Georgia Credit Union Executives and CUNA Prep for 112th Congress

Woodall swearing-in
From left: Mike Mercer, GCUA; U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall; Cindy Connelly, GCUA; GCUL First Vice Chair Marshall Boutwell, and GCUL Chair Greg Connor

On January 5th a small contingent of Georgia credit union executives traveled to D.C. to help kick off the 112th Congress for members and staff of the Georgia delegation. League Chair Greg Connor and First Vice Chair Marshall Boutwell, along with Mike Mercer and Cindy Connelly, traveled to D.C. to see the newest members of the Georgia delegation sworn in. The group spent time with both newly elected Georgia Congressmen Rob Woodall and Austin Scott at their swearing-in receptions and then spent the day visiting Georgia congressional leaders, both incoming and returning members and their staffs in their offices. After the Congress convened, the House of Representatives elected the Speaker of the House, swore in Representatives and approved officers and a rules package. The House also began the process of electing members to standing committees, including the House Financial Services Committee, which saw Representatives Lynn Westmoreland and David Scott from Georgia appointed. The House should be in session sporadically through the end of the month. It was set to take up repealing the recently passed health care legislation this week, but the tragic events of this past weekend delayed that discussion until the week of January 17th. Most political insiders believe that other than health care repeal the House will avoid discussion of any large-scale legislation until after President Barack Obama has completed his State of the Union address on January 25th.

Read more
 

Washington, D.C. News

Georgia Credit Union Executives and CUNA Prep for 112th Congress
Another Possible Agenda Item for the 112th Congress
CFPB to Consider CU Concerns

State News

First Day of the Session: Snow, Ice & the Removal of Power
Tax Council Releases Recommendations
Day Two – “State of the State” Address and Senate Committees Announced… Then Recess
Revenue Numbers Jump in December

Industry News

Fed Website Explains New Credit Notices
Overdraft, NSF Fees and Budget Discussed at NCUA January Meeting

Public Influence

People Helping People ... WOCCU Collecting Donations for Flood Relief in Australia
WalletPop: ‘Check out Your Local Credit Union’
AJC: Is Free Checking Coming to an End?
REAL Deal: ‘Burning Money’ Series New to FoolProof
Credit Unions Seeking to Open New Doors in Georgia
What Other States Are Seeing: Consumer Awareness Translates to CU Growth
WGXA-TV Shares Tips to Pay Off Holiday Debt
WNEG in Athens Warns: Beware of Add-on Fees
Statewide News Coverage
CUs in the News
Consider This
Paying Attention

News of the Competition

Bank of America Revamping Fees
Banks Lose Pivotal Mortgage Case
Synovus to Cut Branches and Jobs

 
January 14, 2011
 
Project ZIP Code
 
Contact Your Legislator
 
Maximize the Power of the Media
 
State Legislative Update Page
 
 
Georgia Credit Union Affiliates
AMERICA'S CREDT UNIONS
Extend the Reach of Creating Influence
Stay on top of what's happening with credit union advocacy by reading Creating Influence, the Georgia Credit Union Affiliates' advocacy e-newsletter! If you’d like to be added to the distribution list, email Advocacy@gcua.org or call an Advocacy Team member – Cindy Connelly, Mike Culbertson, Anita Paul or Brandee Bickle – at 800-768-4282.
 
Washington, D.C. News
 

Georgia Credit Union Executives and CUNA Prep for 112th Congress

On January 5th a small contingent of Georgia credit union executives traveled to D.C. to help kick off the 112th Congress for members and staff of the Georgia delegation. League Chair Greg Connor and First Vice Chair Marshall Boutwell, along with Mike Mercer and Cindy Connelly, traveled to D.C. to see the newest members of the Georgia delegation sworn in. The group spent time with both newly elected Georgia Congressmen Rob Woodall and Austin Scott at their swearing-in receptions and then spent the day visiting Georgia congressional leaders, both incoming and returning members and their staffs in their offices. After the Congress convened, the House of Representatives elected the Speaker of the House, swore in Representatives and approved officers and a rules package. The House also began the process of electing members to standing committees, including the House Financial Services Committee, which saw Representatives Lynn Westmoreland and David Scott from Georgia appointed. The House should be in session sporadically through the end of the month.  It was set to take up repealing the recently passed health care legislation this week, but the tragic events of this past weekend delayed that discussion until the week of January 17th. Most political insiders believe that other than health care repeal the House will avoid discussion of any large-scale legislation until after President Barack Obama has completed his State of the Union address on January 25th.

While visiting the offices of Representatives Westmoreland and Scott, the group asked those members to reach out to the leadership of the House Financial Services Committee to hold hearings on the Federal Reserve's recently proposed interchange fee regulations, and urged the Fed to delay implementation of the new rules until the Congress can complete a full discussion of the rules with all parties involved. During the meetings they delivered a copy of the letter authored by CUNA President Bill Cheney to incoming House Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus and Ranking Member Barney Frank, urging them to hold hearings on the Federal Reserve Board’s proposed rule related to interchange fees. See attached letter.

In addition, discussions were held with legislators about credit unions’ request for increased limits on member business lending. Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) has confirmed that he will reintroduce the legislation in the 112th Congress. The legislation would lift the cap to 27.5% of a credit union's total assets, and could create up to $10 billion in new funding for small businesses. This untapped source of funding would create over 100,000 new jobs at no cost to taxpayers.
Back to top
 
 

ForeclosureAnother Possible Agenda Item for the 112th Congress

As the 112th Congress focuses on modifying the Dodd-Frank Act, both regulators and lawmakers have pointed to the need for national mortgage servicing and foreclosure standards (American Banker Jan.3). Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), outgoing chairman of the Financial Services Committee, has said conflicting incentives to foreclose or seek other loss-mitigation options have created a need for new servicing standards in the wake of recent problems with loan modifications. Both Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), outgoing chairman of the Banking Committee, and Sen. Tim Johnson (R-S.D.), who is in line to succeed Dodd, have invited regulators to submit a proposal for national mortgage servicing standards. One area of conflict of particular concern for regulators and lawmakers is when one company services a first mortgage for an investor pool and a second one for a different party. Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) has proposed legislation that would prevent such conflict.
Back to top
 
 

CFPB to Consider CU Concerns

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is looking at ways to streamline truth in lending and Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) rules, and would welcome CUNA input on how the regulatory burden on credit unions could be reduced, CFPB official Steve Antonakes told CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney in a recent meeting. Cheney, along with Massachusetts Credit Union League Senior Vice President/General Counsel Mary Ann Clancy, CUNA General Counsel Eric Richard, Associate General Counsel Mary Dunn, and Chief Economist Bill Hampel, met with Antonakes to ensure that credit union concerns about regulatory burdens are considered as the new CFPB is organized. The credit union representatives during the meeting told Antonakes that credit unions are very concerned about compliance costs and the possibility of further compliance burdens on credit unions.

During the meeting, Antonakes noted that credit unions did not cause the financial crisis, and, in fact "have served as a source of strength for their members" during the ongoing economic recovery. If the CFPB's actions result in increased costs for credit unions and lead to unnecessary consolidation and reduced consumer choice, then the agency will have failed to achieve its strategic goals, Antonakes added. Antonakes currently serves as head of the CFPB's Depository Institution Supervision Department. The CFPB, which was created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation package, will develop rules governing consumer financial products like credit cards and mortgages and will seek to improve the transparency and consumer-friendliness of many financial products. Antonakes' department will focus on supervision of financial institutions with assets over $10 billion. Credit unions with assets below that threshold will remain under the supervision of NCUA or their respective state regulators. The CFPB is still in development, and the agency is expected to be running by July 21, 2011.
Back to top
 
 
State News
 

First Day of the Session: Snow, Ice & the Removal of Power

Capitol and snowThe state legislative session is required to commence the second Monday in January per the State Constitution . . . regardless of what Mother Nature has planned. The weather that crippled part of the state and almost all of Atlanta prompted legislators to sleep in their offices, or be shipped in via state troopers on January 10th. But the ice wasn’t just on the outside of the Gold Dome . . . the Senate began the session by formally stripping Lt. Governor Casey Cagle of much of his authority over the chamber in a 40-12 vote.

While this move was anticipated, it was rumored that Cagle could secure the votes in the weeks leading up to the session to withstand this power shift. He did not: Cagle lost his power to name committee chairmen, assign senators to committees and handle the nominations from the governor that require Senate confirmation. The lieutenant governor, though he formally presides over the body, is now required to yield to President pro tem Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, or Majority Leader Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, should either man rise to speak. But the lieutenant governor retains control of the Senate purse strings, the hiring and firing of staff, and the power to name members of conference committees. The “rebellion” was engineered in November by Senate Republicans angry over Cagle’s commitment of GOP votes to a hospital bed tax needed to balance the budget last year. Monday’s action made the coup official. Given the way the session began, it may be an interesting 40 days.

Want to know more about the state session and how it could impact credit unions? Plan to attend the Grassroots Academy on January 27th – register today!

Back to top
 
 

Tax Council Releases Recommendations

The special council charged with remodeling Georgia's tax code released its long-awaited recommendations on January 7th, which include adding a 4 percent sales tax to groceries for the first time in 15 years. The recommendations by the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness also proposed lowering the personal income tax from its current 6 percent to 4 percent by 2014. The council recommended a similar step-down for corporate income tax. Cutting the corporate income taxes was a campaign promise of Nathan Deal, who was inaugurated as the state's new governor amidst the snow and ice on January 10th.

CalculatorOther recommendations include increasing the state's cigarette tax of 37 cents a pack to 68 cents and simplifying the state's system of business tax credits. The council also attacked a patchwork of services and items not subject to the state sales tax, including safe deposit box rentals, credit card membership fees, and person-to-person sales of cars, boats and airplanes. Several tax exemptions are being recommended to sunset or be abolished, but the council kept exemptions on business and agricultural inputs. The council also recommended adding sales tax exemptions for energy used in manufacturing, mining and agriculture.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on January 7th that observers who hoped the council was leaning toward lower taxes on income and higher taxes on consumer purchases were not disappointed. "Consistent with our Guiding Principles, you'll see a shift in emphasis from taxing income and investments to an emphasis in taxing consumption where a wide range of personal choices can be made," Council Chairman A.D. Frazier said in a statement accompanying the recommendations.

The recommendations now to go the Special Joint Committee on Georgia Revenue Structure, a 12-member body made up of House and Senate leaders that will be charged with writing the recommendations into one or several bills. The committee is expected to hold a series of hearings during the new session of the General Assembly, which also began on January 10th. The Government Influence Team will continue to work with legislators on this proposal . . . many legislators have shared privately that they are displeased with how the bill must be addressed: if the committee votes to pass the changes, they will move to the full House for an up-or-down vote and no amendments can be made once the bill or bills leave the joint committee. If the House votes in favor, the changes then move to the Senate floor for a vote. Stay tuned.
Back to top
 
 

Day Two – 'State of the State' Address and Senate Committees Announced… Then Recess

Deal
Gov. Nathan Deal, center, presents his State of the State address

After taking off Tuesday because of the snow and ice, the legislature settled down for day two and Governor Deal’s “State of the State” address. Deal's speech focused largely on the economy and his first executive budget proposals, which were released as he was speaking. For the remainder of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, Deal said, state agencies will have to absorb $27.5 million in cuts. For fiscal 2012, beginning July 1, the average cut to agencies will be 7 percent, although not all agencies will be treated the same.

Also on day two, the Senate Committee on Assignments announced that four Democrats will chair committees during the next two years, 18 committees will break in new chairmen this year and three freshmen will be chairmen. That’s twice the number of Democrats that Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle appointed two years ago.

The new chairmen who are Republicans are Sens. Jack Murphy of Cumming, Banking & Financial Institutions; Ronnie Chance of Tyrone, Economic Development; Fran Millar of Dunwoody, Education & Youth; John Crosby of Tifton, Ethics; Bill Heath of Bremen, Finance; Judson Hill of Marietta, Government Oversight; Renee Unterman of Buford, Health & Human Services; Jim Butterworth of Cornelia, Higher Education; Greg Goggans of Douglas, Insurance & Labor; Bill Hamrick of Carrollton, Judiciary; Johnny Grant of Milledgeville, Public Safety; Mitch Seabaugh of Sharpsburg, Redistricting; Tim Golden of Valdosta, Retirement; Barry Loudermilk of Cassville, Science & Technology; Butch Miller of Gainesville, State and Local Government Operations; and Buddy Carter of Pooler, State Institutions & Properties.

Also announced were the 10 additional members of the Senate Banking & Financial Institutions Committee. They are:

House leaders are still deciding on their committee assignments. House Speaker David Ralston has said he expects to have some announcements by the end of the week. Since office assignments depend on the chairmanships, legislators will spend next week moving in. The General Assembly plans to be in recess until January 24.
Back to top
 
 

Revenue Numbers Jump in December

On January 7th, now former Governor Sonny Perdue announced that net revenue collections for the month of December 2010 (FY11) totaled $1,555,058,000 compared to $1,402,181,000 for December 2009 (FY10), an increase of $152,877,000 or 10.9 percent. The percentage increase for FY11 compared to FY10 is 8.1 percent. See the details here.
Back to top
 
 
Industry News
 

Fed Website Explains New Credit Notices

The Federal Reserve yesterday released a new online publication – What You Need to Know: New Rules About Credit Decisions and Notices – that is intended to help consumers understand the new notices they may receive from lenders when credit reports or credit scores affect a loan decision.

The notices are mandated by Fed and Federal Trade Commission rules that took effect Jan. 1. The rules generally require a creditor to provide a consumer with a notice when, based on the consumer's credit report, the creditor provides a loan with less-favorable terms than those provided to other consumers. Read more. Read the online publication.

Back to top
 
 

Overdraft, NSF Fees and Budget Discussed at NCUA January Meeting

The first NCUA meeting of 2011 took place on January 13th, and part 707 of the NCUA's Rules and Regulations, Truth in Savings was a part of the day's discussion. The Federal Reserve and the NCUA in 2009 amended their respective Truth in Savings regulations to require all financial institutions to disclose on the periodic statement the fees charged for overdraft services and the fees charged for returning items unpaid, both for the statement period and for the year-to-date. NCUA approved the final rule and it is identical to the interim final rule.

NCUA logoThe 2011 NCUA annual performance budget was approved. The plan provides short-term direction and communicates yearly objectives to NCUA staff and CU members. And NCUA also approved a proposal that would clarify how the NCUA Supervisory Review Committee works. The new policy statement combines two Interpretative Ruling and Policy Statements (IRPSs) and adds denials of technical assistance grant (TAG) reimbursements to the types of determinations that credit unions may appeal to NCUA’s Supervisory Review Committee. The new IRPS, once published in the Federal Register, will replace the earlier IRPSs addressing the Supervisory Review Committee.

         During the customary review of the agency's credit union share insurance fund it was noted that the total of 28 CU failures in 2010 matches 2009’s number. The NCUA has also released the schedule for its additional 2011 meetings, with the second and third meetings of the year taking place on February 17 and March 17. The majority of the spring and early summer meetings will take place near the middle of the month. The agency will take its customary August break before returning for the fall and winter meetings.
Back to top
 
 
Public Influence
 

WOCCUPeople Helping People ... WOCCU Collecting Donations for Flood Relief in Australia

The Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions, part of WOCCU, is working with the Credit Union Foundation Australia to channel funds to assist with credit union rebuilding and relief in response to the flash flooding occurring in Queensland, Australia. These floods have been called an ‘’ inland tsunami” and have caused massive service disruptions for Australian credit unions. If your credit union is interested in contributing to this relief effort, please visit here.
Back to top
 
 

InsightWalletPop: ‘Check out Your Local Credit Union’

On January 11th, AOL consumer finance website WalletPop.com, in an article on what financial products they should choose and which ones they should leave behind, advised young adults to check out their local credit unions. The article advised young consumers of financial services to opt for a bank or credit union checking account over a prepaid debit card. The article specifically pointed cost-conscious readers to credit unions. "Our experts recommend checking out local credit unions, since these often have lower fees than banks," the article said. Prepaid cards don't offer the same protections as checking accounts, the article said. With monthly fees and activities charges, prepaid cards also tend to be more expensive than checking accounts.
Back to top
 
 

AJC: Is Free Checking Coming to an End?

In an article on January 7th, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that free checking at financial institutions could become harder to find. In the wake of Bank of America’s recent announcement of new checking account options that have “new strings – and sometimes fees – attached,” the expectation is that other banks will follow suit. In the article Greg McBride, senior financial analyst with Bankrate.com, commented that about 65 percent of banks currently provide some form of free checking, and about 23 percent offer customers free checking in exchange for things like using direct deposit or keeping a certain amount of cash in an account. However, “For consumers that are proactive about avoiding fees there are still plenty of options,” said McBride.

BofA plans to test its new offerings on new customers in Georgia and two other states before a national rollout for all customers starting later this year. Fees will range from $9 to potentially $25 per month – about $110 to $300 per year – on the four new accounts. On the most basic bank account, customers will have to pony up about $9 per month, with no exceptions. “Anxieties are very high about how to deal with [new regulations],” said Mike Mercer, president and CEO of Georgia Credit Union Affiliates.
Back to top
 
 

REAL Deal: ‘Burning Money’ Series New to FoolProof

Six weeks ago, consumer advocates began a national effort to offer the “Burning Money” financial literacy curriculum to all the high schools in the United States – for free, with no strings attached. The project is only offered by credit unions, and is designed to help already overworked and underfunded school systems to teach meaningful financial literacy. One of its national sponsors is the not-for-profit Education Credit Union Council (ECUC).

Sally Fontenot, ECUC’s president, said this about this major credit union initiative: “Our group believes Burning Money is the most innovative and ethical teaching tool available today for high school teachers who want to help their students achieve financial literacy.” Burning Money has made an impact on teachers and administrators because it teaches much more than rote financial skills. Burning Money teaches kids how to make wise spending decisions. No other financial literacy program does that. The Burning Money series uses each student’s individual spending habits as a key teaching tool. “Burning Money is not about teaching theory, it is about facing reality,” says Will deHoo, the young creator of Burning Money. “Students using the program are required to keep detailed records of their spending habits for seven days. Our software then helps each student evaluate those spending habits. Most students are stunned by the amount of money they throw away,” deHoo said.

Burning Money is unique because it goes beyond the teaching of budgeting and saving. “What good does it do to teach budgeting and saving if you don’t know how to make spending decisions?” asked deHoo. “Most young people have no training when it comes to where and how they spend money. Their spending decisions are knee-jerk decisions, made without thinking." For additional information about implementing the FoolProof Financial Literacy Program, which includes Burning Money, contact Dan Denning at dand@gcua.org or (770) 476-9625 ext. 3425.
Back to top
 
 

Open doorCredit Unions Seeking to Open New Doors in Georgia

On Sunday, January 10th the Rome-News Tribune published an article quoting several credit union executives. Mike Mercer, Ron Tomlinson and Diana Houston met with the reporter late last week as he was developing his story… and as you can see he made sure to get quotes from quite a few additional local credit union advocates. To read the article click here: RN-T.com - Credit unions seeking to open new doors in Georgia

Back to top
 
 

What Other States Are Seeing: Consumer Awareness Translates to CU Growth

For all the good publicity credit unions have generated from campaigns such as MoveYourMoney.org or consumer backlash against big banks, the national enthusiasm does not appear to be translating to membership growth. Across the country credit unions grew at a 0.7% rate through September 30th. Total loans were down 1.2%. But credit union leagues in three states with coordinated awareness programs say they are bucking those trends – and they cite data to back it up:

Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association's (PCUA) iBelong awareness program has been in place for three years. Michael Wishnow, senior vice president of communications and marketing, said Pennsylvania credit unions had either lagged or maintained pace with national credit union growth statistics for 25 years when a group of state credit union CEOs convened to see what they could do about improving that status. "It all came down to one thing: awareness," said Wishnow. PCUA leaders thought awareness was so vital to their financial health that they created a mandatory assessment for member credit unions to fund the iBelong campaign, Wishnow said. The funding was used primarily to produce a high-quality TV/radio ad campaign. Wishnow said he believes – and just as importantly, PCUA's members believe – the investment has translated into growth. He cited 2010 second quarter data: Pennsylvania credit unions have exceeded national rates in membership growth (2.2% vs. 0.9%), assets (8.9% vs. 3.8%), and loans (5.4% vs. -0.9%). In part, because of that success the amount Pennsylvania credit unions are assessed for the iBelong campaign will decrease by one-third in 2011. Credit unions under $20 million in assets will pay $7 per million. Credit unions between $20 million and $50 million in assets pay $27 per million. Those $50 million and over in assets will pay $40 per million. The association's credit union service organization, Pacul, also will make a $50,000 contribution to the campaign, which will cost $1.1 million in 2011, down slightly from $1.2 million in 2010.

New Jersey: New Jersey Credit Union League (NJCUL) President Paul Gentile also attributes his state's credit union growth to increased public awareness. The NJCUL's "New Jersey Credit Unions: Banking You Can Trust" campaign can be seen and heard on radio and cable TV and in New Jersey Transit stations and on buses. New Jersey credit unions grew by nearly 25,000 members in the first half of 2010. As of the third quarter, member loans had increased by 1.9%, compared with a national decline among credit unions of -1.2%. Member business loans at New Jersey credit unions rose at a 17% rate. Nationally, credit union member business lending increased at a 7% for the third quarter. First mortgages at New Jersey credit unions were up by 9.3%, compared to a 2.3% rate nationally. "The branding campaign is definitely helping," Gentile said. "We're pushing everybody to the [national credit union finder] Web site. New Jersey gets the second most visits of any state in the country, so we know we're getting people to visit that site. We think they're signing up for memberships and taking out loans." Gentile said New Jersey credit unions contribute to the campaign on a voluntary basis. "As a league, we think telling the credit union story is so important that we are willing to subsidize it on our own," Gentile said.

Michigan: Nowhere has the effect of the recession been felt more directly than Michigan, which has experienced the restructuring of auto industry. Yet Michigan credit unions have grown the past two years. Michigan credit unions added more than 50,000 members in 2010, the second straight year it has surpassed that figure. By comparison, that's nearly three times the 17,000 members added in 2008, the league said. Michigan had 4.5 million credit union members as of the end of September, and 44% of the state's residents do at least some of their banking at credit unions. Among the 10 most populous states, Michigan has the highest rate of credit union membership. MCUL President/CEO David Adams said he believes strong cooperative advertising programs such as Own Your Money and Invest in America made Michigan credit unions stand out at a time when banks fell out of favor with many consumers. "Michigan has always been a strong credit unions state, but as the state has lost population in the past decade, credit union membership growth has been negligible," Adams said. "That is, until the past two years." That's when Michigan credit unions kicked in more than $3.4 million for the "Own Your Money" and "Invest in America" messages. Invest in America was a partnership with automakers that offered credit union members savings on GM vehicles while marketing the benefits of credit union membership.

Own Your Money is a TV and radio advertising campaign geared to 18- to 34-year-olds, with an underlying message that credit unions offer member-focus, value and personal control.
Back to top
 
 

DebtWGXA-TV Shares Tips to Pay Off Holiday Debt

In a story that aired on WGXA-TV in Macon, Christina O’Brien, vice president of risk management at Robins Federal Credit Union, shared tips to help consumers pay off their credit cards and avoid getting stuck in debt. Tips include:

  • Budget for living expenses
  • Pay off high interest rate cards first
  • Pay on time to avoid late fees
  • Be careful applying for credit cards that offer initial low interest rates
  • Make a budget for shopping and stick to it
  • Pay with cash as much as possible
  • Establish an account with a financial institution that will be used only for holiday shopping
To view the story, click here.
Back to top
 
 

WNEG in Athens Warns: Beware of Add-on Fees

New banking regulations may end up costing consumers while saving merchants billions of dollars around the nation. The Federal Reserve has placed a cap on interchange fees – fees that banks charge merchants to process debit card transactions. Laws like this that limit banks' profits are causing fee creeps or add-on charges for things like minimum account balances. According to a recent USAToday article, Chase Bank is charging $6.00 when account holders make direct deposits worth less than $500. This and other add-on charges are what some are calling the banking industry's way of making money despite tighter regulations by the Federal Reserve. "So, you'll see fees just kind of popping up on a lot of different services that you did not experience before," Bill Bland with Georgia United Credit Union told WNEG News. Click here to read the story.
Back to top
 
 

Statewide News Coverage

Get the latest in statewide news coverage, click here.

Back to top
 
 

CUs in the News

Get the latest in local CU coverage, click here

Back to top
 
 

Consider This

View archives of this monthly e-news brief sent to journalists, click here.

Back to top
 
 

Paying Attention

View the quarterly report and poll of Georgia credit union members and CU trends, click here.

Back to top
 
 
News of the Competition
 

Bank of America cardBank of America Revamping Fees

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on January 5th that Bank of America is revamping its checking account lineup, including some with new strings or fees attached, and Georgia will be one of its test markets. The Charlotte-based banking giant is the first of the big banks to try a complete overhaul of offerings but others are sure to follow, industry experts say, and that will likely mean new or higher fees or conditions on accounts for most consumers.

Bank of America – metro Atlanta’s third-largest bank by market share – will roll out four new checking accounts later this month in Georgia and two other states. Initially they will be offered only to new customers. By the second half of the year, existing Bank of America customers will see offers for accounts with new perks and services. The new accounts don’t exactly line up with Bank of America’s current offerings, but some will require higher balances or more use of other bank services to avoid fees. Other big U.S. banks are eying such changes, banking experts say, as financial regulatory reforms pinch some fees, such as overdraft levies, that have subsidized free checking and debit cards. Banks have also faced a slowdown in other lines of business such as loans.

The news prompted the AJC to ask the blog question “Have you dumped your bank because of additional fees? Where do you go – to a credit union? Is it any better?” with interesting responses. Click here to read!
Back to top
 
 

House and moneyBanks Lose Pivotal Mortgage Case

Readers of Creating Influence will recall the “robo-signing” foreclosure issue where the banking industry’s foreclosure processes came to a halt under intense scrutiny with accusations of “robo signing” hundreds of foreclosure affidavits. The courts have now ruled on the issue, and it is an issue for credit unions to assess their internal practices to ensure that they could not be accused. The Huffington Post reported on January 7th that the highest court in Massachusetts ruled against U.S. Bancorp and Wells Fargo & Co. in this pivotal mortgage foreclosure case that could spark more turmoil and uncertainty in a housing market already mired in depression. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed a lower court judge's ruling invalidating two mortgage foreclosure sales because the banks, in their capacity as trustees for mortgage securities, did not prove that they actually owned the mortgages at the time of foreclosure. The decision, which highlights the failure of financial firms to adhere to the rules that govern mortgage-backed securities, is likely to lead more borrowers to sue bank servicers and trustees for wrongful foreclosures.

Last fall, the banking industry's foreclosure machine came under intense scrutiny with revelations that low-level employees called "robo-signers" powered through hundreds of foreclosure affidavits a day without verifying a single sentence. At the time, analysts warned that the banks' allegedly fraudulent document procedures could imperil their ability to prove that they owned the mortgages. The Massachusetts ruling stokes those concerns. "This decision is going to raise serious problems in hundreds of thousands of foreclosure cases," said homeowner-defense attorney Thomas Cox, a Maine attorney who was one of the first to put the robo-signing scandal in the national spotlight. "It has the potential to require that foreclosures be done over, and I think there's going to be significant turmoil nationally. There's going to be major uncertainty."

In the Massachusetts case the Supreme Judicial Court found that the banks, who were not the original mortgagees, did not show that they held the mortgages at the time of foreclosure. As a result, the court found, the banks did not demonstrate that the foreclosure sales were valid. The banks argued that the securitization documents they submitted were sufficient to prove they owned the mortgages before the publication of the notices of sale and the foreclosure sales. To read more please click here.
Back to top
 
 

Synovus to Cut Branches and Jobs

Synovus Financial Corp will eliminate around 850 positions and close 39 branches as the banking company tries to overcome weakness in its portfolio of real estate loans. The Columbus, GA-based financial services company said it expects to generate around $100 million in annual savings by the end of 2012 as a result of the moves. To read more, please click here for the January 10th Atlanta Business Chronicle article on the newly released information.
Back to top