Credit union trade groups continue to trade jibes with National Credit Union Administration Chairman Norman E. D'Amours over his proposal to impose Community Reinvestment Act-like obligations on the nonprofits.
In an Aug. 24 letter, Mr. D'Amours assailed the National Association of Federal Credit Unions for suggesting that doing business with the poor is risky and incompatible with safety and soundness.
"Low-income persons do not represent unmanageable credit risks," he wrote. "The mistaken belief that they do is what caused bankers to shun such people." He said credit unions could do "much more" to give low-income people an alternative to predatory lenders.
The letter was in response to an Aug. 4 missive from NAFCU president Kenneth L. Robinson, which blamed excessive regulatory oversight for the failure to meet some poor people's needs. "You would prefer to issue a burdensome edict," Mr. Robinson wrote. "NAFCU would prefer liberation."
Under Mr. D'Amours' proposal, federal credit unions would have to include in their business plans a strategy for providing more services to low-income members. NCUA examiners would evaluate each credit union's performance in the course of routine safety-and-soundness exams.
If a nonprofit's efforts fell short, examiners would privately suggest fixes and would have the authority to reject any applications to serve new employer groups or switch to a "community" charter.
Mr. D'Amours' proposal has drawn a great deal of fire since he unveiled it July 28. He has publicly feuded with Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm, R-Tex., who has scheduled a Sept. 9 hearing on the proposal.
In an Aug. 18 letter, the Credit Union National Association urged Mr. D'Amours to drop the idea and focus on safety-and-soundness issues. NAFCU and CUNA have become increasingly bold in their confrontations with Mr. D'Amours since his six-year term expired Aug. 2. The former New Hampshire lawmaker is free to remain in office until a successor is appointed.
Mr. D'Amours has said he will formally introduce the proposal at the his agency's Sept. 16 board meeting.