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CU System briefs (06/19/2009)

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* FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (6/22/09)--A Pharr, Texas-based credit union is alerting other credit unions to a scam that uses "Doing Business As" (DBA) accounts. NAFT FCU President/CEO Suzy Brinkman-Doughty told the Texas Credit Union League that a man and woman visited one of the $50 million asset credit union's branches and each opened a personal account and a DBA account. Soon after, several small checks were deposited into the DBA accounts. On the same day as the deposits, the couple visited another branch of the credit union and withdrew the funds. Brinkman-Doughty said payroll checks starting arriving but there were no funds in the DBA accounts to cover the checks so the credit union returned them. Many of the checks were cashed at a local grocery store, but others were cashed at area financial institutions, including credit unions. The credit union closed the four accounts. "My concern is that if it happened to us, it could easily happen to another credit union. We were lucky and caught it right away. By alerting others, it is my hope that we can help other credit unions avoid losses," said Brinkman-Doughty (LoneStar Leaguer June 19) … * RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (6/22/09)--The California and Nevada Youth Involvement Network (CNYIN) has awarded $500 scholarships to three high school and college students from the two states for their winning entries in the network's annual essay contest. Amy Cook, Kara Nicholls and Amber Perez each received a scholarship for their essays on the topic, "What are the advantages of credit union membership in the current economic conditions?" "The winning entries this year provided a glimpse on how credit unions have provided a safe economic haven for young people and their families, despite these tough economic times," Michael Lee, CNYIN board chairman and education manager with The Golden 1 CU, Sacramento … * HARRISBURG, Pa. (6/22/09)--Robert Vuono, CEO of Omega FCU, Pittsburgh, died unexpectedly Thursday, the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association has learned. Vuono had been CEO of the $69 million asset credit union since 1988. He served on the Pennsylvania Credit Union Service Centers Inc. board of directors. Funeral arrangements were pending (Life is a Highway June 19) …

Maine CUs support states housing incentives

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PORTLAND, Maine (6/22/09)--Maine Gov. John E. Baldacci announced a new homeownership incentive Thursday for first-time homebuyers. Among its supporters: the Maine Credit Union League. MaineHousing's new "Gift of Green" homeownership incentive provides eligible First Home program borrowers up to $5,500 in financial incentives toward the purchase of a home, said the governor in a press release (US Fed News June 19). By combining the amount with existing federal incentives, the total financial incentives can be as much as $15,000, Baldacci said. The initiative helps make homeownership more affordable for first-time homebuyers, said John Murphy, league president. "In these challenging economic times, these opportunities are even more critical. Maine's credit unions have a long history of helping people, so helping make the dream of owning a home a reality for more Maine people is consistent with that commitment," he added. The Gift of Green offers a grant of up to $5,000, not to exceed 4% of the loan amount, to help with the down payment and other closing expenses. It also offers a coupon of up to $500 for a pre-weatherization and post-weatherization home energy audit. In addition to the league, the program is supported by the Maine Association of Realtors and the Maine Association of Community Banks.

North Carolina league awards announced

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PINEHURST, N.C. (6/22/09)--The North Carolina Credit Union League recognized credit unions and credit union professionals during the league’s 74th annual meeting held last week in Pinehurst (Weekly Update June 19). Awards and winners were:
* Larry Johnson Order of Merit Lifetime Achievement Award--Roger Shelor, president/CEO, Carolinas Telco FCU, Charlotte; * Mark of Excellence Award--Maurice Smith, president/CEO, Local Government FCU, Raleigh, and Bob Cathey, chairman, Mountain CU, Waynesville; * Ronald J. Hutchins Credit Union Career Person of the Year Award--Bobby Hall, senior vice president, State Employees’ CU, Raleigh; and * Ronald J. Hutchins Credit Union Volunteer Person of the Year--Curtis Ring, Summit CU, Greensboro.
The Louise Herring Philosophy in Action first-place award winners were:
* Members CU, Winston Salem, Jack Braswell, president/CEO, $50 million to $250 million assets; and * State Employees’ CU, Raleigh, Jim Blaine. president/CEO, more than $250 million.
Desjardins Youth Financial Education first-place award-winners were:
* American Partners FCU, Reidsville, Dorinda Edwards, president/CEO, $35 million to $75 million assets; and * Allegacy FCU, Winston Salem, Ike Keener, president/CEO, more than $250 million.
Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Award first-place award-winners were:
* Latino Community CU, Durham, Luis Pastor, president/CEO, $50 million to $100 million assets; * Premier FCU, Greensboro, Willie Combs, president/CEO, $100 million to $200 million; * Self-Help CU, Durham, Thad Moore, vice president, $200 million to $500 million; and * State Employees’ CU;
The Chapter Category first-place Dora Maxwell award-winner was the Northwest Chapter.

Milwaukee CUs face merger pressures

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MILWAUKEE (6/22/09)--Two suburban Milwaukee credit unions are dealing with regulatory requirements to address undercapitalization. One option is for the two credit unions to merge into healthier credit unions. The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and the Wisconsin Office of Credit Unions are working with Allco CU, West Allis, Wis., and First Security CU, Elm Grove, Wis., to fix their capital issues, said NCUA (The Business Journal of Milwaukee June 18). “Both institutions are undercapitalized per their 5300 call reports and are thus subject to net worth restoration plan requirements,” John McKechnie, NCUA director of public and congressional affairs, told News Now. “NCUA is not going to comment on the merger process regarding the names or the number of bidders. “We are saying that a merger is one of the possibilities being considered,” he added. “That’s per our regulations.” The $49.4 million asset Allco’s net worth ratio was 2.7% at the end of the first quarter, and the $35.4 million asset Security’s net worth was 0.29%. NCUA says 6% is an adequate capitalization level, the Journal said. Allco posted a first-quarter net loss of $146,915, and listed loan delinquencies of $5.4 million for the first quarter--a 16.4% increase from the previous quarter. First Security said it had a net loss of roughly $2.3 million for the quarter---mostly for loan loss provision, the Journal said. In a separate matter, Lifetime CU, a $32.4 million asset, West Allis-based credit union-- which posted a first-quarter net loss of about $2.2 million--is slated to merge into $1.282 billion asset, New Berlin, Wis.-based Landmark CU by June 30, the Journal reported.

Syndicated TV show features co-ops CUs

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MADISON, Wis. (6/22/09)--A short segment about cooperatives and credit unions will run on national television over the next few weeks. Stacy Johnson, host of a syndicated television program called Money Talks News, just launched the segment that includes Paul Hazen, president/CEO of the National Cooperative Business Association, talking about the nature of cooperatives. “Cooperatives allow small-business owners to remain independent and, at the same time, compete in the global economy against big-box stores because we’re working for each other’s benefit,” Hazen said in the segment. Johnson mentioned that cooperatives comprise not only small businesses but also credit unions. Also featured is Ralph Crockett, CEO of BrightStar CU, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He talks about credit unions as an alternative to bigger banks. “I have people tell me about their 18.99% credit card [interest] rates,” Crockett said. “They have no idea that credit unions are available to give them a better deal.” To view the segment, use the link.

Desjardins named greatest Canadian cooperator

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OTTAWA, Canada (6/22/09)--Alphonse Desjardins, the driving force behind Canada’s credit union movement, has been named history’s “Greatest Canadian Cooperator” after an online vote of more than 8,000 people in Canada. The Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) announced the winner in Ottawa Thursday, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Canada’s organized national cooperative movement (Canada Newswire June 19). “There are few individuals who have contributed more to the global credit union movement and especially North American credit unions than Alphonse Desjardins,” Pete Crear, president/CEO of the World Council of Credit Unions, told News Now. “It’s not surprising he would be chosen as Canada’s top cooperator. It’s an honor that only begins to touch the many contributions he has made.” Desjardins, who died in 1920, was one of 14 pioneers of the Canadian cooperative movement nominated for the award. All 14 were inducted into the virtual Canadian Cooperative Hall of Fame, which was launched at Thursday's event. Desjardins was the founder of Canada’s sixth-largest financial institution--Desjardins Group. It is also the largest cooperative organization of any kind in Canada, based on turnover, and the 33rd largest cooperative in the world. Desjardins, born to impoverished parents in 1854, established North America’s first cooperative savings and loan society--a caisse populaire, or “people's bank”-- in Lévis, Quebec, in 1900 as an alternative to commercial banks that charged exorbitant interest rates to farmers and workers. His example inspired the creation of credit unions across Canada and the U.S., CCA said. America’s credit union movement is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its first credit union this year.

Ohio CUs among FIs sued over ATM fee notices

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TOLEDO, Ohio (6/22/09)--An Ohio credit union is among five financial institutions in the state being sued over ATM charges. Plaintiff Maryann S. Kuzila filed a class-action suit Tuesday in the U.S. District Court of Toledo against Fremont (Ohio) FCU and four banks. She alleges the credit union and banks cannot charge usage fees on ATMs without fee notices because it violates the Electronic Funds Transfer Act. The act requires that a fee notice must be posted on or at an ATM if fees are charged. Kuzila withdrew cash from an ATM in Fremont, according to court documents. She did not have any accounts with the credit union or banks operating the ATM and was charged a $2 fee. She claims that the ATM did not have a fee notice. Similar suits have been filed in Pittsburgh. Daniela Helkowski filed suit May 19 against Clearview CU, Moon Township, Pa., for charging ATM fees without notices. Helkowski claims she withdrew cash from an ATM at the credit union’s main branch and was charged $2.25. She also filed a suit against a bank in Sewickley, Pa. (News Now June 3).

State asks Pa. CUs help on volunteer service effort

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (6/22/09)--The Pennsylvania Department of Banking and the Governor's Office have asked for credit unions' help in a new state initiative involving community service by financial service professionals. The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) said it was contacted by the two offices to enlist help with "Get Help Now Pennsylvania," (Life is a Highway June 19). The program is a statewide outreach effort to provide free assistance and referrals to Pennsylvanians who have been negatively affected by the financial downturn. The program will run from July 7 to Sept. 11--a national day of service and remembrance--and will include members of the legal profession and the financial services industry at 21 locations throughout the state. The state will conduct a simultaneous webcast today to outline details. PCUA President/CEO Jim McCormack said the association hopes to have credit unions represented at all 13 webcast locations.

N.C. governor honors CUs 100 years

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (6/22/09)--North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue earlier this month issued a proclamation honoring the 100th anniversary of credit unions in the U.S. In the proclamation, Perdue notes the long history of credit unions in North Carolina and their impact on citizens in the state, according to the North Carolina Credit Union League (Weekly Update June 18). "Credit unions within and beyond this state have continually and vigorously fought the ever present evil of usury and have championed the idea that people from all walks of life should have access to low-cost consumer loans and other financial services," Perdue wrote. The June 8th proclamation was read during the North Carolina Credit Union League business meeting Wednesday. The proclamation also noted milestones in the state's credit union history, including the founding of the state's first credit union in Lowe's Grove in 1915 and the founding of the league 75 years ago.

SECU Foundation donates 300000 to hospice

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RALEIGH, N.C. (6/22/09)--State Employees CU (SECU) of North Carolina members pledged $300,000 through the SECU Foundation to complete construction of Mountain Valley Hospice and Palliative Care in Dobson, N.C.
About 250 Raleigh, N.C.-based State Employees CU (SECU) team members participated in a three-mile march May 2 to raise money for the March of Dimes. SECU raised $52,000 for the charity. (Photo provided by State Employees CU)
Mountain Valley is the first freestanding hospice facility in Surry County. It will serve terminally ill patients and their families from 16 counties. The facility offers 20 patient and family suites to help individuals who are dying and can no longer remain at home. “We know the funds for Mountain Valley Hospice will have a direct positive impact on growing numbers of families and residents seeking hospice care,” said Lilnette Phillips, senior vice president of SECU’s Mount Airy branch. SECU has $16 billion in assets.

PolishSlavic FCU hosts NCUAs Hood

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BROOKLYN, N.Y. (6/22/09)--National Credit Union Administration Vice Chairman Rodney E. Hood visited Greenpoint, Brooklyn, the neighborhood that created the $1.2 billion asset Polish and Slavic FCU (PSFCU), to see the credit union thriving because of its close affiliation with the area.
National Credit Union Administration Board Vice Chairman Rodney Hood, center, visits with, from left, Krzysztof Matyszczyk, board chairman of Polish and Slavic FCU (PSFCU), and Bogdan Chmilewski, PSFCU CEO, at the ethnic credit union's headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y. (Photo provided by Polish and Slavic FCU)
"It is so impressive to see how this neighborhood has continued to experience such positive changes over the past few decades, and much of that credit has to go to the PSFCU, which has proven to be Greenpoint's most active advocate," Hood said, noting the "symbiotic relationship at work between neighborhood and credit union." Hood said he saw how an older, rundown neighborhood had benefited from the credit union's commitment to providing financial services to the community. "When a management team pairs with dedicated community leaders--whom you have on your board of directors--the outcome is a financial institution that posts great financial results," he told the credit union. He pointed to PSFCU's rapid growth the past year, its banking innovations and its donations and scholarship programs as examples of how to become a strong and successful community leader. "You can say that we are the 'un-bank,'" said Bogdan Chmielewski, PSFCU's CEO. "We continue to make good loans--smart, well-secured loans--and we are deeply involved in improving the prospects not only of our members, but the cities, towns and neighborhoods where they live and work." He noted that PSFCU has expanded far beyond Greenpoint but "we've never uprooted our commitment to serving our members, no matter where they live." During the meeting Hood answered questions about corporate credit unions and the impact their problems might have on natural person credit unions and emphasized the credit union movement is becoming stronger as more consumers become attracted to its safe financial practices.

52K for March of Dimes SECU sets record

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RALEIGH, N.C. (6/22/09)--State Employees CU (SECU) of North Carolina raised a record $52,000 for the March of Dimes during its Triangle March of Dimes March for Babies campaign. The figure is $9,000 more than SECU raised last year. About 250 SEC members participated in a three-mile march held May 2. SECU employees also held bake sales, raffles and other activities throughout the year to raise money. The March of Dimes focuses on research to prevent premature birth, and education to help women reduce their risks of having a premature baby, according to Sarah T. Moore, executive director of the Eastern Carolina Division of the March of Dimes. “Each year, more than a half million babies are born too soon, too small or too sick in the U.S.--that’s one in eight babies, or 26,000 babies in North Carolina,” she said. SECU, based in Raleigh, N.C., has $16 billion in assets.