Becker To Banks: Get Off Our Backs

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NAFCU President Fred Becker called on the banking industry to cease its hostilities with the credit union movement and recognize the important role credit unions play in today's financial services market.

Becker, addressing more than 1,500 credit union executives at NAFCU's annual convention here, cited continuing attacks by the bankers in Congress, in the regulatory realm and in the courts and urged the banking lobby to "get a life."

The NAFCU President said the credit union share of the financial services market continues to be minor, growing from just 1.4% to only 1.7% over the past 20 years, while banks grew their assets in 2002 by 88% of all credit union assets.

The bankers' new suit challenging the federal regulator's field of membership grants in Utah, he said, is a waste of financial resources, as NCUA's policies have been validated by the courts a number of times, most recently in the banker's challenge of the agency's interpretation of HR 1151, the CU Membership Access Act.

"The court said the field of membership changes were clearly within the spirit and language of the law," asserted Becker.

Becker also touted the changes to the federal credit union charter over the past few years which have appeared to bring the federal charter back into favor among credit unions, and stemmed the flight to state charters.

"When I came to NAFCU our primary focus was on enhancing the federal charter," Becker said. "I believe today, the federal charter is as competitive as any charter in the industry."

"The days of questioning the value of the federal charter have come to an end," declared Becker.

He cited four major reasons for the reemergence of the federal charter:

* The fact the federal credit unions are considered instrumentalities of the federal government, providing them with a number of rights and privileges, including a shield from local taxation and preemption from certain local and state laws;

* The fact that federal credit unions are supervised by a single regulator, as opposed to the "splintered" supervisory structure for state charters;

* NCUA expansion of FOM rules and allowances;

* A strong national trade association representing federally chartered credit unions.

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