Sen. Lauch Faircloth, R-N.C., said Tuesday that Congress should ease credit union membership restrictions if the Supreme Court decides to limit who may join the nonprofit institutions.

Sen. Faircloth, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee's financial institutions and regulatory relief subcommittee, said competition from credit unions is not to blame for the slow growth of bank deposits.

"The challenge for Congress is not to restrict the growth of any depository institution but to reduce excessive regulation, paperwork, and taxation," he said in a prepared statement.

Sen. Faircloth noted that a Feb. 3 General Accounting Office study showed that banks in North Carolina have enjoyed strong deposit and asset increases despite phenomenal growth at AT&T Family Federal Credit Union, which is based in Winston-Salem. During the past five years AT&T's assets grew 94%; deposits, 90%, according to the study. North Carolina banks showed asset growth of 140% during the period, while deposits climbed 91%.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on whether the National Credit Union Administration broke the law by allowing AT&T to add new employer groups to its membership.

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