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Foulke outlines CUs concerns on Pa. mortgage bill

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (6/9/09)--A credit union CEO testified on behalf of credit unions Thursday at the Pennsylvania House Commerce Committee's public hearing in Philadelphia to gather insight on a mortgage lending bill. The bill, H.B. 1042, would require mortgage lenders to meet with homeowners in trouble before a judge permits a foreclosure, said the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) (Life is a Highway June 8). Bruce Foulke, president/CEO of American Heritage FCU, Philadelphia, told the committee about credit unions' impeccable low foreclosure rate, how they work with members before a foreclosure situation appears, and a few minor concerns about current legislation, said PCUA. Introduced by state Rep. Michael McGeehan (D-Philadelphia), H.B. 1042 is before the committee, which is reviewing efforts already underway in some county courts to require conciliation meetings. The bill would require the Court of Common Pleas in each county to establish a residential mortgage foreclosure conciliation program to assist lenders and borrowers in achieving a mutually agreeable resolution to mortgage foreclosure action. PCUA is working with the committee and other interested parties on the measure.

Security video records ghostly vibes in CU

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ANDERSON, S.C. (6/9/09)--Anderson City Employees FCU, located in the South Carolina city's brand new Municipal Business Center, is experiencing some otherworldly vibes in the form of not-yet-explained moving blurs picked up by its security camera. The moving blur is white and floats around the room to a chair, sits down and disappears. Sometimes there are two blurs (KFOR.com June 5). The local NBC affiliate, KFOR, has the sightings on a video. Use the resource link to view it. The sightings began last month after security guard Rob Colbert spotted movement out of the corner of his eye while working late. He checked the security tape. It had captured the movement. The blurs always occur in the same office. The most recent visit was last Thursday morning. The center's IT director, Mark Cunningham, checked the cameras and found nothing wrong. The credit union closed the blinds to avoid any reflections from outside. But the apparition showed up again--this time more clearly. IT cleaned the camera lens and resealed the camera cover, but the image reappeared. It doesn't cause any trouble and the credit union has nicknamed it "Clair, for clairvoyant." The new center was built on a former service station lot but no one know of any ghosts lurking about. "If it is a ghost, maybe it's Casper the friendly ghost," Frances Parham, CEO of the $1.6 million asset credit union, told the television reporters.

Oregon governor signs CU bill

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BEAVERTON, Ore. (6/9/09)--Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski Thursday signed an update to the Oregon Credit Union Act, Senate Bill 438, into law, according to the Credit Union Association of Oregon (CUAO). The legislation makes several revisions to the credit union act regarding membership requirements, accounting rules, annual meeting policies and bonding requirements. It also includes three provisions designed to improve and streamline corporate governance, three technical changes regarding accounting and operational issues, and a definitional change that allows community credit unions to more fully serve employers in their geographic areas. "The bill will allow those select employee group (SEG)-based credit unions moving to a community charter to maintain groups within their current field of membership," said Pamela Leavitt, CUAO senior vice president of governmental affairs and public relations. "Our previous law made them give up their SEG groups, which didn’t allow for service outside their new community charter." The bill was the result of two years of work on behalf of the CUAO Governmental Affairs Committee and the State Issues Subcommittee, said the association’s Oregon Outlook for June.

N.J. county deposits 100K at newest CUs opening

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HACKENSACK, N.J. (6/9/09)--New Jersey's newest credit union, lst Bergen FCU in Hackensack, had as one of its first depositors Bergen County, which deposited $100,000 at the credit union's official grand opening. Bergen County Executive Dennis McNerney and members of the Freehold Board made the presentation (U.S. Fed News June 4). McNerney told the group that in today's tough economic times, "credit unions are the answer, bringing low-cost, high quality banking services to our low to moderate income neighbors." lst Bergen FCU is the first federal credit union to open in New Jersey in more than two decades. It was chartered Jan. 14 to serve people who live, work, worship, volunteer and attend school, businesses and other legal entities in Bergen County. It was organized by the Bergen County Community Action Partnership Inc., the county's anti-poverty agency (News Now Jan. 21). Among those present at the grand opening was Paul Gentile, president of the New Jersey Credit Union League (The Weekly Exchange (June 1).

ID thefts with victims names on cards rise

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PLEASANTON, Calif. (6/9/09)--The number of identity thefts where fraudsters obtained credit cards using victims' names rose during 2008, according to Javelin Strategy and Research. Javelin attributed the increase to a credit card loan application process that requires less verified information and is easier than other types of loan applications. Also, credit cards provide the most financial gain for thieves, who often don't get caught (CardLine June 8). The results, published by the Pleasanton, Calif.-based firm last week, are based on a survey conducted by the firm of 4,784 U.S. consumers last year. Of those responding, 487 said they had been victims of identity theft. Of the identity theft victims, 146 indicated that a variety of fraudulent new accounts had been opened using their name. Among the new-account fraud victims, one-third said criminals had opened new credit card accounts in their name, up from 26% from the previous year's survey. Other findings:
* Twenty-six percent of the victims said fraudsters opened new store-branded credit cards in their names, down from 29% in 2007. * Fifteen percent reported other types of fraudulent loans were in their names, down from 21%.

NCUF federation sign collaboration agreement

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WASHINGTON (6/9/09)--Building on their joint initiative, Helping Members Avoid or Survive Foreclosure, the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) and the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions have signed a collaboration agreement. “The foundation and the federation share a deep commitment to helping the credit union movement fulfill its historic mission of serving people of modest means,” begins the newly signed memorandum of understanding (MOU). “This MOU establishes a framework for the foundation and the federation to collaborate effectively and make the most efficient use of scarce resources in order to achieve the greatest positive impact in areas of common interest.” Specifically, the foundation and the federation agree to:
* Actively seek areas of collaboration through frequent and open communications among officers, program staff and consultants from both parties; * Collaborate in areas of common interest and complementary capacity by identifying opportunities and developing joint strategies and plans that capitalize on the specialized resources and capacities of both parties; * Identify the source of subject matter expertise on joint efforts, and assign final editorial control over information, training or publicity materials to the identified subject matter expert; and * Seek opportunities where collaborative efforts may enable the parties to access financial resources that would otherwise be inaccessible to either party independently.
The next collaboration will take place on July 29 in Milwaukee. The two organizations will deliver joint training at the REAL Solutions League Liaisons Meeting to explain the mortgage crisis and what leagues and credit unions can do to assist their members and their communities during difficult times. “Every American will be affected in some way by the foreclosure crisis that is gripping our country,” said NCUF National Program Director Lois Kitsch and Federation Senior Consultant Terry Ratigan in a joint statement. “Credit unions, which set the highest standards as responsible lenders, are on the front lines in the battle for financial stability and economic renewal. “With more than one million families facing foreclosure this year, credit unions face unprecedented demands from their members for products, services, advice and understanding,” they added. The joint report, Helping Members Avoid or Survive Foreclosure, is available free on the REAL Solutions Impact Center and on the federation’s website. Other information on joint efforts between the foundation and the federation will be featured during workshops at the federation’s 35th Annual Conference on Serving the Underserved, which meets Thursday through Saturday in Phoenix.

State Mini-COBRA bill would affect Pa. CUs

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HARRISBURG, PA. (6/9/09)--Pennsylvania credit unions will be affected by a state bill that would extend Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) guidelines to group health insurance plans provided by employers with two to 19 employees. The bill is Pennsylvania House Bill 1089, sponsored by State Rep. Robert Matzie (D-Beaver). Under current COBRA guidelines, group plans are provided by employers with 20 or more employees. In addition to extending coverage, the bill would provide continued coverage to employees who were terminated because of a qualifying event (Life is a Highway June 8). “The implementation of this new legislation will have a significant compliance and operations impact on credit unions,” said Jim McCormack, Pennsylvania Credit Union Association president/CEO. “We are monitoring the progress of this legislation and working with our processor to ensure a smooth transition.” The Mini-COBRA Small Employer Group Health Policies are designed so Pennsylvania citizens can access premium assistance benefits provided by the federal government’s stimulus package under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The bill is expected to be signed by the governor soon.

Members will revote on ousted board members

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JOHNSTOWN, Pa. (6/9/09)--USSCO Johnstown FCU says its members will revote on the credit union’s board because of a procedural error that occurred before the original May 14 elections. The original elections ousted three incumbent board members. The revote will take place because 300 of the credit union’s 13,000 members were not notified of the first vote. The 300 members have account balances that do not meet the credit union’s threshold to earn interest. Therefore, the members didn’t receive a quarterly statement, which contained the annual meeting announcement (Tribune-Democrat June 8). Some members oppose the revote, saying that the credit union is nullifying the election because it was not happy with the results. The credit union’s attorney, Guy Messick, told the newspaper that the vote was close. Having 300 “effectively disenfranchised” members violated credit union bylaws, he said. USSCO Johnstown FCU has $96 million in assets.

Article Wis. CUs weather recession better than banks

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MADISON, Wis. (6/9/09)--Most south-central Wisconsin credit unions are getting through the recession better than most banks, according to the most recent financial-strength ratings from two national ratings services. Although some have had challenges, none of the 42 area credit unions received the lowest one-star ratings, based on 2008 financial data analyzed by Bankrate.com and Bauer Financial (Wisconsin State Journal June 6). Compared with banks, credit unions have three advantages, Russ Kashian, economics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, told the newspaper. They don’t pay taxes--which bolsters their income statements; they have a homogenous client base, which helps them make safer loans; and their average loan is smaller, which results in less risk. Credit unions usually make smaller loans than banks because credit unions tend to make consumer loans, as opposed to big commercial loan or real estate loans, Brett Thompson, president/CEO of the Wisconsin Credit Union League, told the paper. However, credit unions’ relationships with their members are the key to their success, he added. “Credit unions know their members and therefore, can [better] assess the risk,” Thompson explained.

Oklahoma CU association elects board officers

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TULSA, Okla. (6/9/09)--The board of directors at the Credit Union Association of Oklahoma (CUAO) has elected Steve Rasmussen, president/CEO of FAA FCU, Oklahoma City, as chairman. Rasmussen succeeds Mike Kloiber, president/CEO of Tinker FCU, Oklahoma City. Rasmussen joins other executive committee members: Vice Chair Jim Harig, president/CEO, Muskogee (Okla.) FCU, and Secretary/Treasurer John Ray, president/CEO, NEO FCU in Miami. Leilani Harpole, president/CEO, Sand Springs Community FCU, was newly elected to the board and will serve a three-year term, as will Harig and Kloiber. The board members were elected during CUAO’s 75th annual meeting in Oklahoma City.

CU auto loan incentives mean record May sales

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LANSING, Mich. (6/9/09)--A record monthly total of more than 38,000 General Motors (GM) and Chrysler vehicles were sold in May through credit unions’ “Invest in America” program, bringing its total to 140,000 new vehicle sales since January. The program is on pace to sell 300,000 vehicles this year. “Invest in America” is credit unions’ auto loan discount program with auto manufacturers General Motors Corp. (GM) and Chrysler Corp. The program started in December with a four-state pilot program for GM and a 12-state pilot for Chrysler. About 80% of the program’s May sales were financed through a credit union, David Adams, CEO of CUCorp, told a teleconference Monday. CUCorp is a marketing company based in Livonia, Mich., and wholly owned subsidiary of the Michigan Credit Union League. During the first four months of the program--prior to May--average monthly sales were 25,000 vehicles, Adams added. About 22% of the sales were from members who previously owned an import, and now--through the program--have decided to buy from U.S-based automotive companies, according to GM research data of 1,500 credit unions members who participated in the program in April, Adams told the teleconference. Also, 37% who are in the program had previously owned a vehicle other than a GM product. The rise in credit union members’ auto purchases comes at a time when GM and Chrysler are reinventing themselves through accelerated bankruptcy restructuring efforts, CUCorp said. The credit union sector growth suggests that consumers are buying GM and Chrysler brands despite a feared negative stigma associated with bankruptcy. “Credit union members are demonstrating that they like the quality and value associated with domestic auto brands,” Adams said. “GM and Chrysler are appealing to a broad demographic of credit union members who believe in supporting American companies and their products. “This support is despite the automakers’ challenges, not because of them,” he added. “Warranties backed by the federal government, rich incentives, credit union member discounts and the availability of affordable credit are contributing to this positive trend. This isn’t a sympathy vote. It’s a return to quality and value by people who want to support ‘Made in America’ products.” About 79% of respondents said the program strengthened their trust in credit unions, according to the GM research of the program's April sales, Adams told the teleconference. More than 1,700 credit unions, representing about 40 million credit union members nationwide are participating in “Invest in America,” Adams added.

CU System briefs (06/08/2009)

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* MADISON, Wis.(6/9/09)--CUNA Mutual Group says that in addition to 52 layoffs it announced Thursday at its Madison corporate headquarters, the company will also lay off 21 employees in its other locations. Those layoffs were announced Thursday also. The employees received 30 days notice. For more information, see CUNA Mutual story in Monday's News Now … * ARLINGTON, Va. (6/9/09)--FDIC FCU and National Science Foundation CU, both based in Arlington, Va., have merged into The Partnership FCU, as of June 1(FOCUS Newsletter June 8). The merger creates a more efficient back-office operation while allowing the front-line organizations to continue offering personal service to their members. The merged credit union "combines the strengths of our individual credit unions to help us achieve economies of scale we cannot create on our own," said Theresa Mann, CEO of The Partnership FCU. Lynn Whalen, former CEO of NSF FCU, is senior vice president of organization and people development for The Partnership FCU. The new credit union's board includes members from both credit unions' former boards. "We look at this as the beginning of a new kind of credit union that can welcome additional credit unions looking for improved cost efficiencies without sacrificing service or brand integrity," said Mann … * SALT LAKE CITY (6/9/09)--Staff at Beehive CU in Salt Lake City foiled a robbery Thursday by locking the doors so the wannabe thief couldn't get into the branch. An employee noticed a man pacing near the front door. When the man donned a beanie over his forehead and a bandanna over his lower face, the employee magnetically locked the inside doors. When he couldn't enter the credit union, he left (The Salt Lake Tribune June 5) … * LEXINGTON PARK, Md. (6/9/09)--Martha R. Thompson, 25, a former employee of Cedar Point FCU's Leonardtown, Md., branch, was charged with providing inside information to at least two men who robbed the $264.5 million asset credit union on Aug. 21, 2004. The heist netted more than $150,000. Thompson allegedly provided the men with the credit union's layout and operations, including which employees would be present the day of the heist and how much money was available. She allegedly received two cash payments to stay quiet. Thompson is charged with being an accessory before and after the incident. The alleged getaway driver, Derrick X. Green, 27, was charged May 19. His uncle, Cornelius L. Chase, 48, was arrested in 2004 as one of the two men who entered and robbed the credit union. His trial will begin next week (The Washington Post June 7) … * WESTERVILLE, Ohio (6/9/09)--Donald E. West Sr., retired CEO of Franklin County School Employees FCU, died June 3 at his home in Westerville, Ohio. He was 73. He was CEO of the $27 million asset credit union based in Columbus for 28 years before he retired. Services were Monday. He is survived by his wife, three children, nine grandchildren (The Columbus Dispatch June 7) …