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Leagues move to inform media public of CU soundness

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MADISON, Wis. (9/29/08)--Armed with facts about credit unions' federal insurance and credit unions' performance, the state leagues moved last week en force to inform media and the public of credit unions' strength, safety and soundness. Their weapons: advertisements, press releases, media interviews, fact sheets and op-ed pieces. A statement issued by Texas Credit Union League President/CEO Dick Ensweiler Thursday was published by national and international news publications MarketWatch and EarthTimes (Sept. 25). Credit unions remain well-capitalized and fully insured, and "it's important for credit union members and the public to know why they can count on the safety and soundness of their credit union," he said. (See link for full statement). The Indiana Credit Union League has consistently sent the good news about credit unions as a safe harbor to media. "We sent out a press release in mid-July and one again today to media across the state emphasizing that credit unions are in a good position," Indiana league President John McKenzie told News Now Friday. He wrote an opinion column in a Marion, Ind., newspaper, and a column in the September/October issue of a northern Indiana magazine, Building Indiana. "Our top priority with the media is to further emphasize the distinction that credit unions are a bright spot" in today's financial market, McKenzie noted. The Detroit News published an op-ed article Friday morning written by Michigan Credit Union League President/CEO David Adams, urging readers to trust the financial system and Congress during the economic crisis. "Not all financial institutions have contributed to the crisis and not all will need government support. Michigan credit unions have not been part of the problem, but will be part of the solution," Adams said. He added that "credit unions have not taken huge risks that led to this economic meltdown" and that deposits in credit unions are insured by the federal government. (See link for full article.) The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) drafted a letter to the editor/op-ed article that credit unions can customize to send local media, touting credit unions' health and safety, it said in special edition of its Life is a Highway (Sept. 25). "We understand that credit unions and their members are deeply concerned about the current financial conditions in our country," said Jim McCormack, PCUA president/CEO. "But this is the credit unions' time to shine, and reassuring members that their credit union is strong and their deposits are safe, is of utmost importance." PCUA urged credit unions to "post notices on your website; send a separate mailing to members; submit an article or letter to your local newspaper; place lobby signs in prominent locations; include stuffers in statement mailings; and encourage front-line staff to share the news with members they serve." On Wednesday, Mike Wishnow, PCUA senior vice president, discussed how credit unions are weathering the financial crisis during a radio interview on Pittsburgh station WMNY. (Life is a Highway Sept. 26). Other efforts:
* Wisconsin Credit Union League worked Thursday with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel for an article about how Wall Street affects Main Street, which will mention credit unions' federal insurance. The league will publish an ad this week in daily newspapers in Milwaukee, Madison, La Crosse, Eau Claire, Wausau, Appleton and Green Bay. In a press release Thursday, league President/CEO Brett Thompson said, "Not only are consumers' federally insured share deposits in credit unions safe, credit unions are probably the safest depository institution in the country right now." (Use the links to the release and the ad). * The Ohio Credit Union League sent a press release Friday emphasizing that 2.6 million credit union members have insured deposits and their lending has increased despite the credit crunch. "It is important that Ohio credit union members know that they have the same protections as other financial institutions," said Paul Mercer, league president. Use the link for the full press release. * The Maryland and District of Columbia Credit Union Association (MDDCCUA), in a special FOCUS Newsletter (Sept. 25), said its Outreach Committee's fall ad campaign will focus on safety and soundness. The 30-second ads will air at top-rated radio stations in the Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Western Maryland Oct. 6 to Nov. 23. It will place bus tail ads in Baltimore and D.C. A Google ad words and search engine plan will drive consumers to the www.WhatsInItForMe.org website about credit unions. * Mid-America Credit Union Association (MACUA) reported in a Sept. 22 press release that credit unions in North Dakota and South Dakota remain safe and healthy with strong balance sheets and solid capital-to-assets ratios. “Credit unions have weathered every financial storm since the Great Depression without ever costing the American taxpayer a dime in any bailout,” said Tony Richards, MACUA president/CEO, adding that credit unions avoided the mortgage market mess.

Texas foundation Hundreds of CU employees in dire need

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (9/29/08)--Texas Credit Union Foundation (TCUF) continues to receive an influx of grant applications from credit union employees who experienced losses as a result of Hurricane Ike. As of late Thursday, TCUF has distributed 350 grants, totaling $168,449. To continue fulfilling these requests, TCUF desperately needs the continued support of the credit union community, said the foundation (LoneStar Leaguer Sept. 26). “It is hard to imagine some of the stories we have received," said TCUF Executive Director Jill Pharr, who noted that "there are hundreds and hundreds of credit union employees who are in dire need of assistance.” “As more and more of these dedicated credit union employees catch their breath and realize the extent of personal loss they have suffered, they are turning to us for help," she said. "We have had enormous response from the credit union community in Texas and across the country, but I don’t think any of us realized the true extent of people’s losses until the applications began pouring in, along with calls from credit union CEOs," Pharr added. “Just as quickly as the grants go out, we hear stories and receive letters from the recipients who are overwhelmed at the expression of ‘People Helping People,’ through this disaster aid,” said Pharr. Requests dramatically increased last week. TCUF had to hold some grant applications until the pledged funds are received. "That delays our ability to meet these requests on a timely basis,” said Pharr. “We know the credit union family will respond to these needs.” TCUF expected to receive funds Friday collected from the National Credit Union Foundation through its CUAid program, she said Thursday. The funds include a $25,000 grant from NCUF. TCUF has posted a list of donors that is updated daily on its website, www.tcuf.coop. Instructions for how to make a donation are included in the resource link.

Counterfeit checks issued in sweepskates scam

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DECATUR, Ala. (9/29/08)--Counterfeit checks bearing the name of Family Security CU have been received by recipients of a "sweepstakes" letter in Maryland and Virginia. According to the Decatur, Ala.-based credit union, the bogus checks for $3,895.85 arrived with a memo from "First Capital Alliance Ltd." in New Brunswick, Canada, bearing a claim number: FA/8/S/3/A. The memo tells recipients they won a sweepstakes "sponsored by a group of multi-national companies in North America." It mentions a random drawing from "Federal Computer Data Bank." The "winners" are told they won $180,000, that the amount of the check will be deducted from the winnings, and that they will use $2,800 of the check to pay for surcharges and taxes on the winnings. It also notes that no personal information, such as the winners' bank account, credit card number or Social Security number, is required. The victims are required to call a number to "activate" and clarify the sweepstakes offer. The numbers are New Brunswick numbers. According to Gina Turney, director of compliance and security at the credit union, attempts to call the numbers did not go through because there was no room to record new messages.

Indiana governor supports expanded CUs MBL

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INDIANAPOLIS (9/29/08)--Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels opened the Indiana Credit Union League's annual convention Friday morning and expressed support for key credit union initiatives in the state, according to League President John McKenzie. Daniels indicated prior to the meeting that he was in agreement with two key areas of emphasis that the league has expressed in a recent letter to the state's congressional leaders, which asked them to be mindful of any impact congressional action could have on credit unions. The areas of agreement are:
* An expansion of the credit union presence in the marketplace as a part of the solution for the for-profit sectors problems, even though credit unions did not create those problems. * An expanded presence in business lending to provide local lenders as a counterbalance to the for-profit sector.
Daniels not only has clout in the state, but also has national influence, as a former chief of staff to Sen. Richard Lugar, as a senior advisor to former President Ronald Reagan, and as a former director of the Office of Management and Budget for President George W. Bush, McKenzie told News Now. "He indicated that this is a great time for credit unions to tout what they stand for and promote the right way to do business," McKenzie said. The governor was in agreement with a letter the league sent to Indiana's members of Congress on Sept. 22. Credit unions have been pointed out by congressional leaders as "being a bright spot in today's financial services marketplace," the letter said. "Because not-for-profit credit unions continue to provide an important counterbalance to the for-profit sector of the marketplace, we believe that the current environment demonstrates that an expanded credit union presence is good for the financial system, good for consumers, and good for business owners needing access to credit from local lenders," McKenzie said. The governor also expressed support for credit unions during a question and answer session after his speech. Daniels is a long-time credit union member. He is a member of Eli Lilly FCU in Indianapolis.

CUs write letters to editors about CUs strength

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MADISON, Wis. (9/29/08)--Credit unions nationwide are sending letters to their local media touting credit unions’ strength and security. The letters were triggered by media reports stating that consumers should place their deposits in Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC)--insured accounts. Credit unions’ funds are guaranteed under the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF), to the same levels and safety as FDIC-insured accounts, according to a letter sent to all print and broadcast media in the Dayton, Ohio, written by Douglas Fecher, president/CEO, Wright-Patt CU, Fairborn. The North Carolina Credit Union League noted that Allegacy FCU, Winston-Salem, N.C., was spotlighted by a local television news station concerning the safety and soundness of the credit union (use the link to watch the video). No penny has ever been lost in an account with the NCUSIF, Allegacy CEO Ike Keener said in the video. AmeriChoice CU, Mechanicsburg, Pa., sent a letter to the editors of local media emphasizing the credit union’s safety and soundness. “Our asset base is solid and growing while our loan portfolio remains healthy with minimal delinquency. We were awarded one of the highest grades by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) during our last financial examination,” the credit union said. Tobyhanna Army Depot FCU, Scranton, Pa., also sent in a press release to editors. “All Pennsylvania credit unions are backed by full faith and credit of the U.S. government and the NCUA,” wrote Jim Kanaley, Tobyhanna CEO. “Credit unions are the stewards of their members’ hard-earned money and take that responsibility seriously,” he wrote. “Investments are made conservatively and credit unions cannot be bought and sold as commodities.” Many credit unions also posted messages to their members on their websites. UW CU, Madison, Wis., posted on its website a letter to its members, assuring them of safety and soundness. It also included the credit union’s August financials. A member noted that the credit union prominently displayed the letter and the chart of the credit union’s financials was “compelling.”

Four auto dealer managers arrested for inflating prices

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ORANGE, Calif. (9/29/08)--Four former managers at Orange, Calif.-based Douglas Nissan were arrested Wednesday on suspicion of defrauding customers and financial institutions--including two California credit unions--in a scheme to inflate used-car prices, according to prosecutors. NuVision FCU, an $847.4 million asset, Huntington Beach-based credit union, and Wescom CU, a $3.692 billion asset Pasadena-based credit union, were among the financial institutions defrauded in the scheme, prosecutors said (The Orange County Register Sept. 25). The scheme consisted of manipulating used vehicles’ Kelley Blue Book values--a commonly used reference for determining used automobiles’ selling prices--through bogus reports that the vehicles had upgrades such as navigation systems, DVD players, premium wheels and leather interiors, prosecutors said. Once they found out how much a customer could afford in monthly payments for a vehicle, the four defendants arranged loans that roughly matched the payment amount, prosecutors said. When Douglas Nissan reported fake vehicle upgrades that inflated the loan amount and car price, the lender and the customer were defrauded, prosecutors said. The four former managers arrested Wednesday are: Frank Ignacio Urbano, a former part-owner and general manager of the dealership; and former sales managers Luz Belem Corral of Costa Mesa, Kevin Allen Derosier of Anaheim, and Marwan Abdellatif of Lakewood.

Directions offered on Mica federal insurance video

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WASHINGTON (9/29/08)--Credit unions can embed on their own websites a video of Credit Union National Association (CUNA) President/CEO Dan Mica explaining federal savings insurance at credit unions, as well as the strength and soundness of credit unions, by following a few, simple instructions. The video, featuring Mica, is aimed at explaining to the public--in simple, understandable terms--the fact that credit unions have federal savings insurance, providing coverage of at least $100,000--and are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. Use the resource link below to access the complete instructions for embedding the video. In addition or the alternative, credit unions and leagues also may link to the “America’s Credit Unions” site at www.creditunion.coop for accessing the video. The site also includes additional information about the safety, soundness and strength of credit unions.

Galveston Government ECU We are still here for members

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GALVESTON, Texas (9/29/08)--Mandatory evacuation orders in the face of Hurricane Ike closed the doors on Galveston (Texas) Government Employees CU’s normal Broadway Street location, but it did not stop the credit union from doing business. Deploying a contingency plan, the $9.6 million-asset credit union moved its operations to a mobile branch unit in neighboring League City a few days after the hurricane made landfall on Sept. 13 (LoneStar Leaguer Sept. 26). “Operating in a coastal community, we are acutely aware of how vulnerable we are to Mother Nature,” Rachel Jones, Galveston Government Employees president/CEO, told the Texas Credit Union League. “We also understand that our members count on us to be there for them, particularly in times of distress. “We want to assure our members that we are still here, and that we are still a safe and sound institution,” she added. With the help of another area credit union willing to share its phone lines, the credit union quickly restored phone service after its phone lines went down. It also resumed mail service quickly by opening a post office box in nearby Dickinson. The credit union would not have been able to provide service to members if it had not been for the Galveston County Sheriffs Department providing security, Jones said. To help members who sustained financial losses due to Hurricane Ike, the credit union is offering skip-a-pay, which allows members to forgo making a payment on an outstanding loan for one month. Its Hurricane Ike loan allows members to borrow up to $1,000 with no payments for 90 days and a minimum $50 payment afterwards for up to 24 months. “Throughout this whole ordeal, we kept a close pulse on our membership,” Jones said. “They are depending on us to help them get through this.” “Many of the staff at Galveston Government Employees CU, as well as its volunteer board of directors, are among the thousands of residents in the area who have been displaced from their homes,” Dick Ensweiler, league president/CEO said. “But instead of focusing on their own personal hardships, their attention is on their members.”

Pennsylvania Supreme Court sends case back to lower court

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (9/29/08)--The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a procedural ruling Thursday sending court cases involving community charters back to the lower Commonwealth Court. The cases involve five-county community charters granted to Freedom CU, Warminster, and TruMark Financial CU, Trevose (Life is A Highway Sept. 26). The Commonwealth Court will decide whether the Pennsylvania Department of Banking properly approved the five-county community charters applied for by the credit unions. The ruling has no impact on the credit unions’ community charters or members, the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) said. No time frame has been set for the commonwealth court’s review, PCUA said. The litigation involves the Pennsylvania Bankers Association, Pennsylvania Department of Banking, and the two credit unions. The case began in 2004 when bankers challenged the department of banking's decision to approve community charters. It then was considered by the Commonwealth Court at the appellate level, and last week before the Supreme Court. At issue is the Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Court's 2006 ruling, by 7-0 tally, in favor of the state department of banking secretary's decision to allow community charters for the two credit unions. The court dismissed the bankers' challenges, and bankers filed an appeal on April 28, 2006 (News Now April 12).

Morale high among employees in hurricane region

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (9/29/08)--Despite seeing widespread devastation caused by Hurricane Ike on his tour of Southeast Texas Thursday, Dick Ensweiler, CEO of the Texas Credit Union League, discovered that morale was high among credit union employees affected by Ike. Roads filled with debris, collapsed roofs sitting on building foundations, and personal belongings scattered on lawns were part of the destruction Ensweiler saw (LoneStar Leaguer Sept. 26). Ensweiler visited branches of several credit unions that sustained severe destruction from Hurricane Ike. They included:
* Houston Police FCU; * Firestone Community FCU, Orange; * Five Point FCU, Nederland; and * DuPont Goodrich FCU, Nederland.
Gulf CU, Groves, was lucky enough to avoid damage from Hurricane Ike, but some employees were not as fortunate. Several, such as compliance officer Stephine Adams, lost their homes. Roiling waters swept all her possessions out of her home and made it uninhabitable. The silver lining is that five horses she left behind are OK. She and her family waded through knee-deep water to lead them to safety. Adams said she is taking things “one day at a time.” This also was the sentiment of Evan Gonzalez, a teller with Five Point FCU, and Scott Lawson of Firestone Community FCU, who live in Bridge City and lost their homes. The community of 3,500 homes was so devastated by Hurricane Ike that fewer than 20 homes are inhabitable. Shanna Hubert, an employee of Five Points CU, also lost her home. Her branch is in ruin and she now works in a mobile unit in a parking lot near a busy street. “It’s definitely hard, but you can’t let it get you down,” she told the league. “You’ve got to keep going--our members are depending on us.” Frontline staff of Houston Police FCU are working in mobile units set up in the parking lot of the credit union’s main office, which became submerged in water when its roof was torn off by high winds. Mildew fills the air inside the damaged building. Employee morale was high despite having to work in closed quarters, Ensweiler found. Executive assistant Mitzy Plumb is living in a recreational vehicle parked in her driveway because her house was smashed by fallen mature trees. She said her daily duties at the credit union bring her joy. “We have very special people serving in this movement,” Ensweiler said. “Despite their personal tragedies, they go to work every day with a sincere desire to serve their members.” Ensweiler planned to continue his tour last Friday, visiting Coastal Community CU, Galveston; JSC FCU’s Galveston Branch; Amoco FCU, Texas City; and Beacon FCU, LaPorte.

Two to be inducted into N.Y. hall of fame

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ALBANY, N.Y. (9/29/08)--Two credit union individuals will be inducted into the Credit Union Association of New York’s Hall of Fame Oct. 7 at the association’s annual convention. The inductees are Robert Barber and Alfred Mariani. Barber joined Albany Firemen’s FCU in 1962. He served as the chairman of the credit committee until 1982. He also was one of two loan officers until 2003, when he was appointed chairman of the credit union’s supervisory committee. Mariani entered the credit union movement in the late 1940s. He served as treasurer of Oneida FCU, and Bendix FCU. In 1952, he was hired as a field representative for the Syracuse chapter--of whatwas then the New York State Credit Union League. He organized more than 100 credit unions for the next 14 years. He became manager/CEO of Syracuse University FCU and served as a New York league volunteer, and Syracuse chapter president, director-at-large, Syracus director and first vice president. Mariani also was a director of the Credit Union National Association, founding member of Members United corporate FCU and a member of CUNA Mutual’s Policyowner’s Board. He was the Credit Union Association of New York’s first two-term president (chairman).

CU System briefs (09/26/2008)

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* FAIRBORN, Ohio (9/29/08)--Wright-Patt CU's eight-month Savings Race begins Wednesday. The race involves five families, chosen from more than 80 member applicants. They who will work with credit union coaching teams to improve their spending and savings habits, and work toward a family-specific goal to increase savings and net worth, and reduce debt. The family closest to its goal will be awarded $10,000 upon completion of the race in May 2009. The four runner-up families will receive $2,000 each. The race was designed to benefit not only the participants, but the entire Miami Valley, said Doug Fecher, president/CEO. The event will get people to talk about their finances, he said. Community members can follow the families' progress and initiate their own savings plan by viewing blogs, Web updates and local news vignettes, and by attending free credit union financial planning courses along side the race participants … * SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (9/29/08)--The husband of Carol Aranjo--former CEO of the defunct D. Edward Wells CU who was convicted of embezzling $1.5 million from the credit union--was sentenced Thursday to one year and one day in prison for his part in the embezzlements (Associated Press Newswires Sept 25). His sentence came a few hours after Aranjo was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $1.4 million (News Now Sept. 25). Smith was convicted on 10 charges and acquitted on others. The credit union was closed by federal regulators in 2003 … * DULUTH, Ga. (9/29/08)--The annual golf tournament to benefit the Georgia Credit Union Foundation netted $40,000 for Brenden Welch, vice president and general manager of Jones Lang LaSalle Americas Inc., a real estate firm, when he sank a hole in one on his first try. Welch was teamed with Jeanne Kucey, president of Retail Employees CU and vice chair of the foundation. Welch had the choice of a new Lexus GS3000, provided by Enterprise Car Sales, or the cash. He opted for the cash. From left are Welch, holding son Luke, age 1, and wife Sheri, holding son Nicholas, age 5. Welch sank the drive on Luke's one-year birthday, using a golf ball onto which he had written "Nicholas' dad." (Photo provided by the Georgia Credit Union Affiliates) …