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Ore. CUs Try To Prevent Tax Bill

SALEM, Ore.-Credit union lobbyists insisted during a hearing on the credit union tax bill the measure should not be intertwined with legislation authorizing municipalities to deposit funds in credit unions.

"Let me make this clear," Pamela Leavitt, chief lobbyist for the CU Association of Oregon told the House Business and Labor Committee, "these are not companion bills; they're not even friends."

The CU lobby is working to prevent the tax bill from interfering with the public funds initiative, which has passed the state Senate and is poised for a vote by the Business and Labor panel.

"The tax issue is the Holy Grail of legislative issues for us. The public funds issue is important, but not in the same way," she said. Leavitt was testifying against the tax bill along with representatives from First Tech Credit Union and OSU Federal Credit Union, which holds the savings for Rep. Betsy Close, chair of the Business and Labor Committee.

Four community bankers and the Oregon Bankers Association testified in favor of the tax bill, which would apply the state's 6.6% excise tax to about a dozen state credit unions over $100 million in assets.

Venture Fund Is CU Beneficiary

SCHENECTADY, N.Y.-Two area credit unions, SEFCU and Sunmark FCU, have ponied up money to help create a $550,000 venture fund to help finance riskier area companies.

The fund, to be overseen by the Schenectady County Community Business Center, will provide so-called gap loans of as much as $50,000 to qualified borrowers.

Representatives for the two credit unions and nine participating banks will sit on the fund's board, which will make the final loan decisions.

HPCU Signs With Auto Loan Servicer

HOUSTON-Houston Postal CU said it signed with AutoCorp Services Inc., a unit of AutoCorp quities, of Frisco, Texas, to service the credit union's $78-million auto loan portfolio.

AutoCorp Equities specializes in the purchase, sale and servicing of prime and subprime consumer loans. The company also offers a credit union loan participation program that provides matching, servicing and management services on loan participations.

Wells Thumbs Nose At Regulators

SAN FRANCISCO-Wells Fargo & Co., the nation's biggest mortgage lender, said it will continue making home loans in California despite last week's action by the state's Department of Corporations revoking the company's residential mortgage license.

The state regulator moved to revoke the lucrative mortgage license when Wells said it need not comply with the state's per diem interest rules because they are preempted by the Office of Comptroller of the Currency's rules which govern Wells and other nationally chartered banks. A hearing was slated for last week.

Investment Advice Forbidden

ALEXANDRIA, Va.-An employee of a federal credit union may not give investment advice or sell securities to members or non-members, NCUA said.

In a new legal opinion provided to Sharon Whiddon, state credit union supervisor in Florida, NCUA said such activities are not covered under the agency's Incidental Powers rule.

However, employees may offer general financial counseling to members, or investment advice if they are representing a third-party vendor as a shared employee of both the credit union and the vendor.

Sailor Expelled for Salty Remarks

MONTEREY, Calif.-A sailor at the Navy's postgraduate school here was expelled from the Navy and denied all benefits after a military court-martial found him guilty of making rude and indecent remarks while doing his credit union business.

Signalman 3rd Class Lamont Clayton, 28, was convicted of three counts of use of indecent language for remarks he made to a female employee at Navy FCU's on-base branch here and to two female workers at Central Coastal CU's branch in nearby Seaside. He was acquitted on the charge of disobeying an order barring him from returning to Coastal CU to dissuade employees from testifying against him.

A U.S. military jury found that Lamont's action brought "discredit upon himself and the Navy," said Lt. Commander Joseph Navratil, spokesman for the Navy. As a result of the court-martial Clayton will receive a bad-conduct discharge from the Navy and be demoted from Petty Officer to Seaman and be denied all military benefits, Navratil told The Credit Union Journal. Lamont is expected to appeal the ruling.

Funds Still Pour Into CUs

MADISON, Wis.-Another $6 billion of new savings flowed into credit unions in March, helping push the nation's credit unions over the $600 billion mark in assets for the first time, according to CUNA.

More than $27 billion of new savings poured into credit unions for the first quarter, a 5.5% growth rate for what is usually a period of high savings growth. "This year is sort of looking like the first three months of last year," said CUNA economist Mike Schenk. Lending continued to be flat, growing at just a 0.25% rate for the month, and less than 1% for the first quarter.

"Loan growth has been anemic and it still trails savings growth by a wide margin," Schenk told The Credit Union Journal.

Fixed-rate first mortgage (1.5%) and used car loans (1%) were the only lending showing any real growth, he said ew car loans, ARMs and home equity loans, declined.

For March, regular shares and money market accounts rose by a little more than 2%, while share draft (checking) balances declined less than 1%.

NCUA Focuses On Dwindling Small CUs

ALEXANDRIA, Va.-NCUA created an internal working group to deal with the growing numbers of small credit unions disappearing through mergers or acquisitions.

"Small credit unions, those under $10 million, are the icons of credit unions," said NCUA Board member Deborah Matz, who created the agency task force. "They also represent 50% of all federally insured credit unions.

However, they face unique challenges." She noted that 90 small credit unions disappeared through the first quarter of the year, after the elimination of 312 small credit unions last year. The group will explore survival strategies for small credit unions and ways to leverage the agency's Small CU Program.

Where There's Smoke There's A Botched CU Robbery

KARNS, Tenn.-Firefighters responded to ORNL FCU early Monday morning but smoke climbing from the credit union branch was not caused by a fire but by a failed attempt to cut through the ATM inside the building with a power saw.

Firefighters called to the site at 5 am found an assailant had broken the glass front door and was trying to break into the ATM. The robbery attempt was apparently foiled when the robber or robbers heard the sirens of approaching fire trucks, authorities said.

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