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Carolina bank sues Truliant over billboards ads

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (5/27/09)--A bank has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against a North Carolina credit union, claiming the credit union is using the bank's registered "Yes you can" service mark on credit union billboards and advertisements. Truliant FCU, a $1.195 billion-asset credit union based in Winston-Salem, had until 5 p.m. Tuesday to file a response to the suit, according to court documents. The suit was filed May 13 in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina by attorneys for CommunityONE Bank, based in Asheboro, N.C. In the complaint, CommunityONE said it purchased rights to the "Yes you can" service mark in 1999, when it was doing business as First National Bank and Trust Co. It acquired the federally registered service mark from Crestar Financial Corp., Richmond, Va. In 2007, when the bank changed names, it registered the name change with the trademark assignment, said the complaint. The mark is an extension of the bank's corporate logo and mascot, Jack (likened to a jumping jack) and is used in marketing and customer service campaigns. The complaint alleges that Truliant, a competitor to CommunityONE, posted a billboard advertisement on Interstate 40 in Greensboro near the Route 68 interchange. The ad reads "Yes You Can. Join Truliant!" The complaint says the ad "prominently incorporates CommunityONE's 'Yes you can' service mark, together with the use of a sun logo, which bears a strong resemblance to CommunityONE's 'Jack' logo." The ad also appears on at least one other billboard and "creates a strong likelihood of confusion, and causes customers, potential customers, the public, regulators, and the trade to believe mistakenly that Truliant is affiliated with, connected with, sponsored by, approved by, or otherwise associated with CommunityONE," said the court documents. The suit alleges federal trademark infringement, federal unfair competition, state unfair and deceptive trade practices, and common law trademark infringement and unfair competition. The bank seeks a preliminary injunction preventing further use of the "Yes you can" mark and seeks damages. After Truliant files its response with the court, CommunityONE will be required to file a reply by 5 p.m. EDT June 1. A preliminary injunction hearing is set for June 4 in Winston-Salem.

Corporates CUSO had blockbuster year in 2008

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WESTERVILLE, Ohio (5/27/09)--A credit union service organization (CUSO) owned by 27 corporate credit unions announced it had a banner year during 2008, with almost $9 billion in brokered certificates of deposit (CD) placements. Primary Financial Co. LLC-- which has offices in Westerville, Ohio, and Columbus, Ind.--said it reached net income of almost $4 million, and that the corporate credit union owners earned fees and distribution payments of more than $8 million. "The numbers reflect not only a great year for the CUSO, but a great year for our issuers and investors as well," said Lew Lambert, president of Minnesota Operations for Members United FCU and chairman of Primary Financial's board. "Last year, Primary Financial helped credit unions generate $650 million in liquidity and helped investors earn more than $215 million in yield" at a time when many credit unions "need it most," Lambert added. Mark Solomon, president/CEO of Primary Financial, noted a significant milestone occurred when the total number of credit unions doing business with SimpliCD program reached 4,000 during second half of 2008. "We now have relationships with more than 50% of the credit unions in the U.S. and more than 40% of all credit unions have investments in the SimpliCD program," Solomon said. Primary Financial's 2008 annual report can be viewed by using the resource link.

CUs better card rates more evident with new law

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MADISON, Wis. (5/27/09)--A new law--the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, know by the partial acronym the “Credit CARD Act,” which is expected to tighten credit card regulations--may make credit unions’ credit card rates more visible, according to several major media outlets. Credit cards from credit unions are “better deals than bank credit cards--and this should become more evident” with the new legislation, MarketWatch said Tuesday. It’s a good time to shop around for a better credit card, according to The Wall Street Journal (May 22). Consumer should consider smaller financial institutions or credit unions “that may be more eager for your business,” the newspaper said. Ed Lawrence, finance professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Sunday that “I would just quit using [my card] if they started putting annual fees on it. A lot of credit unions don’t charge annual fees, so people would have choices.” MarketWatch also noted that some credit unions may pass fees assessed by MasterCard and Visa to cardholders, but credit unions will not add them to balance transfers, international transactions and cash advances.

CUs tops in Forrester consumer opinion survey

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (5/27/09)--Amidst the worst financial crisis in years, credit unions have come out on top in terms of member/customer advocacy and trust--beating U.S. banks, investment firms and insurers--in a new survey released Tuesday by Forrester Research Inc. In "Customer Advocacy 2009: How Customers Rate U.S. Banks, Investment Firms and Insurers," credit unions achieved top ratings from 68% of consumers surveyed. Their rating was 16 percentage points higher than regional or local banks, which were ranked at 52%, and 27 percentage points above the largest bank rating, that of Washington Mutual at 41%. Credit unions' rank remains unchanged from the previous survey. In previous years, only insurance company USAA outranked credit unions. This year, the company's ranking dropped more than 5% to tie with credit unions. Independent financial advisors received a score of 61%, followed by State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. and an independent insurance agent tied at 53%; and Progressive and "a regional or local bank" tied at 52%. The survey ranks financial services companies based on their member/customers' perception that their providers are looking out for their best interests, not just the institution's bottom line. For the first time--and reflecting investors' dissatisfaction with their investment portfolios-- brokerage firms plummeted to the bottom of the list. Large national banks have traditionally held the bottom ratings. A common trait among the top scorers: many are customer-owned organizations, like credit unions or mutual insurance companies such as State Farm, said Forrester's report, written by Bill Doyle, Forrester vice president and principal analyst. Forrester also found that the higher the rank, the more likely the institution would keep its member/customers and the more likely those member/customers would buy more products. For the first time since the study began, the nation's three largest banks--Bank of America, Chase and Wells Fargo--climbed from the bottom. Still, banks continued to dominate the cellar. Nine of the 13 lowest-rated firms are banks, according to the report. This year, the cellar position went to Capital One Bank.

Michigan governor signs anti-foreclosure bills

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LANSING, Mich. (5/27/09)--Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed a package of foreclosure prevention bills into law Thursday. The acts will not take effect for 45 days, giving financial institutions, including credit unions, time to prepare for the changes. The Michigan Senate had unanimously passed the anti-foreclosure package on May 19, including House Bills 4453, 4454 and 4455, sponsored by State Reps. Shanelle Jackson (D-Detroit), Andy Coulouris (D-Saginaw) and Bert Johnson (D-Highland Park), respectively (Michigan Monitor May 26). Michigan has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation, said State Sen. Randy Richardville (R-Monroe). Given that, “it was important for the legislature to approve these measures to help struggling homeowners. We have developed a plan that will help residents who want to stay in their homes and are willing to take appropriate steps to do so.” Coulouris referred to the package as a “90-day lifeline” for homeowners. The bills offer a judicial workout option for homes that fall into foreclosure, and gives three months for the lender and borrower to find a solution. The package does not address homes already in foreclosure. Home loans that qualify for modification will qualify for judicial intervention if the lender chooses not to cooperate to modify payments. Lenders will now be required to send a notice of foreclosure to all homeowners. Borrowers can request a meeting within 14 days of receiving a foreclosure notice, at which point the lender must stop any foreclosure proceedings for 90 days. The Michigan Credit Union League did not comment on the matter.

Maine league announces awards

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WESTBROOK, Maine (5/27/09)--The Maine Credit Union League recently honored six individuals as recipients of the Maine credit union movement’s annual awards. The recipients were presented with their awards in Augusta, Maine, in mid-May during the league’s 71st Annual Meeting and Convention.
Robert Walker (center), who has been a volunteer at Monmouth FCU for 53 years, accepts the Alexander Ferguson Award for Outstanding League Volunteer from Richard Dupuis (right), chair of the league's Annual Awards and Convention Committee. Looking on are Richard Howard (back left), chair of Monmouth FCU's board, and David Walker (back right), Walker's son and a fellow board member of the credit union.
Receiving the Alexander Ferguson Award for Outstanding Credit Union Volunteer was Robert “Bob” Walker of Monmouth FCU, Monmouth, who has been a member of the credit union since 1955. He served on the credit union’s board for 53 years, and managed the credit union for 29 years. He remains an active volunteer there and a member of its board. The James M. Gratto Award for Outstanding Credit Union Manager went to Tucker Cole, president/CEO of Evergreen CU, Portland, who “always puts the needs of members first and always keeps the best interest of members in mind.” Cole has been with the credit union since 1996, and has helped it grow from $48 million in assets to over $200 million. Cole also is a member of the Maine league’s board and is president of the Alex Ferguson Chapter of Credit Unions, representing credit unions in Cumberland County. Presented the Jeannette G. Morin Award for Outstanding Credit Union Employee was Marsha Richard, who works in Card Services at Atlantic Regional FCU, Brunswick. Twenty-one years ago, she began as a
From left, David Rossignol, Maine CU League board member and last year’s recipient, poses with Tucker Cole, President/CEO of Evergreen CU, who received the 2009 James M. Gratto Award for Outstanding Credit Union Manager. Also pictured are two members of Cole’s staff, Kate Archambault and Catie Scribner. (Photos provided by the Maine Credit Union League)
teller. Richard also was recognized for spending an average of 525 hours annually on community activities including helping with Girl Scouts, the Annual Relay for Life event, and other community activities. Maine CU League President’s Award for Outstanding League Volunteer was given to Richard Dupuis, president/CEO of Five County CU, Bath, and chair of the league’s board. He was recognized by league President John Murphy for “his strong support and involvement with the Maine credit union movement.” Most recently, Dupuis has served as vice-chair of the league’s board. The Diane L. Oceretko “People Helping People” Award was bestowed on Lori Peakall-Cote, regional vice president at Down East CU, Baileyville, who was honored with this award that recognizes an individual who embodies the credit union philosophy of “people helping people.” Peakall-Cote donates five hours per week to community service, including serving as co-chair of the Maine Blueberry Festival, participating in the Relay for Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society and helping with other causes. She has been with the credit union for seven years. Presented the Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman’s Award was Mike Foley, vice president of Five County CU in Bath. The award which salutes grassroots involvement in promoting credit unions to legislators and other political leaders. Foley has been a member of the league’s Governmental Affairs Committee for years and was recognized by Tucker Cole, chair of the committee, as “someone who is truly engaged in the legislative process working on behalf of the interests of not only his credit union but for all Maine credit unions and their 600,000 members.”

NCUF to host REAL Member Solutions video contest

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WASHINGTON (5/27/09)--The National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) is hosting a REAL Member Solutions video contest to gather testimonials from credit unions and leagues to see the impact REAL Solutions has had on members. The contest will run from June 1 to Nov. 2. The grand prize winner will receive three trips to Washington, D.C.--one each for the winning league, credit union and member. Winners will attend the Wegner Awards Dinner at the Credit Union National Association Governmental Affairs Conference in 2010 as guests of NCUF. Five winning entries also will be featured on the REAL Solutions Impact Center and on YouTube.com and promoted nationally. NCUF will host a conference call June 8 at 3 p.m. EDT to discuss the contest. Entries can be no more than three minutes in length and must reflect the credit union members’ stories, not just highlight the REAL Solutions program, NCUF said. Some suggestions include:
* Foreclosure assistance stories; * Savings programs; * Used car programs that helped a borrower get a loan for a quality used car; * Member savings from payday loan alternative products; * Wire remittance and check cashing programs; and * Taxpayer assistance.
Entries will be judged on members who portray their stories with sincerity, humor or motivation. The story should include quantitative and qualitative information on how the credit union helped the member. There is no limit on the number of submissions. Videos must be received by Nov. 2.

WPCCU offers wedding cash gift registry

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LOS ANGELES (5/27/09)--Water and Power Community CU (WPCCU), Los Angeles, is offering MatriMoney wedding registry savings accounts to help newlyweds with their finances as June wedding season approaches. MatriMoney allows couples to establish interest-bearing savings accounts, which can be used toward honeymoon expenses, furniture or a down payment on a home. WPCCU also will match the couples’ first $100 in wedding gifts until June 30 if they complete four financial management classes online through WPCCU’s website. Accountholders must: qualify for a credit union membership, open and maintain a joint savings account in good standing with $25 and open their MatriMoney account with $50. The credit union also will provide monthly statements with a record of those who contribute to the account, WPCCU said. WPCCU has $467 million in assets.

Panel to hear Heartland case today

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (5/27/09)--The U.S Judicial Panel of Multidistrict Litigation will convene a national panel of seven judges today in Louisville, Ky., to hear oral arguments in the Heartland Payment Systems data breach lawsuit. The panel will decide whether the case should be rolled into class action lawsuits. The panel’s decision will impact credit unions involved in litigation against the company. Actions against Heartland Payment Systems were filed in 12 U.S. district courts. The MDL panel was created by an Act of Congress in 1968, according to its website. The panel will determine whether civil actions pending in different federal districts involve one or more common questions of fact. If so, the actions could be transferred to one federal district for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings. The panel also will select the judge or judges and court assigned to conduct such proceedings. Centralizing the court process would avoid duplication of discovery, prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, and conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel and the judiciary. Heartland Payment Systems has spent or earmarked more than $12.6 million to cover costs associated with the widespread intrusion of its data systems discovered in January, according to CEO Robert Carr (Computerworld May 18). As of March 2, more than 560 financial institutions, including at least 178 credit unions, had to reissue credit and debit cards as a result of the Heartland breach. Three credit unions joined two banks in a class action lawsuit against Heartland to recoup losses related to the breach announced Jan. 20 (News Now March 2). The credit unions are: GECU, a $1.146 billion asset credit union in El Paso, Texas; MidFlorida FCU, a $1.283 billion asset credit union in Lakeland, Fla.; and Matadors Community CU, a $123 million asset credit union in Chatsworth, Calif., according to documents filed in court. They join Amalgamated Bank of New York, N.Y., and Farmers State Bank, headquartered in Marcus, Iowa, in the complaint, which was filed Feb. 20 in the U.S. District Court, Trenton, N.J., by Chimicles & Tikellis LLP, Haverford Pa., the lead attorneys in the case. They are seeking to recoup money for the cost of reissuing cards to their members/customers and for their costs related to fraudulent activity stemming from the breach.

Mongolian delegation visits Michigan league

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LANSING, Mich. (5/27/09)--A meeting between the Michigan Credit Union League and the Financial Regulatory Commission of Mongolia culminated in Commission Managing Director General Ganbat O. changing his mind about Mongolian credit unions’ tax status.
From left: Ganbat O, managing director of Mongolia’s Financial Regulatory Commission, Michigan Credit Union League Executive Vice President Patrick La Pine, and other members of a Mongolian delegation, met with the Michigan League to discuss U.S. credit unions’ regulatory structure and services. (Photo provided by the Michigan Credit Union League)
Unlike U.S. credit unions, Mongolia’s credit unions pay taxes. There are about 200 credit unions in the country and 120 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital. O told the league that he has “some thinking to do” after he met with the league about U.S. credit unions’ structure, regulation and services (Michigan Monitor May 26). Michigan League Executive Vice President Patrick La Pine also explained shared branching to O, who seemed interested in the concept, the league said. Mongolia is looking into merging some of its credit unions because they are spread out across the country, O told La Pine and league staff. Mongolia is about the size of Alaska.

CU System briefs (05/26/2009)

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* WHITTIER, Calif. (5/27/09)--Members and employees of Credit Union of Southern California (CU SoCal) and staff from several other credit unions and businesses fed more than 3,000 local residents in need lunch while they donated more than 100,000 pounds of food valued at $200,000. The Fifth Annual Food Distribution Day at CU SoCal's Whittier branch, held May 16, was part of the Southern California's Helping Hands, in conjunction with Heart of Compassion. The event prompted one member to say, "No bank does this like my credit union. I have never seen anything like it. CU SoCal really cares about people. You don't just bank here. The credit union gives back to you." Yolanda from Pico Rivera noted that when her husband left her with three children and two grandchildren, he was the only one working. "When he left, so did the money. Things are really tight right now. My daughter got a job, so that has helped." Another recipient, Rachel, who was laid off in March from her clerical job with a school district, said, "My husband is working part time, but it's not enough to support our family of five. Plus, we have a baby on the way." CU SoCal President/CEO Dave Gunderson said more than 300 people volunteered for the event. (Photo provided by Credit Union of Southern California) … * TAMPA, Fla. (5/27/09)--Two Gibsonton, Fla., men were indicted and charged with conspiring to rob three banks and a credit union in Hillsborough County between April 9 and April 17. The second robbery, on April 13, was at a branch of Tampa-based Suncoast Schools FCU. Jason Andrew Rosenberger, 25, faces three charges of bank robbery by force or violence and one count of conspiracy. Luke Mark Debi, also 25, is charged with two counts of bank robbery by force or violence and one count of conspiracy. According to the indictment, they scouted banks and the credit union to become familiar with the premises and their security measures (Tampa Tribune May 22) …

Survey Better rates more ATMs top members wish list

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MADISON, Wis. (5/27/09)--While most members report they are satisfied with their credit unions, better rates and expanded access to automated teller machines (ATMs) top their list of suggested improvements, says a recently released survey report by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA).
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About 45% of members surveyed would like to see their credit union pay higher savings rates than they do now, according to CUNA’s 2009-2010 National Member Survey. Lower loan rates (27%) and more ATM locations (22%) rounded out the top suggestions from members. Higher savings rates are the leading request from members age 45 and older. More ATMs topped the list for 25- to 44-year-old members, and more convenient credit union locations ranked highest with 18- to 24-year-olds. “The desire for more convenient brick-and-mortar locations among such a technology savvy young group was interesting, and it could indicate that some young adults are doing business with a credit union located near the workplace of one of their parents, but not necessarily near them,” said Jon Haller, CUNA director of business-to-business publishing. The National Member Survey reveals trends involving members’ use of financial services and attitudes, and strategies to build loyalty and attract more business. It also provides information and analysis related to members’ demographics, satisfaction, interest in new services and delivery channels. Also, the 2009-2010 Survey of Potential Members--CUNA’s companion report to this survey--uncovers new issues, opportunities, and strategies for reaching and attracting new members. It analyzes current trends relating to non-members’ financial behaviors and loyalty to their banks, and suggests how to leverage competitive advantages to attract eligible non-members from their current provider. For more information, use the links.