All credit unions are not created equal.
A legislative proposal, which we have advanced jointly with five other national bank trade associations, makes clear an important distinction that the credit union industry to date has preferred not to recognize: There is no longer a single credit union industry, but two.
Large credit unions, by their very nature, operate so far outside the traditional credit union movement as to not be credit unions at all. A relatively small number of very large credit unions are contributing to the destruction of their own movement.
These large credit unions are the ones that must change. They're the objects of our legislative proposal. They should be taxed like banks, be obligated to reinvest in the community like banks, and assume other bank regulatory obligations.
Under our proposal, the majority of credit unions should see no change in their tax-exempt status or their regulatory treatment.
These "traditional" credit unions would be allowed to serve their members as in the past. And there would be a special exception for credit unions set up to serve low-income neighborhoods.
Those larger credit unions that want to continue to grow and take on many new common bonds could continue to do so, provided they pay federal income taxes similar to other business cooperatives, meet community reinvestment requirements, and follow tighter safety and soundness regulations, which have already been recommended by the Treasury Department. Or they could convert to mutual savings banks, as some have done.
Our compromise proposal will probably do more to preserve and strengthen the traditional credit union movement than the credit union legislation that is now collecting co-sponsors in Congress.
And I might add that we have yet to see any compromise advanced by the credit unions' trade associations.
It's time they come to the table. What's fair is that all financial firms choosing to compete for the same customers with the same financial services be subject to the same rules.