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April start for CU efforts on war vets home

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WASHINGTON (4/8/08)—An April 10 groundbreaking ceremony will mark the launch of a new Denver-area home for a wounded veteran of the Iraq war, part of the “Homes for Our Troops” initiative and a project of the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) in Denver. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and state credit union representatives are participating in two upcoming events to benefit war veterans; the DNCC effort and a similar one sponsored by the Republican National Convention (RNC) in St. Paul, Minn., where the RNC will convene in Sept. The plan is to provide specially adapted homes for two severely wounded members of the American armed forces and their families under the auspices of the non-partisan non-profit group, Home for Our Troops. On Thursday, credit unions, the National Journal, DNCC convention officials and Homes for Our Troops representatives will participate in a ceremony to springboard the first project. The groundbreaking is scheduled to begin at 10:30 CT in Golden, Colo., at the site of future home
U.S. Army SSG Travis Strong will move into a home in the Denver area as part of the Homes for Troops program. (Photo provided by CUNA)
to be presented to wounded Iraq war veteran SSG Travis Strong around the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Sgt Strong lost both legs as a result of a rocket-propelled grenade attack on his Stryker vehicle. CUNA Chairman Tom Dorety and Credit Union Association of Colorado (CUAC) President/CEO John Dill will attend on behalf of their respective organizations. There will be brief remarks by DNCC CEO Leah D. Daughtry, Homes for Our Troops Founder and President John Gonsalves, as well as the national and state credit union officials. National Journal Group representatives, credit union members, and the staffs of both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions have pledged their time to complete the construction in the following months. Minnesota credit unions will team up with Homes for Our Troops and the RNC to construct a home in St. Paul for Sgt. Marcus Kuboy, 30, who was injured in an explosion while patrolling the outskirts of Fallujah. That groundbreaking is scheduled for April 28.

FinCEN reports 44 jump in mortgage fraud reporting

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WASHINGTON (4/8/08)—The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) reported a 44% increase in suspected mortgage fraud activity during the 12-month period framed in its latest review of such information. The most recent report garnered its information from Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs), filed under requirements of the Banker Secrecy Act (BSA), between March 2006 and March 2007. It updates a November 2006 FinCEN report that reflected information filed between April 1, 1996 and March 31, 2006. In an executive summary of its findings, FinCEN noted that in 2006, financial institutions filed 37.313 SARS citing suspected mortgage loans fraud. That 44% increase compared to 7% increase in overall SAR filings. “One reason for this increase may be that lenders are increasingly identifying suspected fraud prior to loan approval and reporting this activity. Suspected fraud was detected prior to loan disbursements in 31% of the mortgage loan fraud SARs filed between April 1, 2006 and March 31, 2007, compared to 21% during the preceding ten years,” FinCEN reported. That agency’s figures indicated that total SAR filings in 2006 on suspected mortgage loan fraud, when divided by the subject’s state address, showed the greatest increases in Illinois (75.80%), California (71.29%), Florida (53.04%), Michigan (51.50%), and Arizona (48.73%). FinCEN said the suspicious activity characterization Mortgage Loan Fraud was the third most prevalent type of suspicious activity reported, after Bank Secrecy Act/Structuring/Money Laundering and Check Fraud. Reports of suspected identity fraud and identity theft4 associated with mortgage loan fraud continued to increase for the period reviewed. Reports of suspected identity theft in conjunction with mortgage loan fraud increased a whopping 95.62% over the previous study. “Cases of suspected identity fraud were predominantly associated with fraud for housing. Victims of identity theft have had their properties encumbered with loans or property titles fraudulently transferred, effectively having their homes stolen,” according to FinCen. Filers specified that loans were subprime in 79 SARs (0.19%) for the reviewed period. Without this specification, it is not possible to determine whether mortgages described in the remaining SARs were subprime loans, the report noted. "FinCEN's analysis indicates that the financial community is becoming increasingly adept at spotting and reporting suspicious activities that may indicate mortgage fraud," said FinCEN Director James H. Freis, Jr. "This exemplifies how compliance with Bank Secrecy Act regulations is consistent with a financial institution's commercial concerns." Use the resource link below for more report details.

CUs help keep Cherry Blossom runners dry

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WASHINGTON (4/8/08)—Credit union volunteers, hoping to drive home the message of
>CUNA staff member Marta Trinkl, AACUL staff member Alicia Valencia, and CUNA staffers Bill Hampel and Lisa McCue hustle to check in the gear of two late comers to the CU Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run, to be sure the gear of the two will be safe, and that they can join the race in progress. Credit union system staff members from CUNA, AACUL and ACCU joined together to help check more than 10,000 bags holding the personal gear of runners participating in the race, held Sunday, April 6, in Washington. (CUNA photo)
the credit union difference—people helping people—hit the National Mall by 6 a.m. Sunday to stow the gear of rain-weary runners in the CU Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run. April showers seemed unable to dampen the enthusiasm of the 12,000 runners at the event, a number which included at least 600 participants representing Capitol Hill. “The most important thing I think we get out of this annual exercise is showing the people running the race the credit union difference in action,” said Pat Keefe, Credit Union National Association (CUNA) vice president of communications and media outreach, who coordinates the volunteer effort for CUNA. “This is the fifth year or so that we have volunteered to help keep runners’ valuables safe – and dry, on this year’s cool and rainy day –during the race,” said Keefe. “Our intent is to help runners – many of whom are from Capitol Hill – make a connection between credit unions and ‘people helping people.’” Among Keefe’s crew of volunteers were CUNA staff and their family members, and helpers from the National Credit Union Foundation, the American Association of Credit Union Leagues, and the Association of Corporate Credit Unions. Keefe noted that they wore jackets featuring “The Little Guy” and the “” website. The intent, Keefe pointed out, was to remind runners (particularly Hill staff) that credit unions really do “look out for the little guy.” Credit Union Miracle Day, Inc. (CUMD), sponsor of the 36th annual Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run, exceeded its 2008 goal of raising $1 million to benefit Children's Miracle Network and its 170 affiliated children's hospitals nationwide. With this year's donation, CUMC will have contributed a total of $3.6 million to children's hospitals since its inception in 2001.

Frank schedules two hearings on mortgage rescue plan

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WASHINGTON (4/8/08)—House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) announced Monday that his panel will conduct hearings this week on the economic, mortgage and housing rescue plan he unveiled last week. Frank said in a release that the hearings on April 9 and 10 will include federal regulators, academics, economists and representatives of cities and communities that are being negatively impacted by high numbers of foreclosures. Frank said he will ask witnesses to discuss the proposal he and Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-N.Y.) introduced March 14, a plan that would allow the Federal Housing Administration to insure refinanced mortgages that have been significantly written down by mortgage holders and lenders. Dodd is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. Frank also said he will ask witnesses to provide suggestions regarding his proposal. First panel witnesses scheduled for Wednesday are: * Chairman Sheila C. Bair, of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.; * Comptroller John C. Dugan of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency; * Director John M. Reich, Director of the Office of Thrift Supervision; * Dr. Randall Kroszner, member of the Federal Reserve Board; and * Assistant Secretary for Housing-Federal Housing Commissioner Brian Montgomery of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. A second panel of scheduled witnesses features:
* Brian Wesbury, chief economist, First Trust Advisors L.P.; * Dr. Alan S. Blinder, Ph.D., Gordon S. Rentschler Memorial Professor of Economics and Public Affairs, Princeton University; and * Dr. Allen Sinai, chief global economist, strategist and president, Decision Economics, Inc.
Witnesses to testify on April 10 will be announced prior to that hearing. Use the resource link below to read more details of Frank's plan.

Inside Washington (04/07/2008)

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* HARRISBURG, Pa. (4/8/08)--Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) was commended in a letter written by Jeff DeBree, CEO of Penn East FCU, Scranton, Pa., for speaking out against the Treasury’s plan to revise the U.S. financial system (Life is a Highway April 7). The letter was printed in the Scranton Times.With the support of politicians like Kanjorski, consumers will continue to be served by credit unions, DeBree wrote ... * WASHINGTON (4/8/08)--Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) Friday introduced a bill, the Mortgage Enhancement and Modification Act, which seeks to protect lenders from litigation when they modify their borrowers’ mortgages. The bill is similar to legislation offered by Reps. Mike Castle (R-Del.) and Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.). It would apply to mortgages for owners still in their homes (American Banker April 7). The legislation also would encourage waiving of prepayment penalties and freezing adjustable-rate mortgage rates ... * WASHINGTON (4/8/08)--Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) said Friday that he had to compromise to get both parties to agree to housing stimulus bill, and thus did not add language to allow the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to back loans worth more than home values (American BankerApril 7). If enacted, the bill may not keep homeowners from foreclosing, he said. The bill could go to a vote today. Dodd said he will work on a FHA rescue plan, with hearings scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday ... * WASHINGTON (4/8/08)--An appellate court Friday dismissed nearly $57 million in costs the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) could have paid to real estate developer Charles Hurwitz in a 19-year-old case involving the agency and Hurwitz’s company, Maxxam Inc. The court will consider the remaining $15.3 million. Hurwitz called the case a “black eye for the government” (Houston Chronicle April 4). His appellate lawyer, David Beck, said the case indicates that the government should be subject to consequences when it uses powers wrongly. The case stems from a 1995 lawsuit the FDIC and the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) filed against Hurwitz when a thrift Maxxam controlled--the United Savings of Texas--collapsed in 1998. Hurwitz countersued, and the OTS case has since been settled ...