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FinCEN improves web site data

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WASHINGTON (5/15/08)—The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) disclosed that it has reorganized and expanded its website in response to recommendations from financial institutions. It said the goal was to improve informational content, and make it more user-friendly. FinCen said the redesigned web site has a standardized format, and restructured navigation system. It also promised “convenient category headings” for depository institutions and other users. The agency said the new format allows financial institutions to click on one place to view news, rules, guidance, and other regulatory information. It also includes a new “Quick Links” option on the right side of most pages to allow for fast access, and more supplemental information, according to the announcement. “We have listened to the suggestions and comments from our partners in the financial industry, and we have implemented changes that they have requested to make a better website,” said FinCEN director James Freis. He said this included displaying more efficiently on the homepage some of the some of the “most requested information” from financial institutions. The announcement also said under the new format, case examples of law enforcement successes facilitated by the Bank Secrecy Act are more prominently displayed and retrieveable. The Credit Union National Association is a member of FinCEN's Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) Advisory Group, a group established by COngress in 1992 to recommend ways to enhance the utility of BSA records and reports.

Inside Washington (05/14/2008)

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* WASHINGTON (5/15/08)--The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Services yesterday issued new guidance on the maximum contribution levels for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and out-of-pocket spending limits for high-deductible health plans used with HSAs. Next year, the maximum HSA contribution for an eligible individual with self-only coverage is $3,000. For family coverage, the maximum is $5,950. Catch-up contribution for individuals 55 or older will increase to $1,000 for 2009 and all years going forward ... * WASHINGTON (5/15/08)--Market participants will have to address the fundamental sources of financial strains, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke said in a speech Tuesday. The Fed has taken various measures to boost liquidity, but it will be up to the industry to solve the market’s problems. Participants should deleverage, raise new capital and improve risk management, he said. Once the market’s financial conditions become more normal, the extraordinary provision of liquidity by the Federal Reserve will not be needed, he concluded ... * WASHINGTON (5/15/08)--The Senate Tuesday approved a measure that would lengthen a flood insurance program, covering homes against floods until 2013. The measure also would forgive $17 billion in debt from Hurricane Katrina (Reuters May 14). The Senate rejected a provision for wind damage coverage. The House voted last year to lengthen the program, approved wind coverage, but voted against forgiving the debt. The two parties must reconcile on the bill before it is sent to the president. The Bush administration has said it will veto the House bill. The insurance industry argues that the wind coverage would be too risky ... * WASHINGTON (5/15/08)--Of the 37,313 suspicious activity reports (SARs) filed in 2006 regarding mortgage fraud, mortgage brokers initiated the loans on 58% of the SARs sampled for a report by Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). There was a 44% increase in SARs from the year before. States with the greatest increases in fraud filings were Illinois, 76%; California, 71%; Florida, 53%; Michigan, 52%; and Arizona, 49% ... * WASHINGTON (5/15/08)--The Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) announced that it launched the Consumer Response Center for consumers to receive information about or file a complaint against an institution regulated by OTS. The center can be reached at 800-842-6929 ... * WASHINGTON (5/15/08)--NACHA, the Electronic Payments Association, selected Janet O. Estep, an executive vice president with U.S. Bank, to serve as CEO. Estep replaces Elliott McEntee, who will retire at the end of this year. Estep will serve as president and chief operating officer, and McEntee will continue as chief executive officer. Estep was responsible for the Transaction Services Division at U.S. Bank. She joined the bank in 1997 as senior vice president and worked for IBM for 15 years. Her sensitivity to community banks and credit unions in the payments system ensures that NACHA and the automated clearinghouse network will benefit all stakeholders, said Mike Bilski, NACHA board member, who served on the CEO search committee ...

Foster joins NCUA Congressional affairs staff

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WASHINGTON (5/15/08)—Treasury official Robert U. Foster III will join the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) as deputy director of the Office of Public & Congressional Affairs effective May 19, the NCUA announced. Foster presently is deputy assistant Treasury Secretary for Legislative Affairs for banking and finance. In his new job, Foster will work with NCUA’s Public and Congressional Affairs Director John McKechnie. Foster joins the regulatory agency after 19 years of government service, and a stint in private industry, the announcement said. He is a native of Purcellville, Va., and holds a B.A. degree in Economics from Virginia Tech University.

CUNA advises on electronic Form 990 filings

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WASHINGTON (5/15/08)—Any state-chartered credit union with gross income from an unrelated trade or business of $1,000 or more must file an Internal Revenue Service Form 990-T with the IRS annually, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) is notifying credit unions. Responding to inquiries, CUNA has noted that the IRS requires institutions with more than $10 million in assets, and which file at least 250 IRS returns, to file some 990 forms electronically (including the IRS Form 990). However, CUNA has confirmed that the 990-T is not required to be filed electronically for tax year 2007. In fact, Form 990-T is not yet available for electronic filing with the IRS.

NCUA intends new ROA letter this summer

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WASHINGTON (5/15/08)—Dave Marquis, director of National Credit Union Administration’s (NCUA's) Office of Examination and Insurance, said Wednesday that his agency intends to release more guidance for credit unions regarding appropriate levels of return on assets. Marquis said the agency wants to emphasize that while credit unions clearly need ROA relief, they have a responsibility in turn to execute careful strategic planning and balance sheet management. During a recent Credit Union National Association (CUNA) ROA webinar, Marquis referred to an NCUA August 2006 evaluation of earnings letter, which clarified agency examiners' expectations regarding ROA. The letter said examiners are instructed to evaluate each credit union’s earnings level relative to net worth needs, as opposed to a fixed numerical target such as 1%. Marquis noted that if the letter was written today, the agency might envision ever lower levels of ROA than it did then. On Wednesday Marquis said he would expect the agency’s further guidance to be available this summer. He advised that credit unions must be prepared to identify how they manage their ROA. “(Credit unions) have a responsibility to manage it instead of just letting it happen,” Marquis told CUNA’s News Now. “This is really good news for credit unions,” said CUNA Chief Economist Bill Hampel. “This doesn’t give credit unions license to ignore ROA. A credit union will need to be able to justify why it is managing to a lower level of net income. “But this at least clear’s the path for a credit union to prudently follow an appropriate net income strategy. In today’s economy, a credit union with a high capital ratio needn’t penalize members with unattractive pricing just to maintain a higher-than-necessary ROA.” Use the resource link below to register for archived webinars.