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Thousands prepare for CU Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run

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WASHINGTON (4/2/14)--Thousands of runners, including more than 900 congressional staffers, are preparing to take to the streets of Washington this weekend for the annual Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten-Mile Run. A total of 231 Members of Congress representing 50 states, American Samoa, the District of Columbia and Guam, have signed on as honorary race chairs.
Shown here: The sun shines on the starting line of the 2013 Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run. (CUNA Photo)

And, there is good news for Washingtonians and visitors: There is no snow in the forecast!

This is the 13th year that Credit Union Miracle Day (CUMD) is title sponsor group of the race, which is now in its 42nd year. Credit Union Miracle Day is slated to sponsor the race through 2016.

Also maintaining a long-standing tradition, dozens of credit union and Credit Union National Association staff will be on hand the morning of the race to volunteer to keep things "running" smoothly for the race participants. CUNA volunteers will once again show the credit union difference by taking on bag check responsibilities for the  Sunday 10-mile run and 5K run/walk event.

More than 160 members of Congress were honorary chairs at last year's event, nearly 800 Capitol Hill staffers participated in the race, and the event was blanketed with credit union volunteers supporting the effort, including a strong contingent from the Credit Union National Association. Four former members of Congress also signed on to be honorary race chairs.

Event Director Phil Stewart hailed the star-studded field, which will include defending champion Janet Bawcom, U.S. Olympians Jen Rhines and Blake Russell, Sara Hall and Lindsey Scherf on the women's side. The men's field is led by Matt Tegenkamp, Mo Trafeh--winner of the Half Marathon and 25K USA Championships in 2013--Christo Landry and Matt Llano.

"The Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run has always featured highly competitive fields, with foreign runners winning the men's and women's races as far back as 1984. There has been a long drought of American winners ... and it's exciting to think that we might see an American runner win the race outright this year," Stewart said.

The runners will compete for a total of $81,800 in prize money, the largest amount awarded at the race. (See resource link for online fundraising.)

Also on Sunday, the third annual Credit Union SacTown Ten-Mile Run will take place at the State Capitol in Sacramento, Calif.  Nearly 2,000 participants are expected in the event which features a 10-mile race, a three-person relay and a kids' Miracle Mile.
 
Rep. Ami Bera (CA-07) is the official starter. The 2014 Run serves as the Pacific Association 10-Mile Championship,
 
A check will be presented at a press conference on Friday, April 4 at 10:00 a.m. (PT) at the U.C. Davis Children's Hospital in Sacramento, followed by a CMN Kids Medal Ceremony at 10:35 a.m., and tour of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at 10:45 a.m.

NCUA sets April 16 small dollar lending webinar

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WASHINGTON (4/1/14)--Details on how consumer-friendly, low-cost, short-term loans can help a credit union's members and its bottom line alike will be shared in an April 16 National Credit Union Administration webinar.

The free webinar, "Small Dollar Lending," will begin at 2 p.m. (ET). During the webinar, NCUA officials and credit union representatives will discuss:
  • The benefits short-term, small-dollar loans can bring to a credit union's portfolio mix;
  • Regulatory concerns governing this type of product offering; and
  • The costs associated with developing or initiating short-term loans.
NCUA Office of Small Credit Union Initiatives Economic Development Specialist Tom Penna Jr., NCUA Office of Examination and Insurance Program Officer Lucinda Johnson and two credit union representatives will present the webinar.

Participants can submit questions in advance at WebinarQuestions@ncua.gov. The subject line of the email should read, "Small Dollar Lending Webinar."

The NCUA's short-term, small-amount loan program permits federal credit unions to charge an interest rate that is a maximum of 10 percentage points above the established usury ceiling at that time. Currently, this amounts to an interest rate ceiling of 28%.

Most credit unions offering payday loan alternatives also limit fees, provide member financial counseling and encourage members to open savings accounts.

To register for the webinar, use the resource link.

NEW: This week on patent reform: What's brewing

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WASHINGTON (4/3/14, UPDATED 9:28 a.m. ET)--A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee has scheduled a hearing next Tuesday--April 8--on patent reform issues, entitled "Trolling for a Solution: Ending Abusive Patent Demand Letters." That announcement comes amid reports that the Senate Judiciary Committee's expected patent reform bill markup could be delayed from April 3 to April 8.
 
At the Tuesday 10 a.m. hearing, the subcommittee will gather testimony from stakeholders regarding the "growing abuse" of patent demand letters.  
 
"In recent years, small businesses have increasingly been targeted with financial threats through demand letters. Businesses are often told to either pay for a license within a short period of time, or face going to court for infringing the sender's vaguely defined and often specious intellectual property rights," the subcommittee notice explains. Credit unions are among the businesses to fall victim to the patent exploitation.

However, patent demand letters are not always abusive and the subcommittee intends to explore ways to prevent the bad actors from abusing the process.

Patent law reforms to address "trolls" is a significant issue for credit unions and is seeing a lot of attention from lawmakers on both the federal and state levels.

The Credit Union National Association and many state credit union leagues continue to heavily advocate for patent reforms on Capitol Hill and in state legislative offices.

CUNA also participated in a recent White House gathering of stakeholders to discuss patent law reforms--including addressing the plague of patent trolls. At the meeting, the U.S. Patent and Tarde Office unveiled a website to help consumers and businesses who receive demand letters understand their rights and get answers to common questions.  See the resource link.

CFPB reports on 2013 consumer complaint volume, type

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WASHINGTON (4/2/14)--The volume of consumer complaints received by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was nearly double in 2013 compared to 2012, totaling 163,700 at the end of last year.
 
"Consumer complaints have become central to the work of this agency. These complaints allow the CFPB to listen to, and amplify, the concerns of any American who wants to be heard," agency director Richard Cordray said.
 
"They are also our compass. They make a difference by informing our work and helping us identify and prioritize problems for potential action," he added.

The bureau receives complaints about mortgages, bank accounts and services, private student loans, vehicle and other consumer loans, credit reporting, money transfers, debt collection, and payday loans.

Mortgage complaints made up the majority of 2013's tally, with 60,000 consumers contacting the agency.  Not surprisingly,
Click to view larger image Source: CFPB
the CFPB said consumers were most concerned with issues related to loan modifications, collections or foreclosures.
 
The CFPB also received a heavy volume of debt collection and credit reporting complaints: They accounted for 19% and 15% of 2013 complaint volume, respectively.

Complaints filed with the CFPB have helped consumers by forcing financial firms to offer mortgage foreclosure alternatives, restore lines of credit and address unanswered inquiries or fix incorrect information, the bureau maintains.  The complaints have also caused debt collectors to stop engaging in excessive collection communications, and resulted in cleaned-up credit reports, according to the CFPB.

Around 7% of consumers who have filed complaints have received financial compensation as a result of their complaints.

For more on the CFPB complaints, use the resource link.