WASHINGTON (1/28/08)--A prioritized list of goals outlined by the American Bankers Association (ABA) places credit unions No. 3 on the list--behind terrorism and security concerns, and regulatory burden--but well ahead of the mortgage crisis. Those priorities are "out of whack," says Credit Union National Association (CUNA) President/CEO Dan Mica. "Just as they did several years ago when they ranked attacking credit unions higher than safeguarding the U.S. from terrorism, the bankers again have their priorities way out of whack," said Mica. "The mortgage crisis--to which more than a few banks contributed--is at the root of the economic problems now facing the country, yet it too now falls below attacking credit unions on the bankers' wish list." "Housing and Mortgage Markets" are No. 6 on the bankers' list. ABA Chairman Bradley E. Rock outlined ABA's "super priorities" for 2008 in ABA Banking Journal
(Jan. 1). The priorities are the result of meetings of ABA's board, the Government Relations Council and America's Community Bankers Council, he said. On the list, the language related to credit unions has changed. Instead of the "level the playing field" language of the past, ABA uses a new term: "government-advantaged institution." And it is more specific in its goals of ending credit unions' Congress-mandated tax-exempt status. The No. 3 priority is: "Unfair Competition from Government-Advantaged Institutions." ABA says it will "strongly oppose efforts by credit unions and Farm Credit System to abandon their core missions and to use government advantages to expand into the banking business." ABA also would "Encourage IRS (Internal Revenue Service) to continue to re-evaluate whether tax benefits for these institutions should be retained and to ensure that unrelated business income is taxed fairly." "Banks should put their own house in order and recognize that, now more than ever, 90 million hard-working Americans need and trust their credit unions," Mica said. Other ABA priorities include:
* Banking and Commerce--Work with Congress and regulators to strengthen statutory restrictions on the ownership of banks by nonfinancial firms; * Payments System--Pursue legislation allowing banks to sustain leadership of the system. Insist that nonbank firms operating elements of the system be subject to comparable requirements for protecting its integrity. * Housing and Mortgage Markets--Support policies that strengthen primary and secondary mortgage markets and set clear national standards for all mortgage originations. * Mutual Charter--Support the mutual and mutual holding company charter options, and work with banking agencies to achieve more flexible and tailored rulemaking and supervisory guidance for mutual charters. * Regulatory depth--Preserve choice by advocating the retention of a variety of financial charters and the banking agencies that support them. Advocate enhanced coordination among agencies rather than agency consolidation. * Federal Home Loan Bank System--Encourage reforms that enhance the utility of the FHLB System and oppose proposals that would harm its operations. Begin efforts to ensure FHLB payments to fund REFCorp are not continued once REFCorp obligations are met (possibly in 2010).
Rock is CEO of Smithtown (N.Y.) Bancorp.