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Mica named a top Washington lobbyist

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WASHINGTON (5/6/08)--Dan Mica, president/CEO of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), has again been named as one of Washington’s top lobbyists by The Hill newspaper’s list. This is the sixth consecutive year Mica has been named to the list. The Hill noted that Mica is working to get legislation passed that would improve the regulation of credit unions. The Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act (CURIA), supported by CUNA, is H.R. 1537 in the House and was introduced last week in the Senate by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) as S. 2957. Mica also has spoken out against a Treasury blueprint that would place credit unions and banks under the same regulator and charter. Mica garnered press attention from major media outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal, CongressDaily and Politico. The Hill’s list of top lobbyists is created based on conversations with aides, other lobbyists and members of Congress. The newspaper covers lobbying and Capitol Hill activities. It is read largely by congressional members and lobbying organizations (News Now May 4, 2007). Other lobbyists to make this year’s list include: Steve O’Connor, Mortgage Bankers Association; Ed Yingling, American Bankers Association; Dan Berger, National Association of Federal Credit Unions; and Camden Fine, Independent Community Bankers of America.

WSJ says this is big year for Little Guy

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WASHINGTON (5/6/08)--The weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal highlighted the Credit Union National Association’s grassroots efforts, calling 2008 a “big year for the Little Guy.”
Click to view larger imageThe May 3-4 weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal noted the CUNA's grassroots clout and included an image of the Little Guy--CUNA's iconic character that represents the working men and women of America from all walks of life who are credit union members--the owners and focus of credit union service.
The story included a picture of CUNA’s “The Little Guy.” The current economic climate and worries of working Americans have come to the forefront during this election year, according to the Journal. This has changed lobbying strategies for many groups in Washington. “Folks beat money anytime in a political fight,” House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was quoted in the story. The current political and public backlash against “Big Banks, Big Oil, and Big Business,” has resulted in many lobbying groups putting their “members and dependents out front—the more Main Street they are, the better,” said the Journal. For example, even the American Bankers Association has begun emphasizing its “local” roots by stressing it represents thousands of community banks that become members after the ABA merged with America’s Community Banks, according to the report. The story called CUNA “a mammoth of the grass roots,” and noted CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica’s heated reaction to the U.S. Treasury’s plan to overhaul the financial regulatory structure. That plan would eliminate the credit union charter as well as the National Credit Union Administration. Mica said any implementation of such a plan would result in the “nuclear option”--a request to all 85 million credit union members to “rally on Capitol Hill, jam lawmakers’ phone lines and inboxes.”

Senators support for CURIA urged

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WASHINGTON (5/6/08)—Each member of 110th Senate is being sent a letter from the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) urging them to support and co-sponsor S. 2957, the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act (CURIA). The key credit union legislation was introduced for the first time in the Senate last week by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.). A House version of the regulatory improvements package carries the names of 149 official backers. In urging Senate support, CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica wrote that by co-sponsoring CURIA, lawmakers will be “helping credit unions continue their mission of serving working families, making needed services available to lower-income or underserved consumers, and helping promote economic growth and well being in our nation’s communities.” Beyond that, Mica noted, CURIA will also improve the quality of services to credit union members by updating or removing other burdensome regulations. The letter included an attachment with specific information about important reforms within CURIA. “Credit unions work every day to help improve the lives of millions of Americans from all walks of life. At a credit union, every customer is a member and owner,” Mica told each Senator. “ The mission of credit unions is to serve their members, and as our economy struggles, this mission is more important than ever. We appreciate your past support of credit unions and urge you to show your continuing support by co-sponsoring CURIA,” the letter concluded. Specifically, CURIA proposes, in part, to:
* Modernize credit union capital standards to permit more efficient capital management while allowing more earnings to be returned to members in lower costs and expanded services; * Expand the ability of credit unions to make loans to finance their members’ local small businesses; and * Permit more credit unions to offer needed services in lower-income communities that are not adequately served by other depository institutions.

Inside Washington (05/05/2008)

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* WASHINGTON (5/6/08)--The credit card industry’s increasing complexity urged regulators to create rules that define deceptive and unfair card practices, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke said (American Banker May 5). The Fed Friday proposed a plan that would protect cardholders from unexpected rate increases on pre-existing card balances. The rules are open for public comment under the Federal Trade Commission Act. Because the rules could potentially increase the cost of credit to consumers, the comment period for the proposal is important, said Donald Kohn, Fed vice chairman ... * WASHINGTON (5/6/08)--The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Internal Revenue Service have created a new task force to investigate mortgages made without solid proof of borrowers’ earnings or assets, a government official said Sunday (The New York Times May 5). The task force also will investigate how brokers and mortgage lenders handled low- and no-documentation loans, and how loans were packaged into securities. The agencies’ original task force, created in January, recently expanded its investigation after information regarding write-downs from bad mortgages began to surface. The group has investigated lending practices of 14 unnamed mortgage companies. In March, the FBI and Justice Department began investigating Countrywide Financial Corp. for financial misrepresentation ... * WASHINGTON (5/6/08)—U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr. and Charles Schwab, chairman of the President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy, announced the appointment of several key council officers Monday, including Ted Beck as head of the Committee on Outreach. Beck is CEO of the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE)—the Credit Union National Association’s eight-year partner in financial literacy efforts. Monday’s meeting was the second for the 20-member President’s Council, whose mission is to focus exclusively on economic empowerment issues. Also named to leadership positions were: Tahira Hira, Committee on Financial Education Research; John Bryant, Committee on Underserved Populations; Janet Parker, Committee on Financial Education in the Workplace; and Laura Levine, Committee on Financial Education for Youth. Schwab said of the appointments, "The council's new liaison to the commission will help maintain open lines of communication between the private sector and the federal government, and ensure that the two panels are working together toward a common goal."…

House to act on housing bills this week

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WASHINGTON (5/6/08)--Two housing bills aimed at helping troubled borrowers refinance their mortgages are expected to hit the House floor this week. The House goal is to approve its bills in plenty of time to go to conference with the Senate before Memorial Day, according to Ryan Donovan, Credit Union National Association vice president of legislative affairs. Because there are differences between proposed House and Senate legislation, the differences would have to be worked out through a conference committee before the bills could receive final approval and be sent to the White House for the President’s signature. One of the bills headed for House action is H.R. 5818, the Neighborhood Stabilization Act. Introduced by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), the bill would provide states and cities with funds to help prevent rising foreclosures in neighborhoods. The second measure would combine:
* H.R. 5720, the Housing Assistance Tax Act of 2008; * H.R. 5830, the Federal Housing Administration Housing (FHA) and Homeowner Retention Act; * H.R. 1852, the Expanding American Homeownership Act of 2007; * H.R. 1427, the Federal Housing Finance Reform Act of 2007; and * H.R. 5579, the Emergency Mortgage Loan Modification Act of 2008.
H.R. 1852 and H.R. 1724 passed the House and H.R. 5579 passed through the House Financial Services Committee April 23. H.R. 1427 deals with government-sponsored enterprises reform, H.R. 1852 deals with FHA reform and H.R. 5579 would provide a legal safe harbor for lenders who modify loan terms for mortgages that have been securitized. H.R. 5720 would give first-time home buyers help making a down payment on a home by giving them a refundable tax credit equal to an interest-free loan to 10% of the home purchase price. H.R. 5830, introduced by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), would expand the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s program to help at-risk borrowers refinance into more affordable mortgages. The measure was approved by Frank’s committee Thursday.