Notes from Texas

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A Display Of Military Might

DALLAS-Credit unions may recall that at CUNA's Governmental Affairs Conference, CUNA President Dan Mica tried to tone down his anti-bank rhetoric while still driving home an anti-bank message, but the Texas Credit Union League was pulling no punches at its annual meeting, here.

With a tagline of "Defending the Frontlines of Financial Freedom," the entire theme of the meeting was cast in terms of war, combat and battle. The exposition hall, for example, was called the Command Post,

TCUL staff donned khaki scrubs to resemble Mobile Army Surgical Hospital personnel, TCUL's CU Resources booth was draped in camouflage netting, CUNA Mutual Group staff were sporting "military casual" and issuing dog tags. The league was selling plastic bracelets a la Lance Armstrong's yellow "Live Strong" campaign-but TCUL's version came in a camouflage print and bore the message "Support Our Troops." Proceeds of the sale of the bracelets will go to the USO.

But the greatest marketing challenge in using such a martial theme was in keeping the focus as positive as possible.

"When we heard what the theme was, we went out and bought a bunch of the little green army men, and we went through them picking out the ones that weren't using their guns," a CU Resources representative explained. "If you look at the little green army men we used on the cover of the program and elsewhere, they may be holding guns, but they're not aiming them or shooting them. In fact, in most cases, they're waving you on, exhorting you to join the cause."

League Earns Special Flag

DALLAS-The Texas CU League was proud to display an American flag it had been given by some local troops after the league went out of its way to greet members of the military who were returning home from Iraq. As the troops came off the plane, they were given goodie bags that had been assembled by league staffers. In appreciation, the returning troops gave the league an American flag that had been flown over Iraq, along with a certificate of authenticity and a photo of the flag as it was held aloft by a military helicopter.

All Eyes On BJ's Lawsuit

DALLAS-The credit card industry is keeping a close watch on the lawsuit filed by CUNA Mutual Group against BJ's Wholesale Club and Fifth Third Bank.

At issue is BJ's policy of capturing and storing the full magnetic stripe data of credit cards used by customers at point of service-a policy in direct violation of card association rules and which led to thousands of cardholder data being compromised.

"This is a very important lawsuit," said Glen Lee of TNB Card Services while on hand at the Texas CU League's annual meeting. "Everyone has taken a hit on this. We are definitely watching this suit."

Representatives of other credit card-related vendors, including InfiCorp agreed, noting they will also be monitoring the progress of the suit.

While the card issuers and processors hope that the suit will effect meaningful changes to merchant behavior, a number expressed their skepticism about the suit's ability to make that happen.

"Let's just say we're hopeful, but we're not optimistic," said one vendor. "Everyone's taking it on the chin on this. We had some fraud exposure. But will we see action? I'm not counting on it."

Part of the problem, Lee suggested, is the sheer size and bureaucracy of the associations. "It's hard to get something that big to change direction." And getting the card associations-who have the ability to impose fines and penalties on merchants like BJs, but have rarely done so-on board to help effect these changes, is no small feat.

"Something's got to be done," said Southwest Corporate CU Spokesperson Terry Young. "If nothing changes and compromises like this continue to happen, confidence in the system will crumble."

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