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Week ahead: Credit unions hit back on bank attacks

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Credit unions will have to speak up in the days ahead to make themselves heard during what promises to be one the of year’s biggest political weeks.

Not only do the Iowa caucuses kick off Monday, but President Trump’s State of the Union address is scheduled for Tuesday, followed Wednesday by a vote in the Senate during which he is expected to be acquitted in his impeachment trial.

That’s some stiff competition.

Yet it’s still a busy week for the industry, which is fighting back in the wake of calls last week from the Independent Community Bankers of America for lawmakers to examine the ongoing trend of credit union-bank purchases. ICBA wrote in a letter to the Senate Banking Committee and others that CU should either be stopped outright from buying banks or that legislators should at least level the playing field in order to allow banks to more easily purchase credit unions.

The industry subsequently hit back at those charges, with Dan Berger, president and CEO of the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions, writing in his own letter to Congress, “These are not ‘hostile’ takeovers. “The bank is the one that ultimately makes the decision to sell to, and merge with, a credit union.”

Congress hasn’t moved to address that issue yet, but several topics related to credit unions are on the docket in the days ahead. The House Financial Services Committee will examine President Trump’s efforts to eliminate public housing – part of the wider conversation surrounding shortages of affordable housing – along with a hearing on rent-a-bank schemes.

The House panel will also convene for its semi-annual review of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Thursday, less than a month before the Supreme Court begins hearing arguments regarding the bureau’s structure. Most credit union trades have advocated for a change in the CFPB’s structure from a single-director entity to a bipartisan commission. But Inclusiv, a trade association supporting community-development credit unions, diverged from the herd and announced its support in an amicus brief for maintaining the agency’s current format.

The board of the National Credit Union Administration will also meet on Thursday for a closed meeting. The matters to be considered are not open to the public at this time.

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