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Inside Washington (01/28/2008)

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* WASHINGTON (1/29/08)--Lawmakers are debating Federal Housing Administration (FHA) reform and government-sponsored enterprise loan limits as part of an economic stimulus package (American Banker Jan. 28). Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is pressuring lawmakers to eliminate the FHA reform and the conforming loan limits from the package so they do not slow down the legislation’s passage. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) announced last week a plan to raise the enterprises’ limits to 125%, with caps of $729,750. The House is scheduled to vote on the plan today ... * WASHINGTON (1/29/08)--A National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) webinar on key examination issues for 2008 is scheduled for today at 1 p.m. EST. NCUA board member Gigi Hyland will host. The free webinar will focus on practical implications of the recently released Letter to Credit Unions on Evaluation Third Party Relationships and strategic planning considerations for management and boards of directors. The webinar also will include an interactive question and answer session ... * WASHINGTON (1/29/08)--Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson will hold a press conference Thursday with U.S. Treasurer Anna Escobedo Cabral, Acting Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Linda Stiff, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) to mark Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day. The press conference also will be Webcast on the Treasury Department’s website ...

CUNA CUs may find BSA lessons in Justice Dept. agreement

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WASHINGTON (1/29/08)—The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) says credit unions should be aware of a recent Justice Department agreement involving a money services business and its handling of Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) Anti -Money Laundering requirements. “Credit unions should take a look at the issues highlighted in the Justice Department agreement,” said Nichole Seabron, CUNA federal compliance counsel, Monday. “ This agreement should be seen as a cautionary tale for any financial institution subject to BSA requirements It shows that regulators are taking a deeper look at areas that would trigger enhanced anti-money laundering procedures.” According to court documents, Justice has accused a California money services business of failing to prevent laundering or investigate suspicious activity for which it had filed reports. Seabron said apparently the California entity engaged in high-risk activities and had an AML system that would identify the high risk activities, but then did nothing to follow up on the activities it identified in Suspicious Activity Reports. According to the Jan. 28 American Banker, until this case the Justice Department has only fined companies for failing to have an effective anti-laundering program. “This case can serve as a reminder to credit unions to make sure their BSA/AML policies and procedures are commensurate with their business risk profiles. “It appears that this entity did not have a strong enough program in place considering the higher risk business transactions it engaged in.” For more details on the Justice Dept. action, use the resource link below.

MBL provisions could be long shot for stimulus bill

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WASHINGTON (1/29/08)—The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) continues its work on Capitol Hill to encourage lawmakers to include two credit union-specific provisions in a new economic stimulus package, provisions which could add $5.7 billion to the economy at no cost to taxpayers. CUNA has presented information to both House and Senate leaders explaining how provisions to raise credit unions’ current member business lending ceilings and increase the minimum threshold for a qualifying member business loan could bring $5.7 billion of reasonably priced credit to borrowers. In a recent letter to lawmakers (see News Now, Jan. 25), CUNA outlined how adding the MBL provisions as written in the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act (CURIA< H.R> 1537) would “provide immediate stimulus for a targeted segment of the economy that may need assistance the most, specifically small business owners, at no cost to taxpayers." CURIA would raise credit unions' current member business lending (MBL) ceiling from 12.25% of assets to 20% of assets and increase the minimum threshold for a qualifying member business loan from $50,000 to $100,000. The bill has 142 co-sponsors in the House and has not yet been introduced in the Senate. “We continue to have conversations with legislative staffers on the Hill, especially on the Senate side,” Ryan Donovan, CUNA vice president of legislative affairs, said Monday. He noted that thousands of requests for inclusion in the stimulus package flooded Congress last week, but said that the fact that CUNA’s proposal to help the economy is revenue neutral makes it an exception among the many. “So far the House version of a stimulus package contains only six provisions--none of which are specific to credit unions. We continue to work on the House side, but are focusing our efforts in the Senate right now to see if that body is willing to work with a broader package of initiatives to help the economy,” Donovan said. Use the link below to access CUNA’s Jan. 23 letter to House and Senate leaders.