A couple of dozen credit union veterans are banding together to boost the industry's image on Capitol Hill.
Troubled by some lawmakers' recent suggestions that the industry might be headed for a crisis, 25 executives plan to gather data proving the doomsayers wrong and take that message to policymakers.
"People have got to understand this is not in any way a troubled industry," said David Chatfield, chief executive of the California Credit Union League. He said he is the only non-credit union employee of the ad hoc group, which calls itself the National Alliance of Credit Unions.
Mr. Chatfield added that he is in the group as an individual, not as a representative of the league.
So far the group is still getting organized. But the costs of retaining financial experts, lobbyists, and public relations experts could run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, Mr. Chatfield said.
The group already has retained a lobbyist, Brian Lunde, of the McLean, Va., government relations firm, Decision Management Inc. Mr. Lunde was executive director of the Democratic National Committee from 1985 to 1986.
Mr. Chatfield said the officials decided to form the alliance about a month ago in the wake of congressional hearings on the failure of Capital Corporate Federal Credit Union. Several lawmakers said the corporate's collapse - caused by a speculative investment policy - was reminiscent of the thrift crisis.
"Is this deja vu all over again?" Rep. Marge Roukema said at a hearing of the House Banking's subcommittee on financial institutions and consumer credit, which the New Jersey Republican chairs.
Moreover, some in the industry feel that NCUA Chairman Norman E. D'Amours has been encouraging this overreaction.
"There's a tendency by the NCUA to create a problem to solve a problem," said one source close to the group.
For example, the source said agency could have solved the Cap Corp situation with much less negative publicity. Further, NCUA's response to the debacle is a proposed regulation that goes too far in tightening corporate capital and investment requirements, he said.
The comment period on that proposal has been extended until Aug. 25.
"This guy (Mr. D'Amours) is playing political hardball," the source said.