members embittered by a string of high-profile blunders and perceived attacks. Over the past year the industry's largest trade group has lost control over corporate credit unions, lost money on its credit card subsidiary, and been slapped around on Capitol Hill. Now CUNA's board and the politically powerful state leagues are asserting themselves. By deposing president Ralph Swoboda and other top staffers, the directors and state officials are trying to chart a new course for the trade group. "I think that there were some folks who didn't get out of the office enough to know who they were working for," said David L. Chatfield, president of the California Credit Union League. "If you forget that, you'll be reminded." Industry observers and officials disagree over who pushed out Mr. Swoboda, but many point to the powerful league presidents as a driving force. CUNA's members aren't credit unions, but leagues from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. League officials denied that they pulled the strings in the ouster. But league officials clearly were unimpressed with their trade group's performance. "I think in some business decisions, and other decisions, they weren't always in line with a majority of CUNA's constituency," said Carroll D. Beach, president of the Colorado Credit Union League. Probably the biggest source of discontent was the financial losses suffered by CUNA's credit card subsidiary. Through the first eight months of 1995, the card unit's earnings of $41.2 million lagged behind operating expenses by $4.4 million, according to CUNA documents. Losses for the year could hit $15 million, sources said. Mr. Chatfield criticized a bungled and aborted effort to move credit card processing to Alltel Information Services from Banc One Financial Card Services Corp. "A little more investigation should have taken place in what was needed to run the software," said Mr. Chatfield, one of 14 league executives who serves on the 42-person CUNA board. Some directors felt that Mr. Swoboda failed to take action. Mr. Swoboda fired Bradford L. Murphy, executive vice president of fee- based services and chief of the card operation, on Nov. 3. CUNA director Stan Hollen said Mr. Swoboda might still have his job if he had cut loose Mr. Murphy earlier. "The board did what the board had to do," Mr. Hollen said. Looming ahead is a debate over whether CUNA Service Group, the trade group subsidiary that includes Card Services and CUNA Mortgage, should be spun off from the association, sources said. Leagues also had been dissatisfied with CUNA's lobbying performance on Capitol Hill, where credit unions were being targeted for congressional hearings and legislation. Jeanne-Marie Murphy, the trade group's lead congressional lobbyist, was fired and replaced by CUNA's former political action committee director John McKechnie. Beyond lobbying problems, Ms. Murphy was dumped because of run-ins with league executives and the ascendancy of the Republican Party on Capitol Hill. Ms. Murphy is a Democrat, and her replacement is a Republican. "It's a matter of matching our Washington office to the changing times," said a league official. One intangible in the upheaval in CUNA is the Renewal Project that Mr. Swoboda introduced this year to review the trade group's structure. Some league presidents saw their power being threatened, especially in the wake of a federal regulation that ended their control over corporates, sources said. League officials deny that as a motive in pushing out Mr. Swoboda, but the plan alienated some state associations. One industry observer said, "Ralph committed suicide when he introduced the Renewal Project. The renewal started with him."
Save $400 off your subscription. Special offer ends April 30, 2017.
No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.
Have an account? Sign In