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Inside Washington (08/22/2011)

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* ALEXANDRIA, Va. (8/23/11)--As noted Friday in the Credit Union National Association’s News Now LiveWire Twitter feed, the National Credit Union Administration issued revised guidance to credit unions explaining the impact on credit unions of the Standard and Poor’s downgrade of long-term, U.S. debt. The new guidance clarifies how examiners assign risk weights to government securities held by credit unions, and specifically notes that the agency assigns a zero risk weight to U.S. Treasury securities held by corporate credit unions Sign up for News Now LiveWire here… * WASHINGTON (8/23/11)--The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is developing a working relationship with state attorneys general (AGs). In April, the CFPB and state AGs released a joint statement of principles to coordinate investigations and identify mutual enforcement priorities (American Banker Aug. 22). Richard Cordray, the Obama administration’s nomination to be the CFPB’s first director, is a former Ohio attorney general. Observers say Cordray was an aggressive AG who pursued mortgage servicers for their foreclosure practices before “robo-signing” was a national issue. The first indication of a partnership between the CFBP and state AGs was the bureau’s involvement in the mortgage-servicer-settlement negotiations. Critics say the CFPB and Elizabeth Warren, who organized the bureau, improperly influenced the negotiations. The bureau has claimed that it provided advice only upon request …

Training risk calculations continue to be BSA challenges

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WASHINGTON (8/23/11)—During a Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) webinar hosted by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Friday, Judy Graham, of the National Credit Union Administration’s (NCUA) office of examination and insurance, said examiners identify risk assessments and staff training as two top areas of compliance problems. According to Graham, examiners continue to find that some credit unions do not have a written assessment, or have inadequate assessments, of their risks to exposure to BSA and money laundering activities. She noted that risk assessments should be reviewed for appropriateness when there is a merger or expansion of products, services or membership. On a related issue, Graham also noted that some suspicious activity monitoring programs being implemented are being found to be insufficient to manage the risks involved in the credit union's business. Regarding staff training for BSA requirements, Graham said examiners are finding that training is often dated or hasn't been documented. Although the timing of training will vary based on the risks of the credit union's business, NCUA expects training to be done at least annually. Riskier, more complex credit unions may find it appropriate to train more frequently. Also, training should incorporate regulatory changes and relevant guidance. Thomas Lawler, of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network FinCEN),and Michael Dondarski, of the Office of Foreign Asset Control, also participated in the CUNA webinar. Lawler provided insight into FinCEN's role in implementing the BSA statute and outlined several recent regulations and guidance documents FinCEN has issued over the last year, such as a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) Confidentiality Rule and the Money Services Business rule. OFAC’s Dondarski provided an overview of OFAC's economic sanction programs and an Executive Order that was issued on Aug. 18, which extensively broadened the scope of OFAC's Syria program. Credit unions were encouraged to contact the OFAC compliance hotline at 800-540-6322 and the OFAC licensing division at 202-622-2480 with any questions. And, credit unions were encouraged to have members contact OFAC directly with any questions regarding blocked property or rejected transactions. An archived version of the CUNA webinar is available via the resource link below.

CUNA seeks CUs lists of top regulatory burdens

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WASHINGTON (8/23/11)—As the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) works to compile a comprehensive list of credit unions’ regulatory burdens to send to federal regulators and continue to seek their aid to provide relief, CUNA is asking credit unions to send their views on what rules unnecessarily encumber operations. CUNA intends to provide the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) with the catalog of credit unions’ pressing regulatory concerns by the end of this month. The action is a follow up to a number of other initiatives CUNA has undertaken to seek a targeted and more effective regulatory approach for credit unions. For instance, early this month CUNA used the opportunity to comment on NCUA regulations that are up for review this year to make a broader statement on regulatory burden. CUNA sent a comment letter to NCUA urging the agency to avoid broad-based regulatory requirements in favor of more targeted actions and to refrain from adding to the burden caused by current credit union regulatory requirements. The CUNA comment letter, spurred by NCUA's 2011 regulatory review of such rules as those addressing security programs, Bank Secrecy Act compliance, and crime reporting, also noted that "the cumulative regulatory burden is at an all-time high" due to the activities of the NCUA and Dodd-Frank Act regulations. Also this month, CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney sent a letter to Richard Cordray as he prepares for his Sept. 6 nomination hearing before the Senate Banking Committee for the position of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) director. Cheney asked Cordray to "consider ways in which the bureau can help minimize regulatory requirements for credit unions and other financial institutions." Cordray, who has been serving as the CFPB's assistant director for enforcement, was announced as President Barack Obama's nominee for CFPB director last month. CUNA has also backed legislation (H.R. 1315) to reduce the voting threshold needed for the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) to stay or set aside rules finalized by the CFPB from a two-thirds vote to a majority vote. The CFPB director would not be part of that vote. CUNA said that the change would make it easier for FSOC to stay or set aside potentially burdensome CFPB rules and, therefore, would balance consumer protection with safety and soundness concerns. CUNA sent a letter of support to Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in July. Credit unions may send their lists of burdensome regulations to CUNA at mdunn@cuna.coop. For more on CUNA’s actions, use the resource links below.

VisaCUNA interchange call Debit rates out soon

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WASHINGTON (8/24/11)—After teaming up Friday for a conference call with the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) on debit card interchange fee issues concerning credit unions--and announcing its new rates for institutions with under $10 billion in assets would soon be released--Visa began sending to credit unions its new debit card fee structure. Earlier last week, MasterCard participated in a CUNA call with credit unions and reiterated its pledge to implement a two-tiered debit interchange fee structure, and added the company currently plans to keep its existing market-based rate structure in place for credit unions and other financial institutions with under $10 billion in assets. Visa also created a two-tiered system, although some changes were in the works. Credit unions within the Visa network that have not yet received rate information should contact their Visa representative. As background, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act required the Federal Reserve Board to regulate debit interchange fees for issuers with assets of $10 billion or more. The Fed final rule set a cap of 21 cents, and allows an additional five basis points of the value of the transaction to cover fraud losses. An extra penny may be charged by financial institutions that are in compliance with Fed-established fraud prevention standards. Credit unions and other institutions with under $10 billion in assets are exempt from the rate cap provisions of the rule.