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Washington Archive

Washington

CU issues in Congress this week

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WASHINGTON (6/17/08)—With just two weeks before its Independence Day District Work Period and a mere 35 scheduled legislative days remaining this year, the U.S. Senate reconvened Monday to consider energy issues and the U.S. House convenes today to consider several measures. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) had been hopeful that the Credit Union Regulatory Relief Act (CURRA, H.R. 5519) would be on the House suspension calendar for a vote this week. However, it is not currently on the list of bills to be considered. CURRA is the regulatory relief bill clarifying federal credit unions' ability to add underserved areas to their fields of membership and exempting member business loans (MBLs) made in underserved areas from the 12.25% MBL cap . It is expected that the House will this week vote on bills addressing parental leave, child abuse and, possibly Iraq/Afghanistan supplemental appropriations. On the Senate side, lawmakers first considered the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act and were expected to move then to housing legislation that would allow the Federal Housing Administration to insure refinanced mortgages that have been significantly written down by mortgage holders and lenders. Proponents of that bill were hopeful that that the housing bill would reach the President's desk by Independence Day. However, the prospects of that happening now appear to be slim. CUNA will be monitoring several hearings of interest to credit unions:
* On Monday, the House Financial Services subcommittee on housing and community opportunity conducted a field hearing in Ohio on foreclosures in that state; * On Tuesday, the House Appropriations subcommittee on financial services and government operations is scheduled to vote on its FY 2009 appropriations bill. The bill would affect a few National Credit Union Administration programs, such as Community Development Revolving Loan Fund; * On Wednesday, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will investigate data protection issues in a hearing entitled “Protecting Personal Information: Is the Federal Government Doing Enough?"; and * On Thursday, the House Financial Services Committee has scheduled a hearing on affordable housing preservation and protection of tenants. Also on Thursday, the Senate Banking subcommittee on securities, insurance and investment has scheduled a look into "Risk Management and its Implications for Systemic Risk."

House committee may vote on interchange fees next week

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WASHINGTON (6/17/08)—The House Judiciary Committee may vote as early as next week on a bill that would allow government intervention in setting interchange rates and fees, legislation that is strongly opposed by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). The legislation, known as the Credit Card Fair Fee Act (H.R. 5546), has a companion bill (S. 3086) of the same name pending action in the Senate. Additionally, Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) last week introduced a bill to require credit card companies to disclose their interchange rates, terms, and conditions to consumers and businesses. CUNA will continue to work closely with all members of the Electronic Payments Coalition to oppose legislation that would regulate interchange fees, CUNA vice president of legislative affairs, Ryan Donovan, said Monday. The Credit Card Fair Fee legislation would set up a three-member panel of lawyers appointed by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to settle fee disputes between merchants and card providers. Welch’s bill stops short of that requirement, but would empower the FTC to review interchange rates and rules and prohibit practices it determines violate consumer protection of anti-competition laws.

Free space branch names subjects of NCUA opinions

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (6/17/08)—The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) has addressed the issues of credit union space in federal buildings and branch names in separate legal opinion letters released this month. In response to a query by NLRB FCU, Washington, D.C., the NCUA clarified a rule that allows federal agencies to grant free space for credit union use. A federal agency may allot building space to a credit union at no charge for rent or services if at least 95% of the membership of the credit union to be served by the allotment of space are, or were at the time of admission to membership, federal employees or their family members, according to the Federal Credit Union Act. NLRB asked if the 95% condition is properly applied to the credit union’s total membership or only the number of members who actually use the allotted space. The NCUA answered that the 95% is applied to the number of members who actually use the allotted space. In a second letter, this one directed to Mattel FCU, El Segundo, Calif., the NCUA said it is acceptable for a federal credit union to use the names of its sponsor's subsidiaries to name its branch offices. However, the NCUA noted, there are a few conditions that must be met. The credit union must take “reasonable steps to ensure members are fully apprised of the use of different names.” The agency referred to its Letter No. 99-CU-17 and noted a list of several steps a federal credit union must take to ensure its advertising in such cases is not inaccurate or deceptive, as prohibited by NCUA regulations. In particular, the NCUA said, credit unions should ensure signage used at a branch office under a different name clearly reflects the branch office is a division or branch of the same insured credit union. Also, the credit union should obtain written permission from its sponsor before using the names or trademarks of the sponsor's subsidiaries.

Inside Washington (06/16/2008)

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* WASHINGTON (6/17/08)--The Federal Reserve Board has amended contact information for the agency that handles complaints about creditors denying loans or issuing other adverse actions. The updated information was published in the Federal Register on Friday. The Fed also created a help center for consumers. The updated information doesn’t directly affect credit unions, because they issue complaints to the National Credit Union Administration or the Federal Trade Commission, said Jeff Bloch, senior assistant general counsel at the Credit Union National Association ... * WASHINGTON (6/17/08)--The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) is celebrating its 75th anniversary and announced an education campaign to raise awareness about deposit insurance limits. The campaign includes national advertising, multi-city outreach, and an awards program for outstanding work for financial education. Advertising will appear in major daily newspapers, news magazines and lifestyle publications. FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair also will go on a road tour, stopping in four FDIC regional office cities in July and September to educate guests about deposit insurance. Bair will announce a new award to highlight innovation in financial education and present awards to six people or organizations for their efforts ...