermediary. The new HUD certification authorizes the Federation to take on a role that has been filled by the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) since 2003. Credit unions seeking federal grants to provide housing counseling now will apply through the Federation. The request to HUD to certify the Federation came from the NCUF. NCUF Executive Director Steve Delfin explained the reason for this transition: "Over the past five years, community development credit unions demonstrated the most success meeting HUD's criteria. So last year we included the Federation in our final HUD grant." Federation President/CEO Cliff Rosenthal said, “We’re grateful to the Foundation for introducing HUD to credit unions and to the Federation. Housing counseling is a crucial service to help consumers avoid the current mortgage crisis and potential foreclosures, and credit unions have an incredible opportunity to aid millions of Americans facing these problems.” He added that the Federation has both expertise and capacity to help credit unions become “even more effective as housing counseling agents.” The Federation’s “CU Breakthrough” consulting team will continue working with NCUF to provide technical assistance and training to HUD-certified credit unions during the last six months of HUD’s 2007 grant cycle, which extends through Sept. 30, 2008. Twenty-two credit unions are using this final HUD grant from NCUF to provide housing counseling for potential first-time homebuyers. Federation Senior Consultant Terry Ratigan is currently coordinating the 2008 HUD Housing Counseling grant application. Credit union applications are due on April 13 for a new grant cycle that begins on Oct. 1. For information on the new HUD grant application, credit unions can contact Ratigan at tratigan@cdcu.coop.

CUNA to reach more on BSA issues

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WASHINGTON (3/31/08)—The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) is attempting to reach even more credit unions to help them meet the complex compliance requirements under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). This year CUNA will conduct two Bank Secrecy Act conferences, one in Washington, D.C. May 18-21 and the other in Atlanta, Ga. Oct. 19-22. CUNA has been designing annual BSA conferences since 2005 to provide credit unions with the most up-to-date information available. New topics for the 2008 sessions include:
* An in-depth, hands-on look at developing an institution-wide BSA risk assessment; * How BSA due diligence before a merger can save a credit union from other pitfalls; * Shared branching and BSA; who is responsible for what; *ACH and wire issues; and * Alternative payment methods and problems that can develop.
This 2008 conferences will feature informative discussions on practical, operational compliance issues; open forums for question and answer; big picture compliance trends; overviews of common mistakes; and networking opportunities . In 2006, CUNA began offering participants an opportunity to become BSA certified via a test administered by CUNA. That certification option will be available at both 2008 sessions. For registration information, and more on BSA, use the resource links below.