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179 CUs accepted in NCUA consulting program

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (8/12/14)--Free consulting services will be provided to 179 credit unions in the second half of this year, courtesy of the National Credit Union Administration's Office of Small Credit Union Initiatives (OSCUI).

During the six-month semester, economic development specialists will offer assistance in budgeting, marketing, policy development, strategic planning, operations and regulatory areas.

"OSCUI's consulting program is a valuable part of our efforts to help credit unions succeed in a changing economic environment and provide needed services to their members," NCUA board Chair Debbie Matz said. "Consultants help credit unions think strategically, develop plans and position themselves for future success."

Credit unions eligible for the NCUA's consulting program include those with total assets of less than $50 million, have been chartered for less than 10 years, have a low-income designation or are minority depository institutions. Credit unions may nominate themselves or be nominated by an examiner from the NCUA or their state.

The smallest credit union in the current consulting program has assets of $87,000, and several exceed $100 million in assets. Minority depository institutions make up 21% of the credit unions in the current program.

The OSCUI is currently accepting consulting program nominations for the first half of 2015, which must be received by Nov. 30.

Use the resource links below to access the nomination forms and for more information about the consulting program.

RBC rule requires Okla. CUs to raise extra $105M: Sen. Inhofe

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (8/12/14)--Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) became the 27th senator to write to the National Credit Union Administration regarding the agency's risk-based capital proposal Monday, echoing concerns from credit unions across his state, as well as the members and businesses they serve.

Inhofe acknowledged in his letter than a strong capital base is essential to maintaining a healthy financial system, and he affirmed his dedication to protecting the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund and taxpayers.

However, he also said he is concerned that the NCUA has not justified the need for the proposal. He cited warnings from credit unions in his state that have told him they would have to change the way they operate in order to raise capital. He said is it estimated that Oklahoma credit unions would need to raise approximately $105 million in capital just to ensure capital buffers remain intact.

"Nationally, over 4,000 credit unions offer mortgage products and enjoy loss rates well below the national average. The risk weights in the proposed rule could force credit unions to reduce the availability or affordability of loan products, restricting credit to their members," he wrote. 

Inhofe also requested that the NCUA provide justification for the need for a new risk-based capital requirement at this time.

In addition to 27 senators, 332 representatives (76% of the House) have written to the NCUA with concerns about the proposal. The agency has addressed several of these concerns, such as the proposed 18-month implementation period, which will be lengthened.

CFPB to take consumer complaints on Bitcoin, virtual currency

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WASHINGTON (8/12/14)--Volatile exchange rates and the threat of hacking and scams have led the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to now accept complaints on virtual currency products and services.

The bureau also issued a consumer advisory warning about the risks of such virtual currencies Monday.

Designed to be an alternative to current payment systems, virtual currencies--which include Bitcoin, XRP and Dogecoin--are used to track, store and send payments over the Internet. While benefits can include faster and cheaper processing, the currencies are not backed by a government or central financial institutions.

Because of this, virtual currency accounts are not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. or the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, meaning if a virtual currency company fails, the government will not cover the loss.

CFPB Director Richard Cordray likened consumers engaging in the virtual currency market to "stepping into the Wild West."

Additional services in the virtual currency market include virtual currency exchanges, which help consumers buy or sell virtual currencies and online "digital wallet providers," which allow consumers to create accounts with them to store and manage their virtual currencies. Many virtual currency exchanges are also wallet providers, and vice versa.

Some virtual currency companies do not identify owners, provide phone numbers and addresses, or even specify the country in which they are located. Others disclaim responsibility for consumer losses if funds are lost or stolen.

According to the CFPB, if a consumer submits a complaint about a virtual currency or virtual currency service, the CFPB will send the complaint to the appropriate company and will work to get a response. If the complaint is about an issue outside the CFPB's jurisdiction, the bureau will forward the complaint to the appropriate federal or state regulator.

The CFPB says it plans to use all complaints to better understand the virtual currency market and its effect on consumers, as well as shape future law enforcement and regulatory policies going forward.

Use the resource link below to access the consumer advisory.

CU-supported candidate in Minn. Republican primary today

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WASHINGTON (8/12/14)--Today's primary elections in Minnesota features credit union-backed candidate, Tom Emmer, for the state's open 6th Congressional District.

Emmer, a Republican former state representative and gubernatorial candidate in 2010, is running to for the seat currently held by Rep. Michele Bachmann, who announced she will not seek re-election in November.

Emmer is known to have supported credit unions during his time in the state's legislature, garnering him the support of the Minnesota Credit Union Network (MnCUN), as well as the Credit Union Legislative Action Council (CULAC), which provided the maximum $5,000 donation.

"During his tenure in the State Legislature, Rep. Emmer consistently demonstrated his support for credit unions' continued ability to serve their members," said Mara Humphrey, MnCUN vice president of governmental affairs. "He has vowed to continue that support of credit unions in the 6th District and across the country if elected. Credit unions have a champion in Tom Emmer."

Emmer has pledged to "work for a fair marketplace so credit unions can continue to grow" if elected.

Minnesota's 6th Congressional District Republican primary will feature Emmer facing off against Rhonda Savarajah, a past candidate for lieutenant governor.

Credit union-supported Congressional candidate Mark Takai emerged victorious from Saturday's primary election in Hawaii. Takai, a Democratic candidate for the state's 1st Congressional District, was the top vote-getter in a seven-person race, defeating his closest challenger Donna Kim with 42.6% of the vote to Kim's 27.2%. No other candidate received more than 10%.

Takai is a current state representative, where he has served since 1994. He is also a member of the state's Army National Guard and deployed to Kuwait from February to September 2009.

According to a questionnaire filled out for the Hawaii Credit Union League (HCUL), Takai is a member of Hawaii State FCU, with $1.3 billion in assets, and he answered yes when asked if he believed credit unions serve the public good.

"Any tax benefit received by nonprofit organizations is passed on to its members, for credit unions that means lower to no fees and higher returns," Takai wrote. "Any decrease or removal of the tax exemptions of nonprofit organizations would be harmful to consumers."

The HCUL and CULAC have supported Takai in his election bid, with the maximum $5,000 donation from CULAC. Hawaii's 1st Congressional District is heavily Democratic, and Takai is expected to prevail in November's election.

He will face former Republican Rep. Charles Djou, who was elected in a special election in 2010 to become the district's first Republican congressman in more than 20 years. The two are competing for the seat currently held by Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D), who is seeking a U.S. Senate seat in November.