Why You Need To Comment On The FOM Proposal
In the movie The Untouchables, in which Kevin Costner plays an idealistic Eliot Ness trying to take down Al Capone within the law, an exasperated, street-wise beat cop played by Sean Connery explains that to take down the mob, if they put one of your guys in the hospital, you put one of their guys in the morgue.
News Flash: The banking lobby is out to kill the credit union industry or at least maul it beyond recognition. This is one of those times when it’s important to fight back for the sake of fighting back. I am usually not a big fan of comment letters for the sake of comment letters but this is an exception. And if you get a chance, tell your Congressmen and Senators that the Bankers have gone off the deep end.
The ostensible issue triggering the latest scrap is NCUA’s proposed amendments to its Chartering and Field of Membership manual to give federal credit unions greater flexibility in expanding their fields of membership. As highlighted by an article in this morning’s American Banker, the bankers are going downright apoplectic over the proposal, implying that NCUA is trying to circumvent the law and putting tax dollars at risk. We have heard it all before. (http://www.americanbanker.com/news/community-banking/fight-over-credit-union-membership-flares-up-again-1079054-1.html?utm_medium=email&ET=americanbanker:e5995385:4561993a:&utm_source=newsletter&utm_campaign=daily%20briefing-jan%2028%202016&st=email&eid=346f8f5eef3bcd6205524af410f42291)
In reality, many of the proposed changes, though important, are not the type of fundamental changes that would provide huge benefits for all credit unions. This is not a criticism of NCUA simply a recognition of the fact that it is adhering to the laws that bankers are suggesting they are seeking to violate. The result is that the banking industry is more ginned up in opposing these regulations than the industry is about supporting it. And that has to change. There are some fights that have to be fought out of principal, and this is one of them.
I’m not suggesting that NCUA will back away from these amendments. What concerns me is that, in an age when the person who screams the loudest, no matter how incoherently he rants, gets the most attention. Banks are coming across as more upset over the proposal than credit unions are enthusiastic about it. While both reactions make some sense this is the latest skirmish in which the industry has to fight back and fight back hard.
Why is it so important? The banking industry has a two prong strategy for attacking our industry: (1) Keep it from growing by strangling credit unions within their antiquated FOM constraints; and (2) end the tax exempt status of the industry by arguing that it is putting community banks at risk and is somehow unworthy of the exemption.
The first goal can be achieved primarily with lawsuits and regulatory advocacy. The second goal is a legislative one.
The uncompromising opposition of bankers to any credit union growth already has impacted all credit unions. The implicit message the banks consistently send to politicians is that helping credit unions simply isn’t worth the hassle. And NCUA’s amendments, while helpful, are still more restrictive than they need to be. The industry has to lay the groundwork for amendments more dramatic than HR 1151. If it doesn’t use this and other opportunities to be heard above the banker noise, this is never going to happen.