AUGUST 22, 2014
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Grassroots Building Grassroots Connections
at Hike at Home (Issue 1 of
Leaders from three Georgia credit unions spent some time with state Sen. Burt Jones, raising his awareness of the credit union industry and its potential benefits to his constituents.

  Federal Patent Troll Study (Issue 2 of 5)
The White House Office of Management and Budget approved the Federal Trade Commission request to launch a study on patent trolls, including how the companies operate and efforts to regulate them.

  Congress in Recess, Keep an Eye Out for Legislators
in District (Issue 3 of
With Congress in recess, several representatives from Georgia have scheduled appearances and activities in their respective districts during the next few weeks.

  Bait-and-Switch Mortgage Lending Fine: $19.3M (Issue 4 of 5)
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau levied a large fine on an Atlanta-based mortgage company, an affiliate and their owner for a bait-and-switch scheme that overcharged consumers for mortgages and other services.

  Study Highlights Georgians Struggling with Debt (Issue 5 of 5)
The Atlanta Business Chronicle reported on a recent study that found that Georgia ranked sixth in the nation for percentage of residents with delinquent debt, as well as sixth for poverty rate.

Hike at Home - Jones
From left: Diana Houston, GCUA; Cynthia Nesbitt, Pinnacle CU; Leslie Clark, Pinnacle CU; Diane McCoy, Pinncle CU; Sen. Burt Jones; Roy Bibb, MidSouth Community FCU; Brandee Bickle, GCUA; Angi Harben, GCUA; Jerry Jordan, CGR CU
Building Grassroots Connections
at Hike at Home (Issue 1 of 5)

On August 14th, Georgia credit union leaders sat down with state Sen. Burt Jones (R-Jackson) to grow his understanding of the industry, and how credit unions help the 37,400 plus members in his district afford life. Sen. Jones has just finished his first two-year term, making the timing of this meeting ideal as he is one who may advance in the ranks quickly following the 2014 elections. Building a strong relationship with elected officials early in their career is essential, as the legislation they address can impact the manner in which credit unions serve their membership today and into the future. These grassroots connections can be the difference in how a legislator views issues important to the industry.

Leaders from CGR CU, MidSouth Community FCU and Pinnacle CU illustrated to Sen. Jones how credit unions are different, how they operate, and the legislative needs of the industry in the state Capitol. In the process, the impact of the overall regulatory burden the industry faces from federal regulation was expressed, a point on which Sen. Jones commiserated. Our thanks to the credit unions for sharing their time and making a positive connection with this legislator – the more credit unions can engage with elected officials, the greater the awareness and understanding of the industry. And that is the fuel that drives legislative victories!

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TrollFederal Patent Troll Study (Issue 2 of 5)

On August 15th the White House Office of Management and Budget approved the Federal Trade Commission request to launch a study on patent trolls. The focus will be on both reviewing general patent troll activity, as well as comparing troll enforcement efforts. The investigation will look at how patent assertion entities organize their corporate legal structure, what types of patents they hold, how they acquire patents, and how they generate revenue. It also will examine how the companies engage in licensing demands and litigation, what patent assertion costs the companies face, and how much money they earn from their activities. 

Patent reform is one of many issues in limbo in Washington, D.C., with the gridlock in Congress, and credit unions continue to lobby for meaningful patent reform. Here in Georgia, state-level patent troll legislation was passed to help curb the number of demand letters that are sent to credit unions by those entities attempting to extract money from lawsuits on ATM technologies, check imaging applications, check cashing and mobile payment platforms, and shift this negative activity to another state until Congress can pass their bill! That state bill, HB 809 by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe), was signed into law and went into effect for Georgia on July 1st.

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Congress in Recess, Keep an Eye Out for Legislators in District (Issue 3 of 5)

Congress is in recess, and as such there are several federal legislators who have hosted events, fairs and/or town halls around the state. And many of these D.C. legislators are visible at civic groups and community meetings; a Congressman sighting isn’t a rarity for August. To quote one credit union leader, they see them “everywhere” in the district right now! This increased visibility provides an opportunity for credit unions to connect, and reach out to their legislators. Below are a few of the town halls/legislator events scheduled over the next few weeks (please check legislator websites for changes): Eyes

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R):
August 23rd 3:00 pm - 3:45 pm, Forsyth-Monroe County Chamber of Commerce, Forsyth
August 25th 1:45 pm - 2:30 pm, Georgia Perimeter College, Covington
August 27th 2:30 pm - 3:30 pm, UGA Griffin Campus, Griffin
August 29th 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm, Young Harris College, Young Harris
September 4th 2:30 pm - 3:15 pm, College of Coastal Georgia, Brunswick

Rep. Rob Woodall (R-7)
August 25th 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm, Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, Lawrenceville
August 26th 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm, University of North Georgia-Cumming Campus, Cumming

Rep. Doug Collins (R-9)
August 28th 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm, Lavonia Welcome Center, Historic Train Station, Lavonia

Rep. John Barrow (D-12)
August 23rd 10:00 am - 12:00, Wilson Branch Family Y, Augusta (Augusta Health Fair, Congressman in attendance)

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FishBait-and-Switch Mortgage Lending Fine: $19.3M (Issue 4 of 5)

Atlanta-based Amerisave Mortgage Corp, its affiliate, Novo Appraisal Management, and their owner, Patrick Markert, have been collectively fined by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for a bait-and-switch mortgage-lending scheme. The Atlanta Business Chronicle reported that Amerisave lured consumers by advertising misleading interest rates, locked them in with costly up-front fees, failed to honor its advertised rates and then illegally overcharged them for affiliated "third-party" services.

Amerisave and Novo will refund $14.8 million and pay a $4.5 million penalty. Additionally, Markert will pay a $1.5 million penalty. Between 2011 and 2014, Amerisave advertised its interest rates and terms using online banner ads and searchable rate tables on third-party websites. The bureau found the company posted inaccurate rates on these banner ads and rate tables, inducing consumers to pursue a mortgage with the company. When consumers were directed to Amerisave's website, it gave consumers quotes based on an 800 FICO score, even where consumers had previously entered a FICO score below 800 on the third-party website that led them to Amerisave, resulting in Amerisave’s offering consumers misleadingly low quotes.

Amerisave required consumers to order and give payment authorization information for an appraisal before it would provide a Good Faith Estimate for the mortgage, and did not tell consumers until later the appraisal orders were being referred to its own affiliated company. At closing, Amerisave also charged consumers for "appraisal validation" reports, without disclosing that the service was provided by its affiliate Novo Appraisal Management Company, and Novo had marked up the reports by as much as 900 percent. Consumers trusted that Amerisave had bargained in good faith for this third-party service, which Amerisave described as being a "special deal" for Amerisave customers, the CFPB said.

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PeekStudy Highlights Georgians Struggling with Debt (Issue 5 of 5)

Ever wonder if your members need the help you provide them in affording life? A resounding “YES” and even more so – a perfect case in point is the August 13th Atlanta Business Chronicle article that highlighted Georgia at sixth in the nation for the highest percentage of residents with delinquent debt at 42 percent in 2013, according to a recent Urban Institute study. Georgia also ranks 20th lowest in the nation for median household income and has the sixth-highest poverty rate. And with the August 18th report that Georgia has the nation’s second highest unemployment rate, financial guidance is even more important regardless of one’s debt picture. This negativity is the opportunity to reach out to members at a time where they likely need help managing their financial picture!

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