I hesitate to re-enter the CU trade press frenzy surrounding CU-to-bank conversions. I've been criticized by both sides for some of my views. The Michigan Credit Union League (MCUL) has not changed its stance one iota on conversions. We think they should be permitted as long as they are done properly. We will continue to weigh in from time to time to make sure the process keeps getting better. That's what trade associations are supposed to do.
But as I read the cover story of the Dec. 18 issue of The Credit Union Journal, I'm troubled by the incessant desire to doubt the motives of DFCU credit union officials. By the way, I've also been accused of being biased by both DFCU officials (accused of trying to block their conversion attempt only to keep a dues-paying member) and by those sympathetic to the DFCU Owners United group (the perception that MCUL is now against their continuing efforts to unseat board officials-because we want to keep DFCU as a dues-paying member). But I am confident that my motive on behalf of MCUL is pure.
That is, to serve the interests of our member credit unions, including DFCU, our largest. Ironically, I believe strongly that the DFCU officials' motives are also pure-to serve the interests of their 165,000 members.
Give Me A Break!
In the story titled, "NCUA Gives Members More Say in CU Conversions to Banks," your story begins by reporting on the new regulation. However, the reporter then shifts to a discussion regarding Columbia CU, Lafayette FCU and DFCU and their continuing battles. It would be fine if the reporting stopped there. However, he then calls into question the legitimacy of DFCU's announcement of an industry-record $17.5 million dividend. As ABC's John Stossel would say, "Give me a break!"
I have observed the entire DFCU conversion attempt from their backyard here in Michigan. They acquiesced to the member vote and declared their intent to remain a credit union and to support the credit union charter. Since then, consider what the credit union has done to "walk the talk." The credit union is affiliated with MCUL and CUNA, supports our legislative initiatives and social mission efforts and is committed to serve its members with the CU charter. In addition to the $17.5 million year-end dividend, by far more than any special dividend paid by a credit union-ever, the credit union has committed $10 million to an MCUL-supported "Career Transition Program" to help retrain displaced workers. This DFCU commitment helped spawn another $30 million in committed funds and State of Michigan support for what is now a $40 million program helping thousands of displaced workers get job skills to re-employ.
These actions should not be criticized and questioned. They should be applauded and used as examples of CU social mission in action. Michigan's economy has the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation due to a struggling manufacturing-based economy. The past several months have been tough on displaced auto workers within DFCU's field of membership with tens of thousands of jobs lost within the auto sector and other industries in Michigan. I believe that we will see many future examples of high-level member service coming from DFCU to respond to these needs. This struggling economy and DFCU's response (the dividend and CTP support) were not fabricated in response to the ongoing battle with DFCU Owners United.
No Time For Cynicism
I understand the DFCU Owners United group is continuing with its effort to unseat the board. I also understand that the issue of the special meeting requirement continues to loom over the CU officials' heads. But there comes a time when good works should be applauded and recognized, especially in a state like Michigan that so badly needs the helping hand from credit unions. It's time to stop questioning the motives of DFCU officials. Good works like the $17.5-million dividend and the $10 million for Career Transition loans deserve respect not cynicism.
David Adams, President/CEO
Michigan Credit Union League
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