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NACHA warns of phishing scam

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WASHINGTON (3/15/11)--NACHA, the electronic payments association, on Monday warned of a phishing scam perpetrated by individuals who are claiming to be representatives of NACHA. The emails, which contain harmful links, have been sent to both individuals and companies and bear the name of NACHA and, at times, the names of fictitious NACHA employees and departments. NACHA in its Monday release said that the organization “does not process nor touch [auto clearinghouse (ACH) transactions] that flow to and from organizations and financial institutions. “NACHA does not send communications to persons or organizations about individual ACH transactions that they originate or receive,” the organization added. NACHA warned recipients not to click on the link included in the email, and added that similar fraudulent emails, with some changes, could be sent in the future. NACHA also recommended the use of antivirus programs. NACHA most recently warned of a similar scam on Feb. 22, and has been the victim of other phishing scams in recent years. For the full NACHA release, use the resource link.

Hearings held ahead of Congresss spring break

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WASHINGTON (3/15/11)--Potential action on the interchange front and a host of hearings will fill the congressional schedule prior to the Congress’s scheduled spring District Work Break, which starts once Congress adjourns this week. Congress will be back in session on March 28. Several news sources have indicated that Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) are working on legislation that would delay implementation of the interchange provisions. (See related story: Interchange legislation could be introduced this week) That legislation could be introduced this week, and similar legislation could also be offered in the House. More definite items on the legislative slate include a discussion of a short-term continuing resolution that would fund the government through April 8. This would also need a Senate vote, assuming it passes the House. Also of interest to credit unions is House legislation that could eliminate the Obama administration’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) and the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). Housing finance will also be the topic of a Tuesday Senate Banking Committee hearing. U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan are expected to testify. A Wednesday hearing will also feature federal testimony, with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau architect Elizabeth Warren covering oversight of that agency as she speaks before the House Financial Services Committee subcommittee on financial institutions and consumer credit. Debt reduction and the budget will be covered by a Tuesday Senate Budget Committee hearing and a Wednesday House Financial Services Committee hearing, respectively. The House capital markets subcommittee will discuss legislative proposals to promote job creation on Thursday. The Troubled Asset Relief Program is also set to be discussed by the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday.

CUNA wins pair of political advocacy awards

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WASHINGTON (3/15/11)--Credit union-backed political campaign materials, produced by the Credit Union National Association's (CUNA) Credit Union Legislative Action Council (CULAC) and related
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Click to view larger image Click for larger view
partners, have received third place in the 2011 edition of the "Pollies," a series of awards that are presented each year by the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC). The awards sometimes are described as the equivalent of the Oscars for the political consulting industry. Compass Media Group produced the ads. A direct mail piece for Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), entitled "Yucca Mountain," won bronze in the best direct mail for an independent expenditure campaign category. This independent expenditure was paid for by CULAC. CUNA and the North Carolina CU League also won a bronze in the membership communications category for their partisan communications piece for Rep. Larry Kissell, entitled "Tough." This ad was sent to thousands of credit union members. Both of the award-winning pieces featured in extremely competitive reelection campaigns. CUNA Vice President of Political Affairs Trey Hawkins thanked the AAPC for its recognition of the quality of CUNA’s political communications. To view the ads in full, use the resource links.

Interchange legislation could be introduced this week

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WASHINGTON (3/15/11)—The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) has called on Congress to stop, study and start over on planned interchange fee regulations, and legislation that would do just that could be introduced later this week. A number of recent press reports have indicated that Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) are working on legislation that would delay implementation of the interchange provisions. The interchange provisions, which are scheduled to be made final in April and could become effective in late July, could lower the amount of transaction fees charged to seven cents per card swipe. CUNA has repeatedly suggested that the Fed should work with Congress to delay interchange regulation implementation to allow more time for consideration of how the interchange regulations would impact credit unions, as well as consumers. Also recently, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair said in a letter to the Fed that the planned interchange fee regulations could result in significant income losses for small financial institutions if a planned exemption for institutions with under $10 billion in assets is not effective. Bair noted that many institutions “may be unable to receive the any tangible benefits from the statutory exemption if card networks do not implement a two-tier fee schedule.” She added that failing to execute this planned exemption “could create a bias toward large bank issuers that have lower marginal costs and greater opportunities to substitute income from non-core banking operations or alternative products.” Portions of the interchange provisions that implement network exclusivity and routing restrictions could also increase costs for small issuers and could lead merchants to discriminate against smaller issuers by “explicitly or ambiguously encouraging the use of large bank cards with lower fees” at the point of sale, Bair said.

Inside Washington (03/14/2011)

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* WASHINGTON (3/15/11)--Nearly 100 Ohio credit union leaders were in Washington, D.C., Feb 27-March 3, for the Credit Union National Association’s 2011 Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC). Advocating for the delay of the Fed’s interchange proposal topped their list of priorities, said the Ohio Credit Union League (eLumination March 9). Ohio credit union advocates also asked their congressional representatives to consider legislation that would increase credit union member business lending (MBL) authority and allow credit unions to generate supplemental capital. Rep. Steve Stivers (R) re-iterated his support for member business lending and informed the 4,000 credit union leaders in the audience of his recent letter to the Fed asking for delayed implementation of the interchange rule. House Speaker John Boehner (R), the first Speaker to attend the GAC since Newt Gingrich in 1998, praised the work of credit unions, but offered no specific promises. During legislative meetings on Capitol Hill, Ohioans received consistent support on interchange. Congressmen Steve Austria (R), Steve Chabot (R), Bill Johnson (R), Jim Jordan (R), Dennis Kucinich (D), Steve LaTourette (R), Jim Renacci (R), Tim Ryan (D), and Stivers all voiced support for delay of the proposed rule. The group also discussed the measure with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), who serves as chairman of a key Senate banking sub-committee. Special guest Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D) joined the Ohio delegation for a dinner hosted by the league. A member of Taleris CU in Cleveland, Fudge was introduced to the group by the credit union’s CEO, Robin Thomas … * WASHINGTON (3/15/11)--The Federal Housing Finance Agency has extended the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP), a refinancing program administered by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to June 30, 2012. The program was set to expire on June 30 of this year. In addition, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will make these adjustments to their programs: Freddie Mac will exempt HARP loans from their recently announced price adjustments and Fannie Mae will conform their eligibility date to May 2009. The program expands access to refinancing for qualified individuals and families whose homes have lost value. Through 2010, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac purchased or guaranteed more than 6.8 million refinanced mortgages. Of this total, 621,803 were HARP refinances with loan to values between 80% and 125%. This is up from 190,180 in 2009, when HARP began … * WASHINGTON (3/15/11)--Both of Michigan's U.S. senators announced
their support and co-sponsorship for The Small Business Lending Enhancement Act introduced in the Senate on Wednesday, said the Michigan Credit Union League (Michigan Monitor March 14). The bill would raise the cap on member business lending by credit unions from the current 12.25% of assets to 27.5%. League CEO David Adams lauded Sens. Carl Levin (D) and Debbie Stabenow (D) for their support. “Michigan desperately needs more capital for small businesses,” Adams said. “Our senators have given great momentum to this important legislation and we thank them.” He also noted that this MBL support also comes at a time when both Levin and Stabenow have pledged to look hard at credit unions’ No. 1 issue: the delay, study and fix for the debit interchange legislation that threatens to eliminate free checking accounts for consumers. “Both Senators Stabenow and Levin have expressed concern regarding potential harmful effects on credit unions and unintended consequences of higher fees on checking,” Adams said. “We will continue to seek our senators’ influence and action in the Senate as we seek to prevent the very negative effects of the debit interchange legislation on consumers. Raising the MBL is the MCUL’s next highest federal legislative priority, Adams said. As it was in the fall, the bill’s primary sponsor is Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.). U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., plans to introduce a companion measure in the House. “We applaud Sen. Udall for reintroducing legislation that will help not only credit unions but our nation’s economic recovery,” Credit Union National Association President CEO Bill Cheney said in statement. “Economic conditions may be improving, but the nation is still in need of more jobs, and small businesses are still in search of affordable and accessible options for capital. Credit unions can help on both fronts.” A recent CUNA study found that lifting the MBL could provide up to $13 billion to small businesses in the first year alone and create over 140,000 new jobs at no cost to taxpayers …