CHICAGO -- The Illinois Credit Union League is urging its members to set aside arguments over expansion and to close ranks against potential assaults by bankers.
At the league's annual meeting last week, president Danieleting D. Plauda asked credit unions to endorse the league's "Unity Campaign" and not to side with bankers against credut unions that are expanding their customer bases.
Mr. Plauda's call for unity was backed by H. Allen Carver, director of the National Credit Union Administration's southeast region. He said that credit unions that oppose expansions now might change their tune in the future.
"You may not lose your sponsor today, but you may tomorrow," he said in a speech at the league meeting. "Sometimes what goes around comes arond."
Increasingly, small credit unions are protesting against their larger brethern because many have been granted charters to serve more groups or entire communities. Bankers see this growth as a breach of credit unions' original function, which was to serve a group of people with a "common bond."
Credit unions in Massachusetts and Nebraska have testified at regulatory hearings against the expansion of other credit unions. In comment letters to the National Credit Union Administration, some small credit unions opposed regulations that would make it easier for institutions to expand their customer base.
Some Michigan credit unions were even planning to support banks in their suit against a rapidly growing credit union in Portland, Mr. Carver said. The state league persuaded them not to do so, he said.
"The unity campaign is a protective plan," Mr. Plauda said in an interview. "The field-of-membership issue is potentially divisive among credit unions. We want to make sure that people recognize that while we may have some differences of opinion we'll resolve them amongst ourselves."
"Mr. Plauda introduced a "Resolution for Unity" approved by the trade group's baord in March and asked credit unions to endorse it.
The banking industry's lawsuits over credit union expansion is a "coordinated campaign of harassment" that "includes a defined attempt to pit credit union against credit union in a effort to weaken the unified voice of credit unions, thereby making credit unions less effective on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures," the resolution said.
The league "wholeheartedly embraces the spirit of credit union unity to ensure credit unions maintain their strong unified voice for maximum legislative/regulatory effectiveness," the resolution said.
Bankers haven't field suit to block the expansion of any Illinois credit unions, but bankers have filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the NCUA to find out about credit union expansions in the state.
Last year the trade group set aside $25,000 to hire outside counsel if bankers filed a lawsuit, Mr. Plauda said.
"The idea of credit unions teaming up with banks to sue other credit unions is ludicrous," said Lloyd Fredendall, president of NaperTech Federal Credit Union in Naperville.
Mr. Carver said the agency board will vote May 12 on regulations making it easier for credit unions to expand.
The regulations include a provision that would allow any federal credit union to take in low-income groups, Mr. Carver said.
Mr. Carver called this a "CRA insurance plan."
Bankers have stepped up lobbying effort to get credit unions brought under the Community Reinvestment Act, and Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy 2d (D-Mass.) said he will hold hearings ont he subject.