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Remittance rule changes covered in CUNA webinar

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WASHINGTON (8/22/12)--The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's remittance rule changes are scheduled to go into effect on Feb. 7, 2013, and the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) is offering a Sept. 5 webinar to help prepare credit unions for this change.

The hour-and-a-half long webinar will include:

  • A summary of the remittance transfer rule
  • Requirements for credit unions
  • Next steps for complying with the rule; and
  • Outsourcing options as it relates to compliance.
The webinar is scheduled to begin at 11:00 A.M. CT.

MoneyGram International Vice President of Business Development Michael Daugherty and Andrea Stritzke, vice president of regulatory compliance for PolicyWorks, will lead discussion.

Under a new remittance rule adopted by the CFPB earlier this year, remittance transfer providers would be required to disclose the exchange rate, all fees associated with a transfer, and the amount of money that will be received on the other end. Remittance transfer providers will also be required to investigate disputes and fix mistakes.

The CFPB has provided a safe harbor exemption from the rule for remittance providers that transact 100 or fewer remittances per year. The agency has indicated at least 80% of credit unions that offer remittance services would be exempt, but CUNA remains very concerned about the safe harbor provisions and continues to encourage the CFPB to increase this safe harbor threshold.

CUNA details CU efforts to curb elder financial abuse

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WASHINGTON (8/22/12)--Credit unions, state credit union leagues and the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) have coordinated to curb elder financial abuse, and the positive steps taken by these groups are detailed in a new CUNA comment letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Just over 14 million credit union members are age 62 or older, according to CUNA estimates. This represents 20% of all U.S. credit union members.

Credit unions provide a full range of financial services to these members and their families, including financial management, retirement planning, and credit counseling, CUNA Regulatory Counsel Dennis Tsang wrote. The CUNA comment letter also noted that many credit unions provide unique credit union accounts and services that are tailored to the needs of seniors, such as checking and savings accounts with favorable terms or rates, and additional customer service options. Many credit unions also provide elder abuse information and additional resources on their websites and account statements.

CUNA in the letter notes that CUNA and others in the system have shared vital compliance and training information on the topic of elder financial abuse. CUNA recently outlined steps credit unions can take to comply with state elder financial abuse laws, and how employees can identify potential cases of abuse, in a Credit Union Magazine article.

The elder abuse initiatives also extend beyond the credit union system, CUNA noted in the letter. CUNA said it is working with other partners and government entities to coordinate initiatives and share best practices for reducing elder financial abuse. One way noted by CUNA is its participation in the U.S. Treasury's Go Direct program. Go Direct encourages Americans receiving social security and other benefits to use direct deposit. Using direct deposit in this manner enhances safety and efficiency, Go Direct has said.

The CUNA comment letter is in response to the CFPB's request for information on any financial education, counseling, or tailored personal finance management programs that are offered by credit unions and other institutions. The CFPB has also asked for public comment on any fraudulent or deceptive practices that target elderly Americans and their families.

The CFPB last year established its Office of Older Americans, and that office has the authority to make legislative and regulatory recommendations to Congress on best practices for aiding senior financial literacy efforts.

CUNA said it supports efforts by the CFPB to help seniors avoid financial exploitation and to encourage responsible decisions regarding financial management. However, the CFPB should recognize and consider how to protect the needs of seniors, while minimizing additional compliance burdens on credit unions, CUNA said. "Credit unions must currently comply with applicable state elder financial abuse laws, which impose mandatory or permissive reporting, as well as privacy laws, the Bank Secrecy Act, and other requirements. While credit unions support the objectives to reduce elder abuse and must comply with applicable laws and regulations, they are nonetheless concerned that the laws and regulations they must comply with continue to expand, in number as well as in complexity," CUNA added.

In the comment letter, CUNA encouraged the CFPB to coordinate any elder abuse and consumer protection efforts it undertakes with various federal and state regulators to minimize compliance burdens for credit unions.

CUNA also encouraged the agency to continue to work with credit unions and state credit union leagues.

Signs of elder financial abuse can include:

  • Large, unexplained withdrawals from accounts, or transfers between accounts that the older person cannot explain;
  • Suspicious signatures on checks or other documents;
  • Missed appointments or unpaid bills;
  • Abrupt changes to a will or power of attorney; and
  • Unusual transfer of assets to others.
A recent Investor Protection Trust survey of financial planners, securities regulators, adult protective services workers, medical professionals, law enforcement officials, and others who deal with older Americans found that effectively all of those that responded (99%) are concerned by the potential for elder financial abuse.

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in 2011 noted a sharp increase in the number of financial institutions that filed Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) on elder financial abuse. The CFPB has noted that an estimated $2.9 billion was stolen from financially exploited senior citizens in 2010, and reported instances of financial theft from seniors grew by 12% between 2008 and 2010.

For the full CUNA comment letter, use the resource link.

CDFI Fund adds new foreclosure aid materials to site

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WASHINGTON (8/22/12)--The U.S. Treasury's Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Fund has added a new Foreclosure Solutions Resource Bank to its homepage.

The webpage includes reference materials and information on foreclosure prevention training for financial institution staff. The training resources include links to e-learning courses and government-run training programs.

The resources, which were compiled with the help of NeighborWorks America, will help financial institutions improve their understanding of foreclosure intervention counseling and learn how to effectively implement a counseling program in their communities, the CDFI Fund said.

The new page "will be an essential tool for CDFIs navigating the intricacies of foreclosure intervention," the CDFI Fund added in a release.

The CDFI Fund as part of its mission helps locally based financial institutions offer small business, consumer and home loans in communities and populations that lack access to affordable credit. Credit unions that are certified to take part in the CDFI program may apply for as much as $2 million in funding to help maintain their credit union's presence in the community. CDFI fund distributions are merit-based.

For the CDFI Fund release, use the resource link.

Inside Washington (08/21/2012)

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  • WASHINGTON (8/22/12)--President Barack Obama Monday again pressed Congress to pass legislation to help more Americans refinance their mortgages. After being asked about the prospects for more action from lawmakers to help create jobs and grow the economy, the president reiterated his call to help millions of responsible homeowners save hundreds of dollars each month. "We're going to be pushing Congress to see if they can pass a refinancing bill that puts $3,000 into the pockets of the average family who hasn't yet refinanced their mortgage. That's a big deal," the president told reporters. "That $3,000 can be used to strengthen the equity in that person's home, which would raise home values." The Obama administration's latest plan to help middle-class families refinance their homes would come with a cost of between $5 billion and $10 billion--paid for through a fee charged to the nation's largest banks (News Now Feb. 3). The Senate Banking Committee is considering three separate refinancing bills …