Despite DOJ's marijuana moves, it's 'business as usual’ for Partner Colorado
Partner Colorado Credit Union CEO Sundie Seefried was driving to work when she heard the Department of Justice would be rescinding the so-called “Cole memo,” which instructed federal prosecutors not to prioritize cases against businesses that are operating in accordance with their own states’ laws, taking the pressure off financial institutions providing banking services to legal marijuana businesses.
In an ironic coincidence, NCUA examiners just happened to be inside her credit union that same day – a frequent trip for them, since Partner Colorado sees examiners quarterly, rather than once every 18 months like most other CUs.
“I was just shaking my head as I drove into work,” said Seefried, who also wrote a book about cannabis banking in an uncertain regulatory environment.
Despite the current uncertainty brought about by DOJ’s actions, Seefried said things really aren’t much different now than during the last three years her credit union has been serving legal pot industry clients.
“You really have to have a stomach to handle this,” she said, adding in a LinkedIn post that it is “business as usual” at the $352 million-asset credit union
Seefried is not planning any changes in light of the recent news, and she added that PCCU plans to continue its rollout of a national program intended to help credit unions interested in marijuana banking engage in the business via an automated platform Partner Colorado developed.
Though the Cole memo had given financial institutions some comfort that they would not face prosecution for working with legal pot business, “it was illegal before and after this announcement,” she said.
The CU will still follow Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Bank Secrecy Act and anti-money laundering guidelines and regulations which are built on what Seefried called “solid priorities.”
Seefried discussed the issue earlier this week as part of a group call with "incoming beta credit unions" planning to join her national platform. Even while the new guidance has been said to have a “chilling effect” for financial institutions banking (or hoping to bank) legal pot shops, the beta CUs are taking their cue from Partner Colorado CU and moving ahead with the program.
"We feel comfortable with our program, and we’ll continue to evolve it as we learn more," she said. Seefried is confident in her program because it’s designed to predict and find money laundering activities. “Because it’s not if there will be money laundering, it’s when,” she said.
While Seefried plans to continue running her credit union in same manner as before, she’s not indifferent about Sessions’ actions.
She called her House and Senate representatives and feels reassured by their commitment to ensure that states with legal pot are not punished by federal prosecutors. Next week, she’ll be flying to Washington D.C., to sit down with them and talk about different legislative initiatives that would protect the legal pot industry.