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10 days to Fin. Lit. month: NCUA to host webinar

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (3/21/14)--In April, people's thoughts turn to...becoming increasingly competent in handling their financial matters. Or at least they ought to.

April is Financial Literacy month in the United States--declared so by Congress. Credit unions provide financial counseling to more than 1.5 million consumers each year, according to a National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) 2013 report, but even those busy bees ramp up their efforts to mark this month. (Watch News Now for more on that later.)

On Thursday, the National Credit Union Administration announced it is offering credit union a chance to learn even more about promoting financial literacy through an April 3 webinar.

The webinar--free by the way--will be hosted by Kenneth Worthey, financial literacy and outreach analyst in NCUA's Office of Consumer Protection. It will feature Katie Bryan, communications director of the Consumer Federation of America, and Gigi Hyland, executive director of NCUF, as well as:
  • Gail Laster, director, NCUA's Office of Consumer Protection; and,
  • Louisa Quittman, director, Office of Financial Education, U.S. Department of Treasury.
The 2 p.m. (ET) online session, titled "Financial Literacy: Putting Your Mission into Action," promises to provide valuable information on topics including:
  • The link between financial literacy and the credit union mission;
  • NCUA financial literacy resources;
  • Tips on building a successful financial literacy program based on credit union size and specialized member demographics;
  • Information about improving financial literacy efforts through the creation of key local and national financial literacy partnerships; and
  • The U.S.  Treasury Department's recent financial literacy pilot research program.
Registration for this free webinar is now open. Use the resource link to sign up.

CFPB says consumers 'hounded' by debt collectors

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WASHINGTON (3/21/14)--Some debt collectors are using aggressive communications tactics and even threats of illegal actions to "hound" consumers--even over debts the targets say they do not owe, according to a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau annual report to Congress.

The report is built from more than 30,000 consumer complaints the bureau has received about the debt collection market since July 2013.

"Consumers should never be hounded about debts they do not owe," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. "We will not tolerate companies harassing consumers or threatening illegal actions in the debt collection market. We will continue to work hard to ensure that consumers are treated with dignity and fairness."

It is estimated that about 4,500 debt collection firms comprise the multi-billion dollar industry.  Original creditors--like financial institutions--may collect their own debts or hire third-party debt collectors. Original creditors and other debt owners also may sell their debts to debt buyers. Debt buyers may sell the debt, collect the debt themselves, or hire third-party debt collectors to do so.
 
The bureau's larger-participant rule for debt collection became effective on Jan. 2, 2013. Under this rule, the CFPB has supervisory authority over any firm with more than $10 million in annual receipts from consumer debt collection activities, which extends to about 175 debt collection companies.
 
Use the resource link to access the CFPB report.

NEW: Appeals court overturns merchant challenge to Fed interchange rule

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WASHINGTON (3/21/14, UPDATED 10:44 a.m. ET)--U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Judges David Tatel, Harry Edwards, and Stephen Williams ruled today to overturn a lower court that supported merchants' arguments in the ongoing debit interchange fee cap case known as NACS, et al. v. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
 
In this case, a merchants' coalition has challenged the Fed's implementation of a Dodd-Frank Act-imposed debit interchange cap as too high. The Credit Union National Association and its partner members of The Clearing House coalition maintain that the cap, in fact, is too restrictive.

"The district court granted summary judgment to the merchants, concluding that the rules violate the statute's plain language. We disagree," the circuit  court judges penned in their opinion that was just released. "Applying traditional tools of statutory interpretation, we hold that the (Federal Reserve) Board's rules generally rest on reasonable constructions of the statute, though we remand one minor issue—the Board's treatment of so-called transactions-monitoring costs—to the Board for further explanation."

Credit Union National Association General Counsel Eric Richard  explained of the judges opinion, "This decision constitutes an almost total rejection of the merchants' arguments. 

"We hope this will be a first step toward restoring some grounding in reality to the debate over interchange fees, not only in the courts , but also in Congress and at the regulatory agencies."
 
Watch News Now for more on this breaking news.

NCUA stabilization fund report confirms no 2014 CU assessment

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (3/21/14)--At a brief open board meeting Thursday, National Credit Union Administration Chief Financial Officer Mary Ann Woodson reported on the financial condition of the Temporary Corporate Credit Union Stabilization Fund (TCCUSF) as of Dec. 31, 2013.

As announced by the NCUA board last November, there is no planned stabilization fund assessment for credit unions for 2014.

The net position of the TCCUSF improved from a $3.5 billion deficit at the end of 2012 to a $142 million deficit at the end of last year, according to the agency's audited information.

NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz asked Woodson why the "Receivable from Asset Management Estates, Net" line item had grown from $1.139 billion at the end of 2012 to $2.304 billion as of Dec. 31, 2013.

The agency CFO noted that the favorable report was the result of the enhanced performance of the NCUA Guaranteed Notes (NGN) Program, improved performance of legacy assets from the corporate credit unions that NCUA conserved, and the legal settlements NCUA received during 2013 from major banking firms that sold mortgage-backed securities to those corporate credit unions.

In a release after the meeting, Matz called effective management of the stabilization fund to minimize federally insured credit union assessments "a top NCUA priority."

"I'm hopeful we can forgo charging assessments not only in 2014, but in future years as well," she stated.

The Credit Union National Association has urged the NCUA--and will continue to press the agency--to forgo any further TCCUSF assessments.

The only other item on the Thursday meeting agenda was a joint federal financial regulators' proposal on minimum requirements for appraisal management companies. (See related story: Matz: AMC proposal shows 'regulatory blind spot.')

Use the resource link for more NCUA information.

Matz: AMC proposal shows 'regulatory blind spot'

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (3/21/14)--National Credit Union Administration Chairman Debbie Matz Thursday used the agency's proposal of a joint-agency plan to impose minimum requirements for appraisal management companies (AMC) as an occasion to draw attention to what she called an NCUA "regulatory blind spot."

The six federal financial regulatory agencies that comprise the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, including the NCUA, are proposing the rule to implement Dodd-Frank Act requirements meant to better ensure the quality of appraisals and assure compliance with the Truth-in-Lending Act.

In response to a question from NCUA board member Michael Fryzel during the open meeting, agency staff said the AMC proposal should not have a measurable impact on credit unions. 

However, Matz highlighted the problem she believes the agency faces:

"We face a regulatory blind spot," Matz said. "NCUA can approve this interagency rule, which would strengthen regulation of appraisal management companies and should help prevent conflicts of interest, but we are unable to enforce it.

"NCUA remains the only financial services regulator lacking the necessary authority to examine vendors for safety and soundness and compliance with laws and regulations. NCUA will continue to call on Congress to provide this authority."

Historically, the Credit Union National Association has not supported additional oversight authority over third-party vendors for the agency. CUNA has raised concerns about agency's expertise in the area and the implications for the agency's budget, which has been increased for the last seven years.

The proposed rule would set minimum requirements for registration and supervision of AMCs--the intermediaries for appraisers and lenders that provide appraisal services. These requirements would apply to states that elect to establish an agency with authority to register and supervise appraisal management companies.

Under the joint-agency plan, an appraisal management company that is a subsidiary of a financial institution and regulated by a federal financial services regulatory agency would not be required to register with a state, but would otherwise be required to meet the same minimum requirements as other appraisal management companies.

After all six FFIEC agencies approve the proposal, it will be published in the Federal Register. A 60-day comment period will start upon publication.

CUNA will be evaluating the impact of the proposal and will provide a summary in its Regulatory Comment Call.

Spots may go quickly for NCUA new 'listening sessions'

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (3/21/14)--Available spots may go quickly for the National Credit Union Administration's new series of "Listening Sessions."  The agency announced Thursday that online registration is open.
 
Participation in the free sessions will be limited by the size of each meeting room and may hover around 150 per meeting.  They are scheduled for:
  • June 26 in Los Angeles, from 1 to 4 p.m. (PT);
  • July 10 in Chicago, from 1 to 4 p.m. (CT); and,
  • July 17 in Alexandria, Va., from 1 to 4 p.m. (ET).
The Listening Sessions will be open to any topics related to the NCUA and, importantly, will take place before NCUA's proposed risk-based capital rule is finalized.

NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz said she initiated the face-to-face field meetings in 2012 to talk with credit union officials about how the agency can further improve regulations, the exam process and "other agency initiatives."

"The last Listening Sessions in 2012 generated many ideas that we later incorporated into NCUA's rules. I anticipate the 2014 sessions will produce similar results," Matz said.

NCUA board member Rick Metsger and senior agency staff will also participate in the meeting.
 
See resource link for registration information.