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Irish CUs mark 50 years of growth influence

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DUBLIN (5/16/08)--The growth in size and influence of the Irish credit union movement during the past five decades stands in testimony to the abilities of its executives and dedication of its members. That was the message conveyed by World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) Chairman Melvin Edwards last month at the Irish League of Credit Unions' (ILCU) annual general meeting and celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Irish credit union movement. "The impressive growth and expansion of the Irish movement over the past 50 years to a membership of some three million is indeed worthy of celebration,” said Edwards, director of the Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions. Edwards and Pete Crear, WOCCU president/CEO, joined 1,500 delegates from 365 Irish credit unions in Dublin. The tremendous efforts of those associated with the movement can take credit for the success of Ireland’s credit unions, according to ILCU President Uel Adair. The extended anniversary celebration also will include commemorate stamps in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, the launch of a country-wide marketing campaign, and the May 22 inaugural Nora Herlihy Memorial Lecture by global anti-poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof, who was instrumental in organizing Live Aid for famine relief in Africa. Herily ran Ireland's first credit union. The league's National Advertising Campaign aims to clarify the credit union difference for Ireland's four million population. A new Credit Union Practice Training Program, developed by ILCU in partnership with the University of Ulster contains 14 credit union-specific modules designed to increase workplace capabilities and improve service to members. “World Council's participation in these commemorative events is more than mere recognition of Ireland's immense contribution to international credit union development and to the strength of WOCCU itself,” Edwards said. “The programs also anticipate ILCU’s accelerated progress in surmounting current regulatory and other challenges and initiating the Irish movement’s next phase of strategic transformation."

TJXMasterCard data breach settlement finalized

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FRAMINGHAM, Mass. (5/16/08)--A previously announced settlement between TJX Cos.--the retailer that disclosed last year the largest data breach in history--and MasterCard International Inc. and its card issuers has been finalized, and the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) has been assisting credit unions in reviewing the settlement. Financial institutions representing 99.5% of eligible MasterCard accounts having claims from the data breach accepted the settlement's alternative recovery offer. The companies had said the final settlement would hinge on getting acceptance from at least 90% of the compromised accounts with claims by May 3. As it did with an earlier settlement in December between TJX and affected Visa account issuers, CUNA arranged a conference call with credit unions, leagues and MasterCard to review the settlement with them and responded to their questions and concerns about it. CUNA also followed provided additional information in News Now and , and staff continue to help credit unions with their subsequent questions, said Mary Dunn, CUNA senior vice president and associate general counsel. TJX funded $24 million (pre-tax) for alternative recovery payments. The costs already have been reflected in a charge that TJX took last year related to the breach. Each accepting issuer released and indemnified TJX and its acquiring banks regarding any claims by the issuers, their affiliate issuers (such as credit unions and banks) and their sponsoring issuers regarding the breach. These include any claims in the putative financial institution class actions in federal and state courts. In an earlier settlement with Visa U.S.A. and Visa card issuers, 95% of financial institutions eligible accepted the alternative recovery offer (News Now Dec. 21). Some credit unions and banks have opted not to take the settlements and have separate lawsuits pending (News Now March 26). TJX, the Framingham, Mass.-based operator of 2,595 stores including the T.J. Maxx and Marshalls discount retail stores, discovered the breach last year.

CUs on the Tube Wisconsin CUs share the REAL story

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PEWAUKEE, Wis. (5/16/08)--Wisconsin credit unions are telling the stories of how they are serving members through REAL Solutions in a video created by the Wisconsin Credit Union League. The league interviewed representatives from several credit unions about how they are helping members. The league collected “hours of footage,” and shared the highlights in a 13-minute video, Chad Helminak, league public relations specialist, told News Now. The league decided to create the video, “The Real Story about Wisconsin Credit Unions,” after finishing a more formal video on REAL Solutions that emphasized the importance of outreach and REAL Solutions to credit unions. REAL Solutions is a program aimed at helping provide financial services to people of low-wealth and modest means, and is a signature program of the National Credit Union Foundation. “We wanted to touch on some of the smaller aspects,” Helminak said. He defined REAL Solutions as anything credit unions do without profit for members. To encourage participation in the interviews, the league took a camcorder to its annual convention and raffled off a Nintendo Wii to participants who shared their stories. The reaction to the video has been one of pride. “We have great stories, and when other credit unions see them, they’re inspired to tell their story,” Helminak said. Jill Weber, league director of member solutions, agreed. “For our first time doing something like this, we’re very pleased with how it turned out,” she said. The league hopes to continue creating videos and using interview snippets for podcasts, Helminak added.

CU System briefs (05/15/2008)

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* PEWAUKEE, Wis. (5/16/08)--Wisconsin credit unions raised $348,595 in 2007 to benefit sick and injured children treated at local nonprofit hospitals in the Children's Miracle Network (CMN), said the Wisconsin Credit Union League (The League May 12). Nationally, credit unions and their trade associations raised about $8 million last year, compared with $7 million in 2006, for CMN. The funds provide charity care, special treatment programs, and research and equipment. The funds also are sent to the CMN-affiliated hospital nearest the area where the funds are raised … * HARRISBURG (5/16/08)--Mary Beth Wilcher, chief marketing officer at Erie (Pa.) FCU, was a guest on a 30-minute talk radio show Wednesday on JET Radio 1400, according to the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (Life is a Highway May 15). The topic was credit unions. She discussed who can belong, how credit unions differ, credit unions' iBelong awareness campaign; and the future of credit unions. Other topics discussed included challenges facing credit unions and the current mortgage crisis. Erie FCU will participate in eight monthly interviews during 2008. Each segment will focus on a different credit union topic …

Staff member OK after robber pepper-sprays them

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LONGVIEW, Wash. (5/16/08)--An armed man lined up eight credit union employees and one member in the credit union and pepper sprayed them all, then fled with a bag of cash Tuesday afternoon. The man, who displayed a semiautomatic handgun, reportedly took off his mask as he left and said, “Good day, gentlemen,” to two men who were standing outside Fibre FCU, police said (Associated Press May 14). A police dog followed the scent but could not locate the suspect who robbed the $582.7 million asset, Longview, Wash.-based credit union, police said. No one required hospitalization, but the credit union closed for the afternoon, shortly after the 4 p.m. robbery, Larry Hoff, Fibre CEO, told News Now. The credit union reopened Wednesday morning, but the eight affected credit union employees were given the day off, Hoff said. “Counselors have come in since the event, and the affected staff are taking advantage of that offering,” Hoff added. Police believe the suspect is the same man who robbed a Centralia branch of Bank of America more than an hour after the Fibre heist. In that robbery, he fired one shot in the air but didn’t use pepper spray (tdn.com May 15).

League CEO testifies before N.Y. state committee

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LATHAM, N.Y. (5/16/08)--The president/CEO of the New York State Credit Union League testified before a state committee to voice support for and concerns about a bill proposed by the state in response to the mortgage and subprime lending crisis. William J. Mellin, league president/CEO, appeared before the New York State Standing Committee on Banks on behalf of New York’s credit unions to voice his support of the Governor’s Program Bill #44 (S.8143/A.10817).
William J. Mellin, president/CEO of the New York State Credit Union League, addresses the state Standing Committee on Banks at a public hearing in Albany Monday to evaluate the governor's program bill to address mortgage foreclosures and subprime loans in the state. (Photo provided by the New York State Credit Union League)
The bill, introduced in response to the mortgage foreclosure crisis and subprime lending practices in the state, primarily seeks to expand protections currently afforded to high-cost mortgages to a new category of non-conventional mortgages; strengthen and expand New York’s Anti-Predatory Lending law; and amend the penal law to include crimes relating to mortgage fraud. Throughout his testimony, Mellin expressed credit unions’ support of all aspects of the legislation except for a low interest-rate-threshold component. “While we agree that the existing thresholds are perhaps too high for the industry, we are concerned that the thresholds proposed in this bill are too low,” said Mellin. “If thresholds are to remain a key component of the legislation, I ask that you consider the unique not-for-profit, member-owned, ‘people helping people’ philosophy of credit unions and exempt them from a stated threshold.” Mellin laid out credit unions’ history of responsible lending to the committee chaired by Sen. Hugh Farley (R-Adirondack/Capital). He shared basic credit union underwriting practices where both borrowers and lenders have a mutual interest in each other’s success, and how the proposed threshold might negatively impact a credit union’s ability to make loans to its membership. Also, Mellin pointed out how the threshold would not only apply to the economically disadvantaged, but also affect a class of borrowers that historically have not been in need of increased legislative or regulatory protections. “Credit unions do not engage in predatory practices,” stated Mellin. “Credit unions were originally formed to help many New Yorkers achieve the ‘American Dream’ when other lenders would not (help), and this current crisis again demonstrates the need for credit unions.” Mellin encouraged the committee to focus more on underwriting principles and to consider credit unions as a viable solution to today’s subprime mortgage crisis.

CDFIs rally to support New York State Fund

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ALBANY, N.Y. (5/16/08)--About 80 participants from all areas of the state came May 8 to Albany to highlight the work of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), and voice support for the New York State CDFI Fund at the New York Coalition of CDFIs Statewide Conference.
The New York Coalition of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) steering committee includes, from left: Cliff Rosenthal, National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions president/CEO; Bob Radliff, CEO, Capital District Community Loan Fund; Leni Hochman, chief financial officer, Alternatives FCU; Donna Gambrell, director, U.S. Treasury Department CDFI Fund; Justine Zinkin, CEO, Neighborhood Trust FCU; David Raynor, executive director, Leviticus 25:23 Alternative Loan Fund; and Rafael O. Morales, Federation public affairs officer and coalition coordinator. Not pictured are: Gina Bolden-Rivera and Greg Gamble, Carver Community Development Corp., New York; Kristin Giantris, Northeast vice president, Non-profit Finance Fund, New York; and Dana Brunett and Hubert Van Tol, Rural Opportunities Inc., Rochester, NY. (Photo provided by the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions)
The conference was organized by the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions. Following the conference, 13 credit union leaders met in Albany to discuss the future of community development credit unions. Organized with Alternatives FCU, Ithaca, N.Y., the summit was an opportunity for affiliated credit unions in the federation’s northeast region to create a structure for future collaborations. Tristam Coffin, CEO, Alternatives FCU, approached the federation to organize the meeting because “there are so many things that are common to all credit unions, and spending less time and money doing some of those things will allow us to be much more successful,” she said. Attendees were interested in collaborating on a variety of issues, including staff training, marketing and data processing. The group determined that its goal is to “perpetuate the survival of community development credit unions through innovative collaborative solutions.” Participants included community development credit union leaders, federation staff, and the federation’s community development partner, Paragon FCU, Montvale, N.J. The group intends to continue meeting and will invite more credit unions to participate through the federation. “CDFIs are needed now more than ever amid this subprime crisis,” said federation President/CEO Cliff Rosenthal. “It’s not just about housing, the problems in the financial system have translated into a contraction of credit for all sorts of enterprises and all sorts of lending. That says to us that the diversified funding that CDFIs provide, whether it’s for housing, micro-enterprise, or small businesses, is more critical than ever.” New York State Rep. Darryl Towns and Senate Bank Committee Director Pete Edman addressed CDFI conference attendees. “Because you’re small, and lean and mean, you’re able to get products out there that are needed, without having to go through months of shareholder meetings to come up with these ideas,” Towns said. “You’re there on the ground floor, and we appreciate you for that. We hope that over the next few months and as we face the next budget, that we will be able to reach your targeted goal to create a pool of $15 million over the next three years [to support CDFIs].” Edman, who coordinates the state Senate Banking Committee for State Sen. Hugh Farley, the sponsor of the New York CDFI legislation in the Senate, expressed the senator’s support for the work of CDFIs in extending affordable housing to residents of low-income urban and rural communities throughout the state.

Rural co-ops working with WOCCU in China still intact

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MADISON, Wis. (5/16/08)--Rural credit cooperatives (RCCs) working with the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) in China are reporting none were knocked out of commission by a massive earthquake Monday that killed at least 10,000 people. "We were working in Guizhou Province, next door to Sichuan Province, epicenter of the earthquake," said Michael Muckian, communications manager at WOCCU. "Although there are rural credit cooperatives in Sichuan, we haven't been in touch with them for quiet some time, and like the rest of the world, we don't know what's going on over there right now," Muckian told News Now. Ten people from RCCs in Guizhou are in the U.S., visiting credit unions in California. Some were apparently in touch with their families back home. The families said "they felt some shaking, but there were no injuries or deaths, no significant damage, and no RCCs knocked out of commission," he added. WOCCU's World Credit Union Conference will be in Hong Kong, nowhere near the region devastated by the 7.9 magnitude quake. The conference is set for July 13-16.

Two CU employees homes damaged by wildfires

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PALM BAY, Fla. (5/16/08)--Two credit union employees’ homes were affected by recent wildfires in Florida, according to the Florida Credit Union League (FCUL). Fires began burning on Tuesday, near the towns of Palm Bay and Malabar. Police have arrested a suspect in connection with deliberately setting a fire (News Now May 15). Space Coast CU, based in Melbourne, reported to the league that two of its employees’ homes were damaged by the blaze. One of the homes was completely lost, Amy Jowers, league vice president of communications, told News Now. Community Educators CU said that several of its members were impacted by the fires, mostly through continual power outages. The outages spoiled several families’ refrigerated food. A total of 162 homes in Palm Bay were affected, Jowers said. Community Educators and Space Coast are accepting donations to help those displaced by the fire. On Wednesday, Community Educators’ Palm Bay branch opened to serve dinner to people affected by the fires. The credit union received “generous donations from Wal-Mart, Frito-Lay, Coca-Cola and Culligan Water,” Jowers said. The FCUL continues to monitor the situation.

JetBlue exec touts CU model says FSCC

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SAN DIMAS, Calif. (5/16/08)--A JetBlue executive is touting the credit union model, according to the Financial Service Centers Cooperative (FSCC). The credit union model is “better positioned to deliver members unique and personalized retail services than a commercial bank,” said Ann Rhoades, founder of JetBlue Airways. Rhoades is scheduled to speak at FSCC’s Retail Delivery Convention in Chicago June 11-13. Rhoades has worked with several credit unions, including Southwest Airlines FCU, Dallas. “At Southwest Airlines FCU we had a very loyal following among our employees who did not switch, even when they left our organization, because they felt the credit union offered the best service model,” she said. She also is working to launch a credit union for JetBlue. Sarah Canepa Bang, president/CEO of FSCC, said Rhoades’ “multi-faceted experience will provide attendees with an innovator’s approach to serving consumers,” she said. The convention will feature a number of speakers, from credit union and financial consultants, to industry leaders and other speakers who have influenced the credit union movement, FSCC said.