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CU staffer ambushed by robber in fair condition

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (4/18/12)--An employee of Freedom Financial FCU, Fort Wayne, Ind., was in fair condition after being struck several times in the face and head after she was ambushed by a robber Tuesday morning.

The employee was arriving to work before 8:30 a.m., when a man  approached her from behind and made her let him into the credit union (The Journal Gazette and Indiana's NewsCenter April 17).  When she could not open the vault, the man struck her with an unknown object, then fled with some cash from a cash drawer.

A police canine unit tracked the suspect to a parking lot of a nearby apartment complex, where police say he may have had a getaway car waiting.

The credit union staffer was taken to a hospital and is in fair condition, said the police. It was the third robbery at the $8.5 million asset credit union in the past six months. It was also held up on Nov. 18 and Dec. 16, said police.

CU System briefs (04/17/2012)

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  • ALLENTOWN, Pa. (4/18/12)--Two hospital employees have been charged with stealing at least $2,000 by tampering with an ATM owned by Allentown, Pa.-based People's First CU. Alyssa Pascio-Dikaitis, 21, and Camella C. Clarke, 22, both employees of Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest as well as next-door neighbors, were charged April 11 with theft, receiving stolen property and conspiracy.  Salisbury Township police and hospital security found that the ATM, located outside the hospital's cafeteria, shut down around the time of each unexplained cash loss. Police said as much as $7,800 was taken from the ATM between September and April.  A video surveillance camera allegedly recorded the two using the ATM just before it sensed an irregularity. The ATM voided the transaction and the machine's statements indicated no money was withdrawn, but the money was dispensed as the ATM shut down (The Morning Call April 16) …
  • DES MOINES, Iowa (4/18/12)--The Iowa Credit Union Foundation (ICUF) announced the winners of its 2012 Family Involvement Board (FIB) Scholarship program. A total of $5,750 in scholarships was given to four high school students and two post-high school students to further their education. Nearly 300 applications were received. Each applicant was required to complete an entry form and write a 500 word essay on the topic: How are you educating yourself on personal finance and money management issues--including how are you using your credit union's financial education expertise? Winners were selected by a panel of judges including teachers and credit union professionals. Scores were based on originality, clarity, meaningful content and accurate presentation of facts ...
  • DOVER, Del. (4/18/12)--Dover FCU has become the first credit union in Delaware to exceed $350 million assets. The credit union closed its books in March with assets totaling more than $363 million. The credit union serves a membership of 37,543. "It's a reflection not only of Dover Federal's strength and stability, but of our members' trust in us," said David Clendaniel, Dover FCU president/CEO. "It's yet another way in which Dover Federal has distinguished itself, and it reaffirms our place as the credit union of choice for the citizens of our great state." Dover FCU was chartered in 1958 …

MBL roundup Landscaper--CU acted when banks would not

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MADISON, Wis. (4/18/12)--More letters to the editor about member business lending (MBL) are rolling in from small businesses and credit unions, and one Alabama credit union has put its case for raising the MBL cap on video by interviewing small businesses it has helped. Here's a recap of those efforts.

A landscaping business owner, in a letter the Des Moines Register (April 17) told how Cornerstone CU made a difference to him and to his employees with an MBL and why credit unions should be allowed to increase their MBL cap to 27.5% of assets from 12.25%.

"When I dreamed of starting my landscaping business, I needed a loan," wrote Martin Ortiz Rangel of  Landscapes by Martin, in Des Moines.  "I went to a bank and was denied.  I didn't have bad credit--I just didn't have any credit.

"A credit union was the only financial institution willing to take a chance on me to build my credit history," Rangel said. "I could tell they believed in me and valued my business plan. I haven't let them down. Landscapes by Martin is now a thriving local business," Rangel said.

He said Cornerstone CU and others are at the cap and may not be able to serve other small business owners unless the Credit Union Small Business Jobs Bill is passed in Congress.  "To each of the employees I've been able to hire, the jobs I've created matter, and those jobs are a direct result of the faith Cornerstone put in me."  He noted raising the lending cap would be good for Iowa's economy.

In Alaska, a letter written to the Alaska Dispatch (April 17) by Al Strawn, CEO of Matanuska Valley FCU in Palmer, Alaska, asks why banks are spreading misinformation about  credit unions wanting expanded lending

Strawn pointed out that "during the recent financial crisis when banks reduced their lending to businesses and individuals by 15% nationally, credit unions recognized the critical need to continue supporting businesses and individuals and increased their lending by 45%. Thus, businesses and jobs were saved. Credit unions have been taking such action for over 100 years."

He suggests that "deep down inside, bankers resent credit unions because of our mission of service."  As for the vote on Senate Bill 2231, "it will be very interesting to see if Congress votes for more service for members or more profits for banks."

Listerhill CU, based in Muscle Shoals, Ala., has produced a video about what it is doing to help small businesses.

In the video, several business owners tell how Listerhill helped them.  Keith and Debbie, owners of All American Swim Supply noted they had approached several different national banks but none would take them seriously because the banks didn't want to finance merchandise.  However, Listerhill "caught our vision. They understood and related to what we were trying to do." Today, All American Swim Supply is among the top 10 largest swim shops internationally.

For their story, and others, check out the video by using the link.

The Credit Union National Association said that if Congress supports the Credit Union Small Business Jobs Bill, it would help inject $13 billion into the economy in loans for small businesses and thus help create 140,000 new jobs, at no cost to the taxpayer.

Study Gas retailers not passing fee savings to consumers

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WASHINGTON (4/18/12)--Although gas retailers in the U.S. are saving $1 billion a year through the subsidy provided by the Dodd-Frank Act's interchange fee provision, they are not passing the savings on to consumers, according to a new study from the Electronic Payments Coalition (EPC).

The interchange amendment to the Dodd-Frank Act has seen interchange rates reduced by 70% for debit card payments for gasoline, said EPC, which is a coalition of banks, credit unions and card networks opposed to the interchange rules. Dodd-Frank capped what retailers pay to accept debit interchange beginning last October.

Nearly 134 billion gallons of gas were sold in 2011, with debit cards used to purchase 48 billion gallons, said EPC, citing statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  "However, there continues to be no evidence that retailers are passing along savings from this windfall--even at gas stations, where debit is the overwhelmingly most popular form of payment," said EPC.

Half of all non-cash payments for fuel are made with debit cards, which account for 36% of all payments including cash, said the coalition, citing new research by the Phoenix Marketing International.  Among households with income of less than $50,000, debit card share of gas station transactions was twice as high as that of credit cards.

"Given that Congress capped debit card interchange fees at around 23 to 24 cents, gas stations are only paying around one to two cents per gallon on a $50-$75 tank of gas. This is roughly 70% of what they were paying six months ago in debit interchange fees--with no evidence of lower prices as a result," said EPC.

"Wherever Congress meddles in an industry debate over who pays what, consumers never win," said Trish Wexler, EPC spokeswoman. "One side gets a leg up and keeps its windfall, while consumers end up footing the bill." She added that "no one is surprised to see that gas retailers are keeping billions of dollars for themselves, while their customers continue to be punished at the pump. Americans should go to their gas stations and demand what's theirs--a discount for debit."

Consumers can compare the costs per gallon and the interchange rates for credit and debit purchases with its Debit Discount for Gas Calculator to determine the amount of savings retailers should be passing on to them at the pump (Use the link to calculate.)  EPC said the average 16 gallon fill-up paid with a debit card at today's gas prices could receive four to five cents per gallon as a discount.

EPC noted that cash discounts are more prevalent in gas retailing, while discounts for debit--the area the interchange amendment is supposed to subsidize--are virtually non-existent. "Unlike a debit discount, cash discounts lure customers away from the convenience of the pump and into the convenience store, where they are lured into buying items with high mark-ups," Wexler said.

The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) has maintained that capping interchange fees would harm consumers by driving up costs of debit cards, limiting their options, and harming competition and technological innovation. Consumers have not seen any pricing benefits for products and services promised by merchants when they argued for the government-set cap, said CUNA.

Missouri CUs raise 217247 for childrens hospitals

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ST. LOUIS (4/18/12)--Missouri credit unions raised $217,247 in 2011 for Credit Unions for Kids, which benefits the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, said the Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA).

Credit Unions for Kids is a nonprofit collaboration of credit unions, credit union chapters, leagues and business partners nationwide that raise funds for the hospitals, the credit union industry's charity of choice. 

"We collect donations at each of our seven branches and have made Children's Miracle Network our primary philanthropic organization," said Kyle Hudson, business development officer for United Consumers CU in Kansas City. "Our mission to help local children and families gives us pure joy and a sense of accomplishment when we hear the stories of young ones who have benefited from Children's Miracle Network's good deeds."

Missouri credit unions have donated more than $2.8 million since the program's inception in 1996. Last year, 62 credit unions in the state took part in fundraising activities that included trivia nights, golf tournaments, bake sales, silent auctions and employee casual dress days.

"This is the third year in a row that we have been honored as a top contributor out of all Missouri credit unions; however, the greatest award is being able to continue our credit union philosophy of people helping people in our community," said Frank Nelson, president/CEO, 1st Financial Federal CU, Wentzville. "We are grateful to have these outstanding hospitals to help our area children when they need it the most."

Missouri is home to five children's hospitals that use donations to adopt life-saving equipment, perform breakthrough research and provide charitable medical care for children. Missouri ranks 12th in the nation for donations raised by credit unions per state, said MCUA.

"Credit unions are always looking for ways to give back to their communities, and Children's Miracle Network provides a phenomenal opportunity to do so," says Mike Beall, MCUA president/CEO.

IWash. PostI CU attracts young members with iTunes

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WASHINGTON (4/18/12)--Money One FCU in Largo, Md., has been attracting younger members for two years through a program that offers free iTunes downloads, The Washington Post reported Monday.

Through its Kasasa Tunes program, members can choose between getting 3% interest on their checking accounts or $10 in iTunes downloads every month.

There are no account balance minimums or monthly fees involved in the program, but members must use their debit card a minimum of 10 times per month and sign up for online banking to receive iTunes.

Because growth in the credit union's checking account activity was stagnant, Money One had to take a different approach, Debbie Connors, Money One president/CEO, told the Post.   

She decided to use BancVue, an Austin, Texas, company that in 2009 created the Kasasa Rewards program to help credit unions and community banks level the competitive landscape with huge banks such as Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, the newspaper said. 

Having a national brand such as Kasasa helps credit unions and community banks garner more leverage with giant banks, Gabe Krajicek, BancVue CEO, told the paper.

Participating credit unions and other financial institutions pay a monthly licensing fee to access Kasasa software, and also provide some of the advertising budget to BancVue, the Post said.

To read the article, use the link.

European financial experts visit northwest CUs

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OREGON CITY, Ore. (4/18/12)--Financial experts and policy advisers serving nine European Union countries visited Clackamas FCU, Oregon City, Ore., as part of a multi-city fact-finding tour of U.S. financial markets. The delegation wanted to explore the differences between credit unions and banks, and how credit unions navigated the global financial crisis that began in 2008.

The "European Regional Project" participants were invited to the U.S. through the Department of State's International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). ECA promotes international mutual understanding through a wide range of academic, cultural, professional and sports exchange programs.

The program was arranged by the World Affairs Council of Oregon, a member of the National Council for International Visitors (NCIV), under the sponsorship of the IVLP.

Countries represented included Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia and the United Kingdom. The delegates are employed in high-level roles in their native countries such as advisers to prime ministers, portfolio strategists and parliament members.

The team visited the headquarters of Clackamas FCU, where they saw personal service in action, while credit union members conducted financial transactions in the lobby. They also met with credit union leadership and representatives of the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA), which represents credit unions in Washington and Oregon.

Led by Clackamas FCU President Diann Owen and senior managers of the 26,000-member credit union, the participants learned how credit unions remained safe and sound financial institutions throughout the financial crisis, with well-managed risks and investment strategies.

"The opportunity to meet and engage in dialogue with financial experts from these various European countries" was very worthwhile, Owen said. "It was interesting to exchange financial concepts, models and policies with them, as well as learn more about the credit union structure in their prospective countries."

Owen and the Clackamas FCU team walked the visitors through the cooperative model and gave examples of how member loyalty and service are fostered in their locally operated credit unions. There are no shareholder dividends to pay and each account holder gets to vote for the volunteers who serve on the board of directors, giving local consumers a unique voice in the financial arena, the visitors learned.

"The cooperative financial services model is inspiring to learn about, and even more so when it's possible to see it in action, in a real credit union," said Kasey Rockwell, NWCUA director of outreach programs.

ATM fee-notice lawsuits spread to West Coast

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MADISON, Wis. (4/18/12)--Lawsuits brought against credit unions and banks alleging violations of the ATM-fee disclosure provisions in the Electronics Funds Transfer Act (EFTA) are on the increase again, this time on the West Coast with the latest filed against a credit union in Washington state.

A class action lawsuit was filed Thursday by New York resident Don Anderson--who is also involved as a plaintiff in similar suits in six other states--in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, Seattle.

This time he sued North Coast CU, Bellingham, Wash., alleging that it charged him for a transaction at its Mt. Vernon, Wash., ATM on Dec. 2, 2011, in violation of the EFTA's fee disclosure provision.  According to the complaint, Anderson alleged that at the time of the transaction, "there was no notice posted 'on or at' the ATM operated by defendant apprising consumers that a fee would be charged for the use of the ATM." He also is alleged to have filed lawsuits in Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Nevada.

News Now reported in December that Anderson had filed ATM fee disclosure lawsuits against four credit unions and nine banks in two states (Dec. 2). The credit unions included: FirstLight FCU, El Paso, Texas; Firestone Community FCU, Bridge City, Texas; Centric FCU, West Monroe, La.; and Monroe Telco FCU, West Monroe, La.

A number of similar suits have been filed by others as well, who travel around the country, looking for ATMs without notices posted on the machines and taking photos of the machines as evidence for their lawsuits. EFTA requires both an external notice physically on the machine as well as a notice on screen informing ATM users of fees charged for transactions. In 2010 and 2011, a retired couple, Nancy Kinder and Ray Harrison of Fowlerville, Mich., filed dozens of lawsuits in Michigan, New Mexico and Texas (News Now May 24).

The rash of nuisance lawsuits has prompted alerts to credit unions about their ATM procedures from CUNA Mutual Group. They also have prompted the Credit Union National Association to alert credit unions and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau of the increase in lawsuits where ATM notices have been removed, damaged or destroyed (News Now Jan. 3). CUNA also conducted audio conference with CUNA Mutual Group to assist credit unions with the issue.

Credit unions and others have found that the outside notices on ATMs have in some cases been intentionally removed or destroyed without the financial institutions' knowledge.  Earlier this month, Pennsylvania State Employees CU, Harrisburg, Pa., succeeded in getting a court to dismiss an EFTA ATM fee disclosure lawsuit because the credit union showed undisputed evidence that an unknown third party had removed its posted notice illegally (News Now April 6).

However, several other financial institutions have settled the suits with some of the plaintiffs.

CUNA and credit unions have urged Congress to pass a measure to address the nuisance lawsuits filed. (See related story on the introduction of a bill in Congress that would address ATM disclosures in today's News Now Washington section, "Luetkemeyer/Scott bill would address ATM disclosure problems.")

Healthcare CUs form collaborative association

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ANAHEIM, Calif.  (4/18/12)--Fifty credit unions serving the healthcare industry have joined to form the Healthcare Credit Union Association (HCUA).

The HCUA has member credit unions in several states, according to a press release. The group originally began in 2005, led by co-founders Maury Pilver, retired CEO of Healthcare's Cooperative CU, Jacksonville, Fla., and John Saatela, CEO of CarePoint CU, Anaheim, Calif.

HCUA's mission is to promote the growth, viability and unity of healthcare credit unions.

"From the beginning, our vision was simple but powerful," says Saatela. "We wanted to create an alliance of healthcare credit unions to exchange ideas, share resources and discuss the challenges and opportunities that face healthcare credit unions today. We're amazed at how well our colleagues have responded to this collaborative community."

The group seeks to facilitate opportunities for partnership and collaboration among its membership, Saatela said.

The HCUA will conduct a conference Sept. 27-28 in Seattle.

CUs maintain commitment to private student loans

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New York (4/18/12)--Credit unions nationwide remain committed to assisting students and families with higher-education financing through private student loans, while traditional banks have recently been reducing their footprint in student lending. More than 180 credit unions are providing private student loans through Fynanz, a CUNA Strategic Services alliance provider, which provides student loan marketing, education, origination, and repayment solutions for lenders.

Recent announcements by Chase Bank and US Bank to reduce and eliminate their respective private student loan programs is further downsizing an industry that services hundreds-of-thousands of students each year, said Fynanz. Chase Bank will continue to originate private student loans but only for existing Chase customers.

Private student loans are used by students to bridge the funding gap in their higher-education financing after all federal options have been exhausted.

"Private student lending has experienced significant change over the past several years," said Wes Millar, CUNA Strategic Services senior vice president. "Credit unions have created a strong foundation in student lending during this period and will remain steadfast in supporting students and families nationwide."

The majority of credit unions on the Fynanz platform participate in the cuStudentLoans program, which is a private student loan program that is managed and designed by participating credit unions using common underwriting and pricing.

The program, which features the cuScholar Private Student Loan and the cuGrad Private Student Loan Consolidation, includes loan participations to enhance risk mitigation.

Teamwork diligence help Texas branch nab ID thief

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SAN ANTONIO, Texas (4/18/12)--Employees of River City FCU recently used teamwork, diligence and intuition to apprehend an identity theft fraudster with a full-scale operation in the San Antonio area.

A fraudster's complaints about a check-hold procedure during an account opening raised the suspicions of Derek Maldonado, right, a member service specialist at River City FCU, San Antonio. River City Branch Manager Chris Hanson, left, and his team worked with the San Antonio Police Department to apprehend the identity thief within 30 days. (Photo provided by Texas Credit Union League)
"It was a stressful, but we assigned everyone in the branch a role in the event we had the chance to act," Bitters Branch Manager Chris Hanson told the Texas Credit Union League (LoneStar Leaguer April 17).  "There were no questions about what to do when it happened.  We just went to work, because we knew this person would keep trying to cause losses."

In early March, Derek Maldonado, a member service specialist at the $154 million asset River City FCU, had a bad feeling when the fraudster complained about a check hold procedure while attempting to open an account at the credit union.  Fewer than 30 days later, Maldonado's instincts led to the arrest of an identity thief and fraudster.

Maldonado mentioned the member's comments to Hanson, who shared the information with the branch team. When the check was returned due to an unidentifiable account, the team members believed they had seen the last of the member.

However, two weeks later the suspect applied for a loan online. The loan application generated a credit report that showed a fraud alert with a verification phone number. 

The person Hanson called to verify the account said his identity had been stolen, and that he had an active case with the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) due to the perpetrator's acts of fraud and forgery using his name. 

Also, a branch employee who recently joined River City FCU from another local financial institution realized the same man had created a loss for the previous employer. This information was reported to SAPD.

Hanson and his team worked out a plan to contact police while the perpetrator arrived at the branch to close on the loan. The individual walked out of the scheduled loan closing after becoming restless. The police just missed him. 

A week later, the perpetrator returned unannounced to close on the loan. Again, credit union staff called police. After he walked out again, a teller noticed him parking across the street. When police arrived, he was apprehended attempting to flee.

"If we had not discussed this in advance, the arrest could not have happened so quickly," Hanson said. "We all had phone numbers, license plates, and a visual ID on this person. The only variable we had was how this person would respond, but because we stayed focused, we were able to put this person behind bars. Now his victim has a chance to clear his name."

MnCUN elects directors officers

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BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (4/18/12)--The Minnesota Credit Union Network (MnCUN) held its Annual Meeting & Convention Friday and Saturday in Bloomington where it elected its table officers and board of directors.

More than 330 credit union professionals and volunteers, representing 78 credit unions attended. Also, the meeting welcomed more than 125 individuals from 52 service organizations.

The MnCUN Board elected its table officers for 2012:

  • Chairman--Patrick Pierce, City & County CU, St. Paul;
  • Vice chairman--Chuck Albrecht, Mid-Minnesota FCU, Baxter; and
  • Secretary/Treasurer--Jeff Schwalen, Hiway FCU, St. Paul.

Also at MnCUN's annual business meeting, three incumbent and three new representatives were elected to terms on the MnCUN Board of Directors:

  • Albrecht was re-elected to represent credit unions outside Minnesota's seven-county Metro area.
  • Mary Hansen, Mayo Employees FCU, Rochester, will represent credit unions with more than 10,000 members.
  • Julia Havens, Riverview CU, South St. Paul, will represent credit unions with 2,000 or fewer members.
  • Nick Meyer, Minnesota Valley FCU, Mankato, will represent credit unions outside of Minnesota's seven-county Metro area.
  • Pierce will represent credit unions within Minnesota's seven-county Metro area.
  • Sandra Wiederholt, Ecolab CU, St. Paul, will represent credit unions with 2,001 to 10,000 members.