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CU System briefs (04/20/2011)

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* DETROIT (4/21/11)--Dante DeMiro, 43, founder and managing director of MuniVest Financial Group and MuniVest Services LLC, Southfield, Mich., pleaded guilty Tuesday in a federal court of five counts of fraud involving more than $10 million he diverted from municipalities, a credit union serving church members, a bank, a school districts and trade unions. DeMiro admitted that from at least March 2009 to September 2010, he falsely promised to invest their funds in certificates of deposit. Instead, he diverted the investment funds to make loans to a jewelry store and repay other investors in a Ponzi scheme. Sentencing is set for July 12. DeMiro faces up to 30 years in prison and/or a $1 million fine (The Muskegon Chronicle April 19 and Forbes.com April 20) … * HARRISBURG, Pa. (4/21/11)--Two people have been elected to four-year terms on the Pennsylvania Credit Union Service Centers Inc. (PaCUSC) board, announced board Chairman Ralph Canterbury. They are Linda Brown, executive vice president, Service lst FCU, Danville, and Brian Waugaman, chief operations officer, Erie (Pa.) FCU. PaCUSC's annual meeting of shareholders will be May 12 in Hershey, Pa. (Life is a Highway April 20) …

Nebraska legislature passes savings promo raffles bill

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LINCOLN, Neb. (4/21/11)--The Nebraska legislature's passage Wednesday of a bill that would enable Nebraska credit unions to conduct savings promotion raffles as incentives for members to save for their financial future was lauded by the Nebraska Credit Union League. LB 524, introduced by state Sen. Amanda McGill (LD-26) of Lincoln, amends the Nebraska Revised Statutes. "We applaud Senator McGill and the Nebraska Legislature for passing LB 524, which will provide Nebraska's 425,000 credit union members with an innovative and fun way of saving money for their financial future," said league President/CEO Scott Sullivan. "By linking savings with prizes, we believe more Nebraskans will choose to save and develop a habit of saving that will provide them financial security and peace of mind going forward. The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Dave Heineman. If approved by the governor, the bill will go into effect in September. "Our goal is to have a program up and running at participating credit unions in January of 2012," said Sullivan. Michigan, Maine and Rhode Island currently allow savings promotion raffles. A similar bill in Iowa failed to make it out of a House committee after bankers opposed the measure (News Now April 15). In 2009, eight Michigan credit unions, the Michigan Credit Union League, Doorway to Dreams and the Filene Research Institute piloted a "Save to Win" (STW) program. Members of the participating credit unions received one chance to win a grand prize of $100,000 for every $25 they deposited in their STW account. During the first nine months of the pilot, members opened more than 11,000 STW accounts and saved more than $9 million. Today, more than 40 Michigan credit unions offer STW accounts. In February, Michigan credit unions awarded their second $100,000 grand prize since the inception of the program.

CU reassures PETA Promo doesnt urge running of the bulls

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TAMPA, Fla. (4/21/11)--University of South Florida FCU has reassured the animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) that a contest to promote savings among its members does not condone cruelty to animals. USF CU dropped all references to the running of bulls in Pamplona, Spain, as part of its “Best Bull” online contest, after receiving a letter from PETA. The credit union’s intention was to tie the promotion to University of South Florida Bulls, according to President/CEO Richard Skaggs. In the contest, which ended Monday, participants produced videos of 60 seconds or less to demonstrate their financial savvy managing money during a tough economy. Skaggs told News Now he believes the credit union’s intentions and its ability to communicate them were clearly reflected in the more than 40 video entries the contest attracted. “All the videos were focused on financial literacy and awareness, being creative, saving and using credit unions vs. banks,” Skaggs said. “I think the videos really give a clear picture of what the contest was about.” The entries are on YouTube and will be judged on originality, creativity and integration of the USF brand. The contest winner can select an all-expense paid trip for two to Pamplona or a cash prize. PETA learned of the promotion from USF students and alumni, according to a press release from the organization. Skaggs received PETA’s letter last week. It expressed concerns about the safety of the bulls during the run in Pamplona. Skaggs told PETA the credit union was unaware of the cruelty involved and will structure the contest differently in the future. The contest winner will be selected next week.

Wine auction raises 270K for kids hospitals

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DANA POINT, Calif. (4/21/11)--The sixth annual California and Nevada Credit Unions for Kids Wine Auction raised a record $270,000 for 11 Children's Miracle Network Hospitals in the two states, announced the event's organizers. The March 25 event in Dana Point, Calif., drew more than 300 attendees from more than 75 credit unions, organizations and hospitals. The wine auction has raised more than $1 million since 2006 for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. "Achieving $1 million in donations for Credit Unions for Kids over that span is incredible, and greatly reinforces what credit unions are all about--people helping people," said Teresa Freeborn, chair of the Wine Auction Committee and president/CEO of Xceed Financial CU, El Segundo, Calif. At the event, attendees bid on a variety of items, including more than 260 bottles of wine and several travel packages for vacations in Northern California, Hawaii and San Diego.
Click to view larger image The California and Nevada Credit Unions for Kids Wine Auction Committee and representatives from Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in California announced the auction raised $270,000 for 11 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in California and Nevada. (Photo provided by Credit Unions for Kids)
The evening's special guest was Bailey Spoonhower, 9, miracle child from Children's Hospital Orange County, Calif. Spoonhower, with the help of his mother, shared his message of hope after battling rhabdomyosarcoma, a muscle cancer, for three years. He is now cancer free. The Spoonhower family's YouTube channel, which documented the cancer battle, was seen by thousands of viewers. The Wine Auction Committee comprises credit union representatives who work closely with their local Children's Miracle Network Hospital representatives to help raise awareness of the event. Corporate sponsors, who paid all upfront costs associated with the auction, includedthe California and Nevada leagues, CU Direct Corp., CO-OP Financial Services, Financial Service Centers Cooperative Inc, and CUNA Mutual Group. Grand reserve sponsors were: Financial Partners CU, Downey, Calif.; SchoolsFirst FCU, Santa Ana; Xceed Financial CU; AutoNation Direct; and Fifth Third Processing Solutions. Fiserv sponsored the appearance by comedy duo Bermuda Mavericks.

In the media CU perks for the little guy

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MADISON, Wis. (4/21/11)--Credit unions offer five perks for “the little guy,” according to a recent article on Bankrate.com, which also appeared in Yahoo! Finance. The article, titled “5 perks for the little guy,” begins by asking, “Are credit unions better than banks?” then explains how credit unions differ from banks in their ownership structure--and how credit union members benefit from that difference. “Since credit unions are not-for-profits owned by their members, they return savings to their membership,” the article says. “For example auto loan rates are usually 2% lower than they are at banks, says Anne Legg, chair of Credit Union National Association’s [CUNA] Marketing and Business Development Council.” Among the perks cited in the article:
* Attend free financial workshops. Most credit unions take financial literacy very seriously. The article cites Landmark CU, New Berlin, Wis., as an example of a credit union that offers free seminars on budgeting and home buying. * Renegotiate loans. They offer lower rates, but truly personalized service has long been a hallmark of credit unions. Legg says most credit unions will discuss loan modifications over the phone. * Find discounts on services, entertainment. Credit unions with large, local memberships often offer discounts on sporting events and entertainment. “We keep offering more every year,” said Todd Pietzsch, spokesman at BECU, Tukwila, Wash. * Take advantage of rewards programs. Many retailers offer rewards programs today, and credit unions are not exception. For example, OMNI Community CU, Battle Creek, Mich., offers cash back rebates on checking, saving and car loans. * Share membership benefits with your family members. Credit unions are typically family oriented, and most offer accounts for every stage of life, from kids accounts to retirement products. Affinity FCU, Basking Ridge, N.J., has a college planning center with advisers to help families with their college savings plans.
To access the full article, use the link.

Banks still hide fees from consumers says U.S.PIRG

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WASHINGTON (4/21/11)--Banks are still hiding their fees from consumers, even the fees mandated by the Truth in Savings Act, says a new study by U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG). That's why one of the study's key recommendations is to "bank at a credit union, not a bank." The study found that of more than 392 bank branches surveyed in 21 states, fewer than half obeyed the law in fully disclosing their fees to prospective customers. One in four of banks surveyed provided no fee information at all, said U.S. PIRG. The group also reviewed bank fees online at 12 other banks, said its report, "Big Banks, Bigger Fees: A National Survey of Bank Fees and Fee Disclosure Policies." Among the key findings:
* Fewer than half (38%) of the banks complied easily with a researcher request for fee schedules required by the Truth in Savings Act. Only after two or more requests did 55% of the branches provide fee schedules. Nearly one-fourth (23%) refused to comply with the request. Other banks provided "often weighty piles of useless other brochures." * Free checking was available at half the banks, and 29% more offered free checking with direct deposit. "The free accounts are widely available at small and regional banks and credit unions, a finding that has also been obtained by others," said the report.
U.S.PIRG also made these recommendations for consumers:
* Review bank statements and count the fees, especially ATM surcharges and "off-us" fees when making transactions at another bank's ATM. * Examine how many fees you pay and shop around. "Look for better accounts. Bank at a credit union, not at a bank. Credit unions are member-owned, lower-cost alternatives to banks and often offer the same variety of service. It's easier to qualify for membership than most consumers think."
U.S. PIRG, which is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organization, also urged the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to extend the TIS Act requirements to the Internet by requiring banks to post fees in a searchable Web format and to post the most important savings and checking disclosures required by the act in tabular format. To download the full report, use the link.

Kansas CUs elect KCUA officers announce awards

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WICHITA, Kan. (4/21/11)--Kansas credit unions elected officers and honored their peers as 350 representatives gathered in Overland Park last weekend for the Kansas Credit Union Association’s (KCUA) 76th Annual Meeting and Convention.
Click to view larger image During the Kansas Credit Union Association’s (KCUA) 76th Annual Meeting and Convention Millard O. “Bob” Wray, former manager/president of Kansas Highway CU (now Quest CU), Topeka, was named posthumously to the KCUA Hall of Fame. Accepting the award was his son, Gary Wray. From left: KCUA Board Chairman Larry Damm; Gary Wray; and KCUA President/CEO Marla Marsh. (Photo provided by Kansas Credit Union Association)
The two-day event featured industry speakers and educational and networking opportunities. The keynote presentation by Dr. Benjamin Akande, economics professor and Dean at Webster University in Webster Groves, Mo., addressed the new reality of post-recession America. U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder (R) also addressed the group, sharing insights on the budget debate in Congress and proposed legislation effecting financial institutions. Four credit union leaders were honored at the event:
* Wayne Warfel, president of Wichita (Kan.) FCU, received the Henry Peterson Professional of the Year Award. Warfel was honored for his demonstrated leadership within the Kansas credit union community. * Don Homan, supervisory committee chairman of Frontier Community CU, Leavenworth, received the John Michener Volunteer of the Year Award. Homan was honored for his long-time service and devotion as a volunteer, both to credit unions and the community. * Millard O. “Bob” Wray, former manager/president of Kansas Highway CU (now Quest CU), Topeka, was named posthumously to the KCUA Hall of Fame. Accepting the award was his son, Gary Wray. The award recognized Wray’s dedication and passion as leader, advocate and mentor in the Kansas credit union movement. * John Beverlin, president/CEO of Mainstreet CU, Lenexa, received the Political Involvement Award. Beverlin was recognized for his effort, and involvement in educating both state and national policymakers on the credit union difference. * Mid American CU was also recognized for winning a first-place award in the Desjardins Youth Financial Education Program. The Wichita-based credit union won the award for teaching a financial literacy course as part of a summer youth program in two of Wichita’s most culturally diverse and economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.
KCUA also conducted its annual board elections. Vickie Hurt, president of Quest CU, Topeka was elected to the KCUA board. KCUA executive committee members elected for one-year terms were:
* Chairman Larry Damm, Cessna Employees CU, Wichita; * Vice Chairman Homan; and * Don Napell, Farmers CU, Hays.
Karen Hamit, CEO of Credit Union of Dodge City was newly elected to the Shared Financial Solutions Board. Re-elected to that board were:
* Robert Corwin, president/CEO of Meritrust CU, Wichita; * Brenda Kliewer, manager of McPherson CO-OP CU; * Damm; * Jim Holt, president/CEO of Mid American CU, Wichita; and * Napell.
Shared Financial Solutions is a division of KCUA providing financial products and services to credit unions throughout the Midwest.

SECUs 100000th Bluebird House at governors mansion

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RALEIGH, N.C. (4/21/11)--State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU), Raleigh, N.C., recently placed its 100,000th bluebird house at the home of North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue, reaching a milestone in a statewide community improvement project.
Click to view larger image Representatives of the State Employees’ CU (SECU) the Eastern Bluebird Rescue Group recently joined Gov. Beverly Perdue at the governor’s mansion to place SECU’s 100,000th bluebird house. From left: Hope Galunas, SECU member; Tommy Norwood, SECU Bluebird House delivery; Gwen Ferrone, SECU member education; Toretta Snipes, SECU, Butner branch; Perdue; Frank Newell, Eastern Bluebird Rescue Group; Kristye Steed, SECU Warrenton branch; and Anthony Steed, Eastern Bluebird Rescue Group. (Photo provided by State Employees’ CU)
In 2002, SECU partnered with Warrenton, N.C. resident Frank Newell and other volunteers from the Eastern Bluebird Rescue Group to launch a statewide community improvement project, selling birdhouses to benefit the bluebird population in North Carolina. The Bluebird Project was initiated when SECU Senior Vice President Toretta Snipes met Newell, whose passion for saving the dwindling bluebird population was infectious. Soon Snipes and SECU were on board with the goal of selling 25,000 bluebird houses. Today, 100,000 birdhouses later, SECU staffers continue to sell birdhouses for $10, the cost to construct the little homes. “Coordinating this project with Frank Newell and his volunteers at Eastern Bluebird Rescue Group has been such a privilege for me,” said Snipes. “I am inspired by their passion for the bluebirds and the environment, and I am thrilled that SECU’s membership has continued to support this effort in record numbers, allowing us to reach the 100,000 milestone.”

Centris FCU named SBA rural lender of the year

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OMAHA, Neb. (4/21/11)--Nebraska's largest credit union--Centris FCU, based in Omaha--has been named the U.S. Small Business Administration's (SBA) national lender of the year for rural and community loans, announced SBA last week. The award recognizes a lender that assists small businesses in creating jobs during difficult economic times (Omaha World-Herald April 15). The $432 million asset credit union increased its SBA-insured loan total to $6.5 million at the end of 2010, from $390,000 in 2007, said the World-Herald. It added 24 new loans totaling $4 million last year, which is the third-largest volume in the state for the year. SBA-guaranteed loans comprise about 30% of Centris' business lending portfolio. Centris, with 68,000 members, serves members who live, work, worship, or attend school in Douglas, Sarpy or Lincoln Counties in Nebraska or in Pottawattamie County, Iowa.