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CUs can inform CFPB of work with military

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WASHINGTON (9/8/11)--The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Office of Servicemember Affairs has asked for industry and public comment on “the products and services institutions currently offer that are specifically designed to benefit the military community.” The CFPB Office of Servicemember Affairs works to shield U.S. servicemembers and their families from abusive financial practices and monitors servicemember questions and complaints regarding consumer financial products and services. It also coordinates responses with CFPB staff and other federal and state agencies. The Servicemember Affairs division is led by Holly Petraeus, who has previously served as the director of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Military Line, a joint BBB/Department of Defense project that provides consumer education and advocacy for military families. She is the wife of General David Petraeus and the daughter of a former West Point superintendent. Credit Union National Association (CUNA) staff have met with Petraeus, and plan to cover how credit unions serve their military members and their families in future discussions. CUNA is also planning to release a comment call on this CFPB initiative. CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney has noted that Petraeus is a “strong supporter of credit unions,” and added that “CUNA looks forward to continuing our work with her.” Among the issues the CFPB specifically has asked for information on are:
*Any assistance offered to servicemembers that are distressed homeowners, including specific mortgage modifications, accommodations for servicemembers that receive permanent change of station orders, or alterations for wounded, ill or injured servicemembers, or surviving spouses of deceased servicemembers; *Short-term lending products that are tailored to the needs of servicemembers and their families; and *Any products, services, programs, policies, or practices that are tailored to the unique financial needs of servicemembers and their families, or marketed to these servicemembers and their families.
The CFPB noted that these services and programs may address deployments, permanent-change-of-station moves, overseas assignments, relocations, and other circumstances. The CFPB has also asked for details on how these beneficial services are marketed to servicemembers, and which types of marketing are most effective. The CFPB said the information provided will help the agency develop financial education and outreach initiatives for military families. Petraeus noted that “military families face unique challenges especially when it comes to their finances,” and said that "open dialogue is key to addressing these challenges." The CFPB is accepting comments until Sept. 20.

CUNA seeking Senate support for patent changes

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WASHINGTON (9/8/11)--The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) joined several trade associations in backing the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (H.R. 1249) and sought support from all members of the Senate in a letter sent this week. H.R. 1249, which is named for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Lamar Smith (R-Texas), would alter the patent application system by awarding a patent to the first inventor to file a given application. The legislation also provides greater time for the public to provide input on a patent and changes the rules under which an existing patent may be challenged. Section 18 of the bill would protect credit unions and other businesses from outside claims that some specific customer service, payment and marketing practices have already been claimed under existing business method patents. These patent challenges, which are often brought by non-practicing entities, can become expensive for credit unions and others if they are heard in court. CUNA and others said they “strongly support Section 18 of the bill, which addresses the issue of poor-quality business-method patents,” and urged members of the Senate to “oppose any effort to strike or weaken this section.” Overall, the letter noted that enactment of H.R. 1249 “will spur innovation, creating jobs and ensure that the Patent and Trademark Office has the tools necessary to maintain our patent system as the best in the world.” The letter was cosigned by the American Bankers Association, the American Council of Life Insurers, the American Financial Services Association, the American Insurance Association, the Clearing House Association, the Consumer Bankers Association, the Financial Services Roundtable, the Independent Community Bankers of America, the Mortgage Bankers Association, the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association. H.R. 1249 was approved for Senate discussion on Tuesday, and a final vote on the bill could come as soon as today. The bill passed the House by a 304 to 117 vote in late June, and similar legislation received nearly unanimous support in the Senate earlier this year.

Fox News CUNA weighs in on markets economy

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WASHINGTON (9/8/11)--Americans can expect a weak economy for the next three to four years, and a great deal of patience will be needed as the economic recovery continues to play out, Credit Union National Association Chief Economist Bill Hampel said in a Fox Business Channel interview.

Hampel noted that the economic recovery seems to have reached a flat point, with the weak growth of last year stalling. He added that no one really knows whether the economy is going to fall back into another recession or start growing again. While the slow pace of recovery may be trying, a slow recovery “is better than tanking,” he said. Stimulus, rather than austerity measures, could help the economy recover, but Hampel also noted that in the long run, the long-term growth of medicare and other programs must be addressed. In the short term, financial markets are reacting strongly to what happens in Washington, particularly to developments in fiscal and monetary policy, Hampel said.

Insightful lawmakers ask president to include MBLs in jobs stimulus

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WASHINGTON (9/8/11)—Three key lawmakers—two in the House and one in the Senate—contacted President Barack Obama Wednesday, encouraging him to include an increase in credit union member business lending (MBL) authority as he prepares to release a proposal to stimulate the economy and job creation. On the House side, Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) sent a joint letter, which stated, “During this difficult time in our economy, many small businesses require capital to stay afloat,remain competitive, and ramp up hiring. By increasing the credit union cap, we can help fill this void and create job creation without spending additional tax dollars." Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) told the president that the Senate’s bipartisan bill to “ease government restrictions on credit unions and help small businesses--at no cost to taxpayers--is a no-brainer and should be part of the (president’s) proposal.” The Credit Union National Assocation (CUNA) responded immediately, stating that, “Credit unions sincerely thank these insightful lawmakers for supporting our national economic recovery through expanded business lending authority for credit unions.” CUNA supports legislation in the House (H.R. 1418), introduced by Royce and backed by McCarthy, and Senate (S. 509)--sponsored by Udall--that would, in part, increase the MBL limit to 27.5% of assets, up from the current 12.25% restriction. In thanking Udall, Royce, and McCarthy, CUNA Pesident/CEO Bill Cheney said, “Once their legislation becomes law, more than $13 billion will be pumped into the economy – creating 140,000 jobs – in just the first year. All at no cost to taxpayers. That’s a bargain for the American people. “Reps. Ed Royce and Carolyn McCarthy and Sen. Udall understand that our nation should seize this bargain with both hands, right now, and let credit unions do their part in getting our nation moving again. “With Sen. Udall weighing in with the chief House co-sponsors, credit unions are hopeful that the president will listen carefully and include expanded credit union business lending legislation in his economic and job growth package. The bicameral and bipartisan support makes it clear: This is an initiative supported by those who want an improving economy and more jobs for the American people; it’s non-partisan and common sense.” President Obama has scheduled a speech for this evening before a joint session of Congress and strengthening small business in America will be front and center.

Treasury offers toolkit on electronic savings bond delivery

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WASHINGTON (9/8/11)—On the heels of its recent announcement that over-the-counter (OTC) sales of paper U.S. Savings Bonds will end on Dec. 31, the U.S. Treasury Department has unveiled a free toolkit to help financial institutions communicate the change to members or customers. While paper bonds will no longer be sold at credit unions and other financial institutions, electronic savings bonds will remain available for purchase through TreasuryDirect.gov, a secure web-based system operated by the Bureau of the Public Debt. The Treasury’s toolkit for financial institutions includes:
* Fliers for consumers; * Short messages for account statements; * Frequently asked questions (FAQ) for employees; * Web banners; and * An article for employee newsletters or Intranet posting;
Treasury is encouraging financial institutions to help educate consumers about the changes to the delievery system for savings bonds and to continue redeeming the more than 670 million paper savings bonds worth $181 billion that are currently in the hands of the public. Treasury has said that discontinuing paper savings bond sales is expected to save taxpayers an estimated $70 million over the next five years. For more information, use the resource link below.

Inside Washington (09/07/2011)

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* WASHINGTON (9/8/11)--The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) announced a new program Wednesday, one intended to encourage small investors and asset managers to partner with larger investors to participate in the FDIC's structured-transaction sales for loans and other assets from failed banks. Called “The Investor Match Program,” the FDIC is hopeful it will help facilitate partnerships in order to bring together sources of capital and expertise. FDIC’s stated goal is to expand opportunities for participation by smaller investors and asset managers, including minority and women-owned firms, in FDIC structured-sales transactions. The program has additional goals that include knowledge transfer and increased effectiveness of execution by small investors and asset managers via enhanced organizational competencies … * WASHINGTON (9/8/11)--U.S. Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) applauded the efforts of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, for its lawsuits against some of the largest U.S. banks for allegedly misrepresenting the quality of loans they had assembled and sold as securities to investors and the agencies. Pending lawsuits against 17 financial institutions, including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and others allege that the banks failed to perform their due diligence to verify borrower income and property values that were often inflated or false. “Not pursuing those claims would be an indirect subsidy for an industry that has gotten too many subsidies already,” Miller said. “The American people should expect their government not to give the biggest banks a backdoor bailout” … * VIENNA, Va. (9/8/11)--The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) announced Wednesday it has assessed a $5,000 civil money penalty against a Georgia-based money transmitter for a series of violations, including allowing its registration with FinCEN as a money transmitter to lapse for several years. Since 2001, the Bank Secrecy Act has required certain money transmitters to register with the FinCEN by filing a Registration of Money Services Business (RMSB) form, and renewing the registration every two years. According to FinCEN, on Nov. 15, 2006, Altima's owner, Babak Safarriyeh, a.k.a “Bobby Safari,” filed an initial RMSB form but did not renew Altima's money services business registration until Feb. 25, 2010, resulting in a lapse of registration lasting more than two years. Altima was dissolved on Sept. 6, 2010, and on Dec. 31, 2010, Altima's money transmitter license, issued by the Georgia’s Department of Banking and Finance, expired … * WASHINGTON (9/8/11)--The National Association of ATM ISOs and Operators (NAAIO) and the Alliance of Specialized Communications Providers (ASCP) have joined to form the National ATM Council (NAC). NAAIO and ASCP are combining to better represent the interests of the nation’s independent ATM operators, the two organizations said. NAC’s membership will include a majority of the independently owned (non-bank) ATMs in the U.S. Independent ATMs account for approximately one-half of the nation’s ATMs. In addition to promoting America’s independent ATM industry, NAC has also established three affiliated trade councils to advance the interests of the U.S. independent business sectors of correctional communications, public communications and air/vac/water services …

NEW Key House members urge president to include MBLs in job stimulus

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WASHINGTON (9/7/11 UPDATE 3:20 p.m. ET)--Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) sent a joint letter today encouraging President Barack Obama to include an increase in credit union member business lending (MBL) authority as he prepares to release a proposal to stimulate the economy and job creation. “During this difficult time in our economy, many small businesses require capital to stay afloat, remain competitive, and ramp up hiring. By increasing the credit union cap, we can help fill this void and create job creation without spending additional tax dollars,’ wrote the congressmen. The Credit Union National Assocation (CUNA) supports legislation in the House (H.R. 1418) and Senate (S. 509) that would, in part, increase the MBL limit to 27.5% of assets, up from the current 12.25% restriction. CUNA estimates that changing the law to allow more credit union small business lending could help employ more than 140,000 Americans and provide as much as $13 billion in new credit for small businesses in the first year after enactment. As the Royce-McCarthy letter noted, those increases would come at no cost to taxpayers. President Obama has scheduled a speech for tomorrow before a joint session of Congress and the topic of strengthening small business in America will be front and center.