WASHINGTON (6/15/09)--Members of federally chartered credit unions do not face the same level of risks faced by shareholders in for-profit corporations or individuals taking part in a business partnership, National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Associate General Counsel Sheila Albin said in a recently released legal opinion letter. The assurance came in response to a query about the differences between the benefits of credit union membership and ownership of shares of a for-profit entity. According to Albin, FCU members, who “invest in and become members of” their credit unions by starting savings, checking, and share certificate accounts have several protections that are not afforded to average corporate shareholders. They include National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund backing of up to $250,000 in total shares that are held in qualifying accounts. Members will also maintain the value of their shares if their FCU “becomes insolvent or is liquidated,” the letter added. Members would also be entitled to a pro-rata share of their credit union’s worth if that credit union is voluntarily liquidated, Albin said. Additionally, Albin said that while holders of traditional stocks can have a cumulative advantage over their fellow shareholders when leadership decisions are made, credit union members only have one single vote, no matter how large or small their accounts are. These members are also entitled to lending and savings rates that outperform those of traditional banks, for the most part. A credit union’s profits may also be redistributed to its members in the form of dividends, Albin added.