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Robbery suspect shot by police during getaway

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (8/23/11)--A man was in stable condition in a South Bend, Ind., hospital after being shot Saturday morning by a police officer who was pursuing him after a credit union was robbed. The incident began when a man in dark clothing and a mask entered Notre Dame (Ind.) FCU's South Bend branch shortly before 9:30 a.m. Saturday and demanded money. Witnesses who had seen the man acting suspiciously before he went into the credit union called police (The Associated Press Aug. 20). The robbery suspect fled the credit union on good and police officers gave chase. They caught up with him on a bridge over the Indiana Toll Road south of the credit union. Police told media that when they confronted the suspect, he pulled a handgun from behind his back and pointed it at an officer, who fired shots at the suspect (WNDU.com Aug. 20). He received treatment at the scene, then was transported to the hospital where he underwent surgery. Charges have not been filed as of Monday (South Bend Tribune Aug. 22).

Uptick in Maine robberies prompts CU webinar

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PORTLAND, Maine (8/23/11)--An uptick in robberies in Maine has prompted the Maine Credit Union League to provide information and resources for credit unions in the state. Since the first of the year, Maine has had 10 robberies of financial institutions, including five at credit unions, said the league in its newsletter, Weekly Update (Aug. 19). Three holdups took place in the past month. The league is helping credit unions review procedures and take further precautions to ensure staff and members are safe when a robbery occurs. "Thankfully, no one has been injured in any of the robberies, and of course, that is the top priority," said league President John Murphy. "However, when a trend like this happens, it does raise the level of uncertainty and concern, especially with staff." Last year the league held a webinar on robbery procedures and is making it available to its member credit unions at no cost. "Staff education is vital in helping credit unions to respond properly to a robbery, and having that knowledge available for credit union staff to access is an important part of keeping everyone safe," Murphy said. He also noted the league can help credit unions in responding to media inquiries after a robbery incident. The league will also have a live webinar in December. On a broader national scope, the Credit Union National Association has several resources related to robberies at credit unions. Use the links for more information.

CU System briefs (08/22/2011)

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* LOS ANGELES (8/23/11)--A man allegedly robbed three Orange County, Calif., financial institutions, including two credit unions, in less than 90 minutes Saturday morning. The man, dubbed the “Triple Threat Bandit," is suspected of holding up Orange County FCU in Fullerton at 9:39 a.m. (PT), Union Yes FCU in Orange at 10:15 a.m. and U.S. Bank in Buena Park at about 11 a.m. (Los Angeles Times Aug. 22). In each incident, the suspect passed a note to the teller demanding large bills, “100s and 50s,” according to authorities. He was described as a muscular black man in his 30s with bright white teeth and freckles, wearing a white polo shirt and blue jeans … * VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (8/23/11)--Two men were convicted and sentenced Friday to prison for three robberies and attempted robberies of banks and credit unions in Norfolk, Va. Dion N. Brown, 21, Norfolk, pleaded guilty to charges of robbery and attempted robbery and was sentenced to 11 years in prison. Willie Lee Huggins, 26, of Texas, allegedly the getaway vehicle driver, was convicted of robbery and conspiracy, and sentenced to 16 years in prison. The holdups occurred on May 11 at a branch of the Bank of Commonwealth and on June 30 at a supermarket branch of Virginia Beach-based Chartway FCU. Brown also was charged in an attempted robbery on July 12 at another credit union branch (The Virginian-Pilot Aug. 20) … * OGDEN, Utah (8/23/11)--Police are seeking a masked gunman who tried unsuccessfully to hold up a gas station employee, before hijacked a woman and her car. The gunman forced her to drive to an ATM at the Ogden, Utah-based America First CU, before ordering her to drive to a nearby residential area and raping her. The incident started at about 11:20 p.m. Aug. 17 as an employee was closing a grocery/gas station. The assailant demanded cash but the employee told him the station was closed and he had no cash. The gunman ordered him inside the store. The employee was calling 911 when he heard a woman scream. Detectives identified the car and contacted the woman, who told them she had been forced to withdraw funds from her account at the ATM before being assaulted (The Salt Lake Tribune Aug. 20) … * ST. JOHN’S, Antigua (8/23/11)--The Antigua Barbuda Cooperative Credit Union League re-elected Carol Spencer-Brown to the position of president (antiguaobserver.com Aug. 20). Other members of the board are Eversleigh Warner, vice president; Inez Benjamin, treasurer; Esther Philp-Defoe, board secretary; Livingstone Samuel, assistant secretary/treasurer; Glenroy George, public relations officer; and Sylvester Joseph, Claudette Mason and Emil Michael, directors. Brown said she looks forward to working with the team to plan the way forward for the sector and especially preparing for Oct. 31, the launch date of The International Year of Cooperatives 2012, as declared by the United Nations ...

CU amid Joplin rebound from tornado

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JOPLIN, Mo. (8/23/11)--Great Plains FCU is among the Joplin, Mo., business rebounding from the May 22 tornado that devastated the city and killed 89 people. The $287 million asset credit union filed a $3.2 million permit in June to repair its building and is about 50% completed with repairs, according to President Ken Martin (Associated Press via The Joplin Globe Aug. 22) A massive tornado struck the town of Joplin, Mo., May 22 leaving the business district demolished and nearly one-third of the community devastated in its wake (News Now May 24). Great Plains FCU suffered water damage after its air conditioning and roof were hit by the tornado. Since the storm, Great Plains FCU has been operating out of a temporary modular unit. Martin estimates the credit union will be back in its former building in about a month and half. Businesses near Great Plains FCU are also rebuilding. Walgreens re-opened two stores on Aug. 15 and AT&T recently opened a 5,000-square-foot retail store. The city of Joplin issued building permits valued at $27.2 million in June, which means the city had twice as much construction during the month as it saw in the first six months of the city’s fiscal year. To read the article, use the link.

IThe StreetI At CUs consumers fare better in economic squeeze

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NEW YORK (8/23/11)--Credit union members are a "bit more comfortable" in the recession than bank customers are, thanks largely to credit unions' superior rates, according to The Street.com (Aug. 22). Low deposit rates have hit everyone, but "if you look only at credit unions, the numbers tell a different story," said the article, citing the Credit Power Index. The index measures the spread between the cost of borrowing and the benefits of saving by examining the difference between certificates of deposit rates at four terms and four loan product rates at the same terms. The higher the index, the worse things are for the consumers. At the end of July, credit unions' Credit Power Index figure stood at 17.55--nearly five points lower than the national average and more than 5.5 points better for consumers than the interest rate climate found at banks. "It's no wonder these nonprofit institutions have seen their number swell since the recession as Americans seek out better rates," said The Street. Credit unions "beat banks on deposit rates across the board," the article said. Banks have better mortgage rates, but on fixed mortgages in December, credit unions and banks were in a "statistical dead heat." However, some said credit unions had the advantage in that they typically charge lower fees as well. Credit unions also won on these other rates:
* For personal unsecured loans, credit unions charged 10.49%, compared with 12.54% charged at banks; * On 36-month home equity loans, credit unions charged 5.61% while banks charged 6.75%; and * On 48-month new auto loans, credit unions charged 3.68% while banks charged 4.72%.

Michigan CUs PAC in states top 15

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LANSING, Mich. (8/23/11)--The Michigan Credit Union League Action Fund (MCULAF), the Michigan Credit Union League’s (MCUL) state political action committee (PAC), has moved steeply up the list of the top 150 Michigan PACs, ranking 15th just after the mid-point of 2011, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. As of July 20, MCULAF had raised $129,984, a 15.7% increase over the $112,372 raised during the same time frame in 2009 (Michigan Monitor Aug. 22). The 2011 numbers place MCULAF ahead of PACs operated by AT&T, the Michigan Restaurant Association, the Michigan Bankers Association, the Michigan Association of Insurance Agents, Michigan Association of CPAs and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. “This is an outstanding accomplishment, and recognition is owed to all those individuals who contribute to our state PAC, as well as to the many devoted Michigan credit union people who dedicate time and energy to PAC fundraising,” said Dave Adams, CEO of MCUL & Affiliates. “Strong PACs are an important part of our legislative advocacy efforts--but we can't afford to ease up in our efforts,” he added. “It’s worth noting that the Comerica PAC alone placed 13th at $138,922.”

CU draws attention with stealth ads vs. Chase

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SAN DIEGO (8/23/11)--San Diego County CU is using what one branding expert terms a “stealth comparative” ad campaign against big banks’ higher fees by subtly turning a tag line of giant bank JPMorgan Chase & Co. against the bank. The $4.97 billion asset credit union is using more than 80 billboards along San Diego-area freeways asking the question, “Chased by HIGH FEES?” (North County Times Aug. 21). The credit union’s billboard campaign is a response to a Chase Bank advertising campaign launched in early 2008 that changed the noun of Chase Bank to a verb, when it unveiled its brand campaign “Chase What Matters,” Liz Goodgold, a San Diego-based branding expert, told the newspaper. Goodgold dubs the credit union’s campaign “brilliant,” because it refers to Chase without using the bank’s formal name and without making a side-by-side comparison, such as with a taste test. That makes the ad feel like an inside joke to viewers, she told the paper. The billboards are designed to encourage consumers to look for better banking opportunities because they are frustrated with banks, Teresa Halleck, president/CEO San Diego County CU, told the paper. The ad refers to big banks in general and not Chase in particular, she added. San Diego County CU has 28 branches in the region. Halleck told the paper she isn’t sure if the credit union needs to add any more--because members can only use a certain number of branches. And when a big bank, such as Chase, keeps adding branches, consumers are the ones who end up paying for them, she added. Chase plans to add 100 branches in California--12 of them in San Diego County, the article said. To read the article, use the link.

SBLFs are taxpayer-funded MBLs arent says AVCU

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (8/23/11)--It’s time for S. 509, the Small Business Lending Enhancement Act of 2011, to move forward so that credit unions can help Vermont and the U.S. add a projected 140,000 jobs to the economy, Joe Bergeron, president of the Association of Vermont Credit Unions (AVCU), wrote in letters to Vermont’s Senate delegation last week. The legislation seeks to increase the cap on credit union member business lending (MBL) to 27.5% from 12.25% of assets, with limitations for safety and soundness (Newslines Express Aug. 19). He thanked the lawmakers for their support of S.509 and asked them to push the bill to the Senate floor when they return to Washington after the Labor Day recess. Credit unions have offered to Congress another $13 billion of stimulus for small business “for a long time now . . . above and beyond what they already provide,” he added. “Meanwhile, never-ending concerns about job growth and the economy continue while Congress overlooks this offer by credit unions.” Bergeron cited disappointing new job reports, anxiety about President Barack Obama’s yet-to-be-announced jobs plan, and taxpayer dollars being used to stimulate hiring via the Treasury’s Small Business Lending Fund (SBLF) as further evidence that the legislation needs to move forward quickly. He also pointed out that the boost offered by an MBL cap increase would come at no cost to taxpayers. “The recently announced Treasury release of $418 million to small banks in SBLF awards is taxpayer funded,” Bergeron wrote. “By contrast, passage of S. 509 would provide over 30 times that amount with no taxpayer cost at all. He also addressed the needs of Vermont. “Likely new loans for small businesses in the first year of enacting S.509 are estimated at $75 million, equating to about 815 new jobs (using the Council of Economic Advisors job multiplier). Those figures are quite significant by Vermont standards,” Bergeron concluded. If passed, the MBL legislations would infuse $13 billion in new small-business capital into the U.S. economy, said the Credit Union National Association.

Disclosures release first official music video on YouTube

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MADISON, Wis. (8/23/11)--The Disclosures, the credit union industry’s “thrift rock” duo, have released their first music video on YouTube, a flashback style video for their song “98 Problems (But a Bank Ain’t One)” from their debut album, (Hey, We’re) The Disclosures. The “98 Problems” video stars “younger versions” of band members Christopher Morris and Chad Helminak as they discuss the differences between credit unions and banks. Morris is director of communications for the National Credit Union Foundation. Helminak is the web and member development strategist at the Wisconsin Credit Union League. “It’s our hope that credit unions find this content useful on their member websites and social networks to help better educate their members on credit union philosophy,” Morris said.

Florida CUs preparing for Hurricane Irene

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MADISON, Wis. (8/23/11)--Residents of the southeast U.S.--including credit unions--this week are keeping a close watch on Hurricane Irene, which is expected to hit Florida early Friday. Irene gained hurricane status Monday morning, pelting Puerto Rico with as much as 12 inches of rain and winds of about 75 mph, which makes it a weak Category 1 hurricane (PropertyCasualty360 Aug. 22). It is expected to get stronger the next five days. Agility Recovery, a CUNA Strategic Services provider, has been in contact with credit unions since Sunday evening, according to Marketing Director Scott Teel. In a tropical storm/hurricane situation, communication with clients runs both ways, Teel said. Agility contacts its clients to ensure they are prepared for the storm, and clients contact the company to be on alert for a possible emergency situation. Agility shares two pieces of advice with all clients: review the company’s hurricane preparedness checklist and have a communication plan in place. “The checklist has proven to be a simple and effective tool to look at when a storm is bearing down,” Teel said. “It provides a step-by-step process during a very hectic time.” The communication plan between credit union leadership and employees is essential to keep the credit union running or get it back online after a hurricane hits--and having financial institutions are critical to a community’s recovery in the wake of a hurricane, Teel said. “Grocery stores, gas stations and financial institutions are the three main businesses that need to get back on line to serve the community,” Teel said. “That said, cash is king at this time. We stress that credit unions have ample reserves and some means to operate their ATMs at this time, if possible.” Credit unions should also have a communication strategy in place with their core processors, Teel said.

N.J. s public deposits plan becomes law

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TRENTON, N.J. (8/23/11)--New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Friday signed legislation that paves the way for public entities to seek the best possible return for taxpayer dollars by allowing the state's credit unions to serve as eligible public depositories. S-1807/A-1597 will enable counties, school boards, municipalities and other government entities to use credit unions as depositories. Previously credit unions were prohibited from serving as eligible public depositories by the Government Unit Deposit Protection Act, which mandates depositories have Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) insurance--even though credit unions' government-backed insurance with the same limits is through the National Credit Union Administration. New Jersey's credit unions can now compete with banks in the $15 billion public deposit market. With credit unions typically paying on average better rates and offering lower fees than banks, public entities will have a new option as they seek the best yield during tough economic times, said the New Jersey Credit Union League (NJCUL). "This market has historically been dominated by a small group of banks," said league President/CEO Paul Gentile. "Credit unions will bring competition to public deposits that will likely drive better returns and ultimately help taxpayers. Even if credit unions aren't ultimately chosen by the public entity, their presence in the market raises the competitive bar," he added. The bill arrived on the governor's desk with strong bi-partisan support. It passed the Assembly 67-8 in late June and the Senate in June 2010 by a 29-6 vote. Prime sponsors in the Senate were Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Senate Republican Conference Leader Robert Singer. In the Assembly, prime sponsors were Speaker Sheila Oliver and Deputy Speakers Upendra Chivukula and John Wisniewski. The legislation was supported by the credit union league, the New Jersey League of Municipalities, the New Jersey School Boards Association and the New Jersey Association of Counties. "We thank the sponsors spearheading this legislation and making the case that public entities should have the right to seek the highest available returns on taxpayer dollars," said Gentile. He noted the governor "also recognized the role credit unions can have in driving competition. This legislation fits into efforts of the governor and legislative leaders to find ways to hold property taxes in check." NJCUL Chairman Shawn Gilfedder, president/CEO of McGraw Hill FCU, East Windsor, said the league "was able to spearhead legislation that empowers New Jersey credit unions to add to their business line while also potentially helping taxpayers. In a time when regulators and lawmakers seem to be clamping down on financial service providers including credit unions, this is a proactive step in the right direction." A core mission of New Jersey credit unions is to help improve financial literacy in the state. An amendment in the legislation mandates that credit unions contribute funds to a nonprofit entity dedicated to promoting financial literacy in the state based on the level of public deposits the credit union takes in. "Financial literacy is sorely needed in New Jersey," said Gentile. "This legislation will help financial literacy efforts expand through credit unions' activity with municipal deposits. That's a win-win for consumers and public entities alike."

N.Y. governor inks streamlined wild card parity law

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ALBANY, N.Y. (8/23/11)--New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation amending the "wild card" law created to give state-chartered credit unions parity with their federal counterparts, said the Credit Union Association of New York (CUANY) Monday. The wild card law was originally extended to credit unions in 2007. It permitted state-chartered credit unions to petition the state's Banking Department to exercise specific powers authorized for federal charters. However, the process was plagued by inconsistency and inaction on the part of the Banking Department, said CUANY. The new law, sponsored by Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Metropolitan) and Sen. Joseph Griffo (R-Utica/Rome), streamlines the wild card approval process. Now, the Banking Department must:
* Make a final determination on a wild card request within six months; * Provide notice to the applicant on approval or denial within 10 days of the decision; * Post a wild card request to the weekly bulletin for public comment within 120 days of receipt; and * Explain in writing why an application has been denied.
If such an explanation is not provided, the department's determination will be subject to judicial review. If the superintendent does not act within the set timeframe, the applicant can demand a determination within 30 days. "Amendments to the wild card law were essential to preserving a healthy dual-chartering system in New York state," said CUANY President/CEO William J. Mellin. "It enhances the state charter, thereby making it an attractive option for federal charters looking to convert and for any newly chartered credit unions. We want to thank Senator Griffo and Assemblyman Lancman for recognizing the importance of this bill and for guiding it through their respective houses."

NEW Law allowing N.J. CUs to accept public deposits signed

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TRENTON, N.J. (FILED 10:35 a.m. ET 8/22/11)--New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has signed legislation that enables credit unions in the state to serve as eligible public depositories and allow public entities to seek out the best possible return for taxpayer dollars. Gov. Christie signed the law Friday. It will enable counties, school boards, municipalities and other local government entities to use credit unions as depositories. Prime sponsors of S-1890/A-1597 were Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Senate Republican Conference Leader Robert Singer, and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and AssemblyDeputy Speakers Upendra Chivukula and John Wisniewski. "This market has historically been dominated by a small group of banks," said New Jersey Credit Union League President/CEO Paul Gentile. "Credit unions will bring competition to public deposits that will likely drive better returns and ultimately help taxpayers. Even if credit unions aren't ultimately chosen by the public entity, their presence in the market raises the competitive bar." More detail will be in Tuesday's News Now.