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'Don't Tax My CU' Increases Presence On YouTube

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MADISON, Wis. (8/16/13)--
Click to view larger image Credit unions' "Don't Tax My Credit Union" message is loud and clear on YouTube, judging from the number of videos and the number of views. At the top in views is a video by CUNAAdvocacy, with more than 26,734 views as of Thursday.  (Photo provided by CUNA)
The "Don't Tax My Credit Union" message is all over YouTube.com, thanks to the creativity of credit unions, their leagues, and individual members.

About 68,200 views have been wracked up by credit union videos in the "Don't Tax My Credit Union" lineup, with another 11,800 in the "Don't Tax My CU" lineup, as of mid-day Thursday, said the Credit Union National Association.

The top video, "Don't Tax My Credit Union!" by CUNAAdvocacy, has 26,734 views so far.  Another CUNAAdvocacy video, "Don't Tax My Credit Union!--The Missions and Roots of Credit Unions," has 835 views, while a  third, "Don't Tax My Credit Union!--The Competition Banks Don't Like,"  has 495 views. The three are the top most viewed of the videos.

Several leagues also have informational videos, with Vermont, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania each weighing in with submissions on YouTube.

In addition to informational videos about the tax fight, some submissions by credit unions or individuals have people expressing their love for their credit union and urging Congress to keep credit unions' tax exemption intact.  They include videos from PrimeWay FCU,  Foothill Credit Union, Scout Panther, CommonWealth One FCU, EgZoGame, Suncoast Schools FCU, CommunityAmerica CU, MemberOne FCU, and more.

Several videos refer viewers to CUNA's donttaxmycreditunion.org website.
 
To locate full lists of the videos with access to each, use the "Don't Tax My Credit Union" or "Don't Tax My CU" links. To access the CUNAAdvocacy videos, use the individual links.

First Commerce CU Teams With Biz College Power Forward Series

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AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. (8/16/13)--First Commerce CU, based in Tallahassee, Fla., has announced a partnership with the Florida State University College of Business to launch a business speaker series.

The Power Forward Speaker Series will launch Nov. 6 with Barbara Corcoran of ABC's entrepreneurial reality show, "Shark Tank." The announcement was made at the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce's Annual Community Conference in Amelia Island, said the $355 million asset credit union. First Commerce was a presenting sponsor at the conference.

"As a local strong credit union in this community for more than 70 years, we know recent years have been difficult for our local businesses--but we are leaner, stronger and ready to power forward," said First Commerce CEO Cecilia Homison.

"As part of our commitment to our community, we wanted to find a way to celebrate the resilience of our businesses and keep our leaders inspired. After discussions with FSCU College of Business about their similar hopes for Entrepreneurship Month, the Power Forward speaker series was born," she said.

Corcoran parlayed a $1,000 loan to start The Corcoran Group into a $5-billion real estate business, which she sold in 2001 for $66 million. She also is a real estate contributor for NCB's "TODAY" Show. In the first and second season of "Shark Tank," Corcoran invested in 13 young businesses that she is shepherding to success. In Seasons three and four, she invested in 18 entrepreneurs.

Credit unions have been allies of small businesses and entrepreneurs, with many providing member business loans to entrepreneurs who can't get loans at banks. Credit unions and the Credit Union National Association are urging Congress to allow credit unions to do more by lifting credit unions' member business lending cap to 27.5% from 12.25%. Doing so would inject $13 billion in new small-business loans and help generate 140,000 jobs the first year.

Oklahoma Central CU Offers 0.99% APR Storm Shelter Loans

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (8/16/13)--Oklahoma Central CU, located in an area that is all too familiar with devastating tornadoes, is offering a 0.99% annual percentage rate (APR) on storm shelter loans, the Cornerstone CU League said.

Oklahoma Central, with $580 million in assets, Tulsa, Okla., has offered storm shelter loans for about two years, but following tornadoes in May, the credit union re-examined its product, and has now made it more affordable, said Gina Wilson, president/CEO (The Leaguer Aug. 15).
The credit union lowered the APR to offer members peace of mind and help members and their families feel safe during dangerous weather conditions, Wilson said.

Consumers CU Wraps Up Summer Of Community Work

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WAUKEGAN, Ill. (8/16/13)--Consumers CU, based in Waukegan, Ill., has wrapped up another summer filled with community outreach activities, completing a lineup of 11 events.

Click to view larger image Waukegan, Ill.-based Consumers CU's "Team CCU" participated in many community activities this summer as part of its outreach efforts. CCU employees and families are pictured here at the Round Lake Area Parade in May. (Photo provided by Consumers CU)
"Summer is a fantastic time to demonstrate the credit union's commitment to our members and the communities we serve," said Sean M. Rathjen, president.  "Long days, warm nights and a wide variety of community activities create the perfect opportunity for us to have some fun and enjoy the company of our family, friends and neighbors."

The $604 million asset CCU's 2013 activities included festivals, parades and community celebrations.

This year's schedule kicked off with the Round Lake Area Chamberfest and Expo on March 13, followed by the Round Lake Area Memorial Day Parade on May 27.  The credit union also participated in several neighborhood events such as Mundelein Days in early July. In the first two weeks of August, CCU participated in North Chicago Days, Most Blessed Trinity's Tri-Parish Kermes in Waukegan and Gurnee Days. 

CCU volunteers handed out candy, CCU shirts, coin coloring books and CCU Frisbees, as well as CCU blue tote bags to provide a way to store collectibles and other items while at the events.

Team CCU also raised funds for causes.  Its walking team raised more than $4,500 for American Cancer Society's Waukegan Relay for Life event, and CCU donated $1,400 to the March of Dimes organization in April.

Rathjen noted the "many employees who enjoy helping us support these events. Many volunteer their time on weekends, bringing along their spouses, children and other relatives to help out." Giving backing to the community is "a philosophy our founders embraced when the credit union first started in 1930, and it's a tradition we continue to support today."

$100K Grant To Finance Citizenship Loans

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ROANOKE, Va.  (8/16/13)--Freedom First FCU in Roanoke, Va., has won the $100,000 NEXT Seed Capital Award from Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) to introduce the American Dreamer Loan product, which will provide Roanoke-based immigrants financing they need to apply for citizenship. This is the first loan program of its kind in the area.
 
The $292.1 million asset Freedom First developed its American Dreamer Loan product to offer affordable, responsible financing to help local refugees and immigrants who are legal permanent residents apply for citizenship. The cost of naturalization services can range from roughly $2,500 to $5,000. Many struggle to find financing to cover the costs.
 
Citizenship loans are not a new product. North Side Community FCU in Chicago began making citizenship loans in 2007 to grow its Hispanic membership base (News Now Aug. 21, 2007).  
 
In partnership with Commonwealth Catholic Charities and local law firms, the Freedom First loan program will help about 30 refugees and immigrants complete the naturalization process and apply for citizenship in its first year. Refugee and immigrant groups living in the area include Somali Bantu, Vietnamese, Bosnians, Croatians, Cubans and Iraqis.
 
Many applicants get stuck when they cannot afford the legal costs of applying, explained Dave Prosser, Freedom First vice president of community development.
 
"In this country, immigration law is complex and many newcomers require personal guidance, along with legal and financial assistance, to successfully navigate the U.S. citizenship process," he said. "We recognized a need in our community to offer low-cost loans to help credit-challenged immigrants pay the costs associated with obtaining citizenship. Hence, our idea for the American Dreamer Loan was born."
 
Each year through 2016, the $100,000 NEXT Seed Capital Award will go to one community development financial institution with a promising idea for expanding its products and services to serve more low-income people and communities. The award is made by OFN as part of the Wells Fargo NEXT Awards for Opportunity Finance. Wells Fargo provides the funding.
 
Freedom First also will offer financial education to applicants to help them develop skills to build assets while working with qualified partners to achieve their goal of citizenship.

216 Merchants Sue Visa, MasterCard On Antitrust Issue

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DALLAS (8/16/13)--About 216 merchants Tuesday filed an antitrust lawsuit in a Marshall, Texas, U.S. District Court against Visa and MasterCard, claiming the card companies' policies force them to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in excess interchange fees.
 
The suit claims that the two card companies have adopted nearly identical membership rules that prevent financial institution-issuers of credit and debit cards from competing for merchant acceptance of the cards. It was filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The lead plaintiff is Delta Air Lines. Most of the plaintiffs are in the travel and energy industry, and include several airlines, hotels such as La Quintas Inns and Red Roof Inns, and travel companies such as Orbitz Worldwide and Travelocity, as well as Radio Shack and Pier 1 Imports.
 
The suit alleges the card companies violated the Sherman Act. The plaintiffs seek unspecified damages, along with punitive damages and attorneys' fees.
 
"Because Visa and MasterCard have as their members nearly all card issuers in the U.S., and because those card issuers have agreed to rules that preclude them from independently competing for merchant acceptance, Visa and MasterCard and their members have obtained and maintained market power in the market for merchant acceptance of debit cards in the U.S.," said the complaint.
 
"The exercise of this market power has led merchants to pay excessive interchange fees. In this manner, Visa and MasterCard have unlawfully restrained competition in these markets," the complaint continued.
 
Saying that interchange fees are their biggest operating expense, the merchants alleged that maximum debit interchange fees enacted by the Federal Reserve as a result of the Durbin Amendment have not eliminated the anticompetitive effects of the card companies' setting default fees.
 
A U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., ordered the Fed to redo its rule that implemented the interchange amendment that capped debit card interchange fees (News Now Aug. 13).
 
In May, Visa and MasterCard filed a lawsuit against 11 retail organizations that opted out of a $7.25 billion interchange settlement proposal in an antitrust lawsuit against the companies (News Now May 29).

Iowa Merger Latest Of Consolidations

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MADISON, Wis. (8/16/13)--A merger between Dupaco Community CU, with $1.067 billion in assets, in Dubuque, Iowa, and Iowa Community CU, with $80.9 million in assets, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is among the latest credit union consolidations recently announced.

The organization will continue as Dupaco Community CU, the credit unions said. The combined institution will have 18 branches and more than 80,000 members.

The agreement is the first formal step in a process. After due diligence, the arrangement is subject to state and federal regulatory approval, and a vote by the Iowa Community CU membership. Pending all necessary approvals, the intended merger is expected to be completed sometime during the first quarter of 2014.
 
Other recently announced mergers include:
  • A partnership between Akron, Ohio's $17 million asset MedPro CU and Columbus-based Ohio HealthCare FCU, with $52 million in assets, became a reality on Aug. 1, beginning with a realignment of duties among management. The collaborative effort will allow both credit unions to serve healthcare employees throughout Ohio, with Ohio HealthCare focusing on the Central Ohio market and MedPro focusing on the Northeast Ohio market. Bill Butler, former president/CEO of Ohio HealthCare, will assume the title of president, overseeing the entire partnership. Becky Howell, former president/CEO of MedPro, will assume the title of CEO of the Northeast Ohio Market.
  • Christian Financial CU, with $288 million in assets, and ARC CU, with $14 million in assets, both of Roseville, Mich., announced that they will merge operations, effective Sept. 30, with Christian Financial retaining the credit union name, the Michigan Credit Union League said (Michigan Monitor Aug. 12). The merger will benefit ARC CU members, who will gain access to Christian Financial CU's locations, ATM services, extended hours, drive-thru locations and mobile banking.
  • Lutheran CU of America, with $28.5 million in assets, Brea, Calif., has merged into $254 million asset America's Christian CU, Glendora, Calif. It was the goal of the Lutheran CU board of directors and management team to partner with a financial institution that shares the same vision and has the desire to serve people of faith.
  • Great Lakes CU, North Chicago, Ill., will merge with Thornton Township High School CU, South Holland, Ill. Great Lakes CU will have assets of $643 million and serve more than 54,000 members.
  • Southern Illinois Area (SIA) CU, with $8 million in assets, Swansea, Ill., has merged into $186 million asset Arsenal CU, Arnold, Mo. South Illinois Area CU members gain access to Arsenal CU's five branches through the merger (St. Louis Business Journal July 19).
  • Members of $8 million asset Southwestern Telco FCU voted in favor of merging into $115 million Blue Eagle CU. Both credit unions are based in Roanoke, Va. The Southwestern Telco CU board said it was in the best interest of members to seek a merger partner who could offer the breadth of services demanded in the marketplace (Roanoke.com Aug. 2). The merger is scheduled to be completed Labor Day weekend.
  • Members of $2.8 million asset Cassia County Education Association CU, Burley, Idaho, voted to merge with the Pocatello, Idaho-based $134 million asset Idaho State University CU, effective Aug. 1 (Idaho State Journal July 31). The merger was made to offer Cassia County Education Association CU members a broader range of financial services.