Speculators Eye Lafayette FCU

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KENSINGTON, Md. – Dissident members of Lafayette FCU said yesterday they are approaching the necessary signatures to force a member vote on the future of credit union’s board of directors, currently engaged in a battle to convert the $330 million institution to a mutual savings bank. Scott Stiens, one of the members spearheading the petition drive, said he was thrown out of the credit union’s branch in the U.S. Small Business Administration yesterday, as he tried to collect names, but not before a dozen more members enlisted in the bid to recall the board. Separately, hot money appears to be rolling in to the prospective bank from new depositors hoping to cash in when the institutions goes public after switching to a bank. Stiens said while collecting signatures he encountered a local stock broker who said he was joining just to establish rights to buy the stock when the credit union turns bank. Other speculators are also reported to be finding ways to join through one of the credit union’s many select groups. Richard Lashley, a New Jersey speculator in mutual thrifts, said the practice of speculative depositors in mutual thrifts is a common one, especially as the market for thrift conversions has proved lucrative in recent years. Lashley, who won a proxy fight last year with converted credit union Synergy Financial (Synergy FCU), said he has deposits in several local mutuals in the speculation that they will eventually go public. One company, SNL Securities, in Charlottesville, Va., even publishes a list of credit unions that are a good bet to convert to mutual thrifts sometime in the future. Mutual thrift conversions, including those of former credit unions, have proved hot recently, with shares in Viewpoint Bank (Community CU), the most recent credit union convert to go public, up 73% since their October debut.

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