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Would-be robber gave CU five-minute warning

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (8/18/10)--A possible would-be robber of Empower FCU, Syracuse, N.Y., has been charged with attempted robbery, according to local media reports. On Friday, a man wearing a bandanna on his face entered Empower FCU’s drive-through. He told a teller he was planning to rob the credit union and would be back in five minutes. He then left the area and police were called, said The Post-Standard (Aug. 14). Martin J. Richardson, 54, is accused of attempting to rob the credit union. Police found him about 30 minutes after the threat was made. Richardson, who was riding a bicycle, refused orders to stop and was taken into custody, the newspaper said. He was charged with attempted robbery in the third degree and resisting arrest. He is being held by authorities while he awaits arraignment in Fulton City court, the newspaper said. The potential would-be robber never entered the credit union. Empower FCU closed as a precaution after the threat was made. Empower FCU has $830.9 million in assets.

Irish league to hold special meeting on reg proposals

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DUBLIN, Ireland (8/18/10)--The Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) will hold a special general meeting next month to discuss regulatory proposals. More than 1,000 delegates are expected to attend the meeting to discuss moves by Ireland’s Financial Regulator to assert more control over bailout fund proposals. ILCU, which represents more than 400 credit unions in the country, called for the meeting after the regulator issued a consultation paper in June that proposed a statutory bailout fund for credit unions that become insolvent (Sunday Tribune Aug. 1). The regulator wants to replace an existing, private ILCU protection fund--a savings protection scheme (SPS)--which is outside the regulator’s purview, the newspaper said. In the past few weeks, ILCU has held roadshows nationwide to gather information and listen to feedback from credit union members. Turnout was very high and there is substantial fear about the SPS being taken over, an ILCU spokesman told the paper. The SPS is adequate to cover any problems credit unions may encounter, Kieron Brennan, ILCU chief executive, told the paper.

Invest in America gives Cadillac to CU member

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LANSING, Mich. (8/18/10)--Invest in America and GraCo FCU, Alma, Mich., gave one credit union member the keys to a new, crystal red 2010 Cadillac SRX, Aug. 9. Gerard Boyle, a longtime GraCo CU member, entered to win the three-year lease on the vehicle when he took out a loan from the credit union for another auto. Boyle picked up the new vehicle at Shaheen General Motors (GM) in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., with GraCo CEO Stacy Grube on hand (Michigan Monitor Aug. 16). Boyle said he “couldn’t believe it” when the credit union first called to let him know he had won the raffle. CUcorp, which runs Invest in America nationwide, designed the raffle to promote participation in the program. It offered the opportunity to hold the raffle to GraCo CU after it signed up during February’s Credit Union National Association Governmental Affairs Conference. This is the second year that Invest in America has held the raffle, in which all participating credit unions are automatically entered. Invest in America is a credit union auto loan discount program offered by GM and Chrysler. CUcorp is a marketing company based in Livonia, Mich., and a wholly owned subsidiary of the Michigan Credit Union League.

El Salvador turns to CUs for business financing

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SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (8/18/10)--Government policy-makers in El Salvador last week committed to developing economic policy and payments system support for credit unions and financial cooperatives in the country, enabling them to help boost sagging loan support for the small and micro-business sector.
Click to view larger image Brian Branch, executive vice president and chief operating officer for the World Council of Credit Unions (left), and Patrick S. Jury, president/CEO of the Iowa Credit Union League (right), discuss effective lobbying techniques with Hector Cordova, CEO of El Salvador's FEDECACHES (center), at the International Seminar on Best Practices held in Panama in April. (Photo provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
The commitment was made in response to a joint visit by officials from the Federation of Savings and Credit Cooperatives of El Salvador (FEDECACES) and the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). Prior government administrations had encouraged El Salvador’s commercial banks and microfinance institutions to provide financing support to small and micro enterprises. However, during the recent financial crisis, commercial bank loans in general shrank by 5%, and the funds were redirected away from the small businesses to support larger commercial enterprises. During the same period, credit union loans expanded 16%, making more money available to small businesses in need. Hector Cordova, FEDECACES CEO, and Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer, last week met with Salvadoran government officials to support the case for increased growth and outreach by credit unions to small and micro businesses. Cordova and Branch were executing lobbying steps discussed during the recent International Seminar on Best Practices and Credit Union Operations, an event jointly sponsored by and part of the ongoing relationship between the Iowa Credit Union League and Corporacion Fondo de Estabilizacion y Garantia de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Credito de Panama, R.L. (COFEP), originally brought together in 2005 through WOCCU's International Partnerships Program. The April meeting, held in Panama City, Panama, attracted participants from Latin America and the Caribbean. Lessons learned about market strategy and advocacy both came into play during last week's visit, according to Cordova. “We saw the crisis as an opportunity to help our members grow and to grow our credit unions,” Cordova said. Currently, the 32 credit unions in the FEDECACES system serve 132,000 members. Nearly 20% of the credit union portfolio represents loans to small or micro businesses and agricultural producers. Most business loans are made to self-employed merchants or family-owned businesses. Only 5% of the country’s financial sector is locally owned, according to Marta Evelyn de Riviera, vice president of El Salvador’s Central Bank. During the global financial crisis, the country saw both restriction and withdrawal of services by the larger foreign-owned commercial banks. The banks’ withdrawal for small business paved the way for government policy support for increased credit union participation in financing micro and small businesses, according to Mario Cerna, El Salvador's vice minister of economics. “During the civil war of the 1980s, credit unions in El Salvador maintained their operations, often as the only local institutions to provide loans to small agricultural producers, self-employed merchants and family-owned businesses,” Branch said. “During the recent financial crisis, credit unions once again stepped into the breach to provide financing to the common population who could no longer get financing from commercial banks,” he added. “This level of local commitment to small businesses is what the government would like El Salvador’s credit unions to continue providing.” Current government policy seeks to stimulate greater growth of the financial cooperative sector, including credit unions, to ensure continuity of locally sustainable and committed financial services to local producers and businesses. Central Bank officials are in the final stages of completing their policy development and will meet with FEDECACES staff next week to gather specific credit union input.

Hardest-hit homeowners get 128M boost

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LANSING, Mich. (8/18/10)--On Aug. 11, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm announced another $128.4 million from the federal government to help struggling homeowners in Michigan. The money will be distributed by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), along with $154.5 million in the original Help for Hardest Hit Homeowners Fund. The fund aims to help homeowners in Michigan who are unemployed avoid foreclosure (Michigan Monitor Aug. 17). Thirty individual credit unions, and credit union service organizations Mortgage Center and Member First Mortgage, are working with MSHDA, making more than 200 credit unions statewide involved, said the Michigan Credit Union League. The original fund is expected to help up to 17,000 homeowners avoid foreclosure and another 13,000 with a new appropriation. There is no limit on the number of lenders that can participate, but funds are only available on a first-come, first-served basis only. Preceding the state announcement, last week Treasury Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability Herb Allison announced the government's decision to provide additional support for homeowners struggling with unemployment through two existing foreclosure prevention programs. Treasury said it was making a total of $2 billion of additional assistance available for the Housing Finance Agency’s Innovation Fund for the Hardest Hit Housing Markets (News Now Aug. 12). For more information, use the link.

BCU hosts special dialogue session with NCUA

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NAPERVILLE, Ill. (8/18/10)--Baxter CU, Vernon Hills, Ill., recently hosted a dialogue session with National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Board Member Gigi Hyland. Hyland, joined by Gary Kohn, NCUA senior policy adviser, discussed regulations, credit unions’ day-to-day challenges, corporate credit unions and the financial stability of the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund.
Click to view larger image Baxter CU, Vernon Hills, Ill., recently hosted a dialogue session with National Credit Union Administration Board Member Gigi Hyland. From left, John Bratsakis, Baxter senior vice president and Illinois Credit Union League director; Hyland; and Mike Valentine, Baxter president/CEO. (Photo provided by the Illinois Credit Union League)
Forty individuals from 10 credit unions attended the meeting. “I learn so much from seeing how the credit unions interact with their members and observing their operations,” Hyland said. “It provides me a much greater understanding of what is most important to credit unions, which is how they can best serve their members.” Attending the meeting were Dennis Hall, Illinois Credit Union League chairman, and Dan Plauda, Illinois league president/CEO. “During this particularly challenging time for the credit union movement, Gigi provided some key insight into NCUA’s current assessment of a myriad of issues,” Plauda said.