Wednesday, July 31, 2013

In Response to Dr. Keith Leggett's Credit Union Watch Blog of July 10, 2013

Your recent Blog, which referenced the American Consumer Council (ACC), has several errors and inaccuracies that need to be corrected.  For the record, the American Consumer Council is a non-profit consumer education organization with over 140,000 members nationwide. Our focus is consumer advocacy, financial education and corporate social responsibility. Our common bond is very clearly stated in our bylaws and literature.

For you to suggest that consumer-members of ACC should not be eligible to join a credit union is arrogant and discriminatory. It smacks of the typical “Big Bank” gobbledygook that is offensive and condescending to most American consumers. And, let’s be candid here, it’s the reason why so many banks are reviled by consumers. Simply stated, banks have lost our trust.

Consumers haven’t forgotten that is was Big Banks – not credit unions – that betrayed consumers and largely caused the Great Recession with their shady practices and “wheeling n’ dealing” that devastated our retirement and savings accounts. It was Big Banks that deceived consumers with mortgage deals and then illegally foreclosed on millions of consumers’ homes.

At a time when banks have all-but-deserted the average American consumer, credit unions are more vital to the financial success of our members, entrepreneurs and small businesses than ever before. We proudly stand with our credit union partners because they do an outstanding job serving the financial needs of consumers.

So, Keith, let me help you get your facts right. As with every non-profit organization, ACC has membership eligibility criteria which is listed in our bylaws and on our website. Therefore, it’s misleading for you to suggest that “anyone can join a credit union [or our organization] by checking a box on a credit union application.”  That’s just not true.

Consumers join our organization by completing a membership application and paying the appropriate dues. Every individual who wants to join ACC must meet our membership criteria in order to become a member.  We also provide scholarships to a segment of the consumer population that cannot afford our annual dues.
Also, we actively support many areas of the country where there are large numbers of under-served consumers. Unlike banks, which have closed branches in under-served regions and “blacklisted” many consumers because of simple mistakes they made during their banking transactions (as recently reported in the New York Times), credit unions have been a strong, reliable financial partner with ACC by delivering value-added services at competitive rates to these under-served consumers and regions.

Finally, it’s ludicrous for you to suggest that because a credit union enrolls members of the American Consumer Council that they are somehow “straying from their charter.”  Every credit union is strictly regulated by the NCUA or its state regulator. We have found that the men and women who work tirelessly for the NCUA are dedicated, competent people who follow the letter of the law. This is why ACC must adhere to the same guidelines that every other Select Employer Group (SEG) must adhere to when we put forward a request to have a credit union represent or enroll our members. It’s a cheap shot on your part to blame regulators for doing their job… and a good job at that!

It’s unfortunate your perspective is so lop-sided simply because you work for the American Bankers Association, a good organization but one that really doesn’t embrace the traditional American values of competition and capitalism. How ironic.

Also, it’s obvious from your own blog postings, articles, and statements which I’ve read, that you seem hell-bent on destroying credit unions, which only represent 6% of the financial market; and, in the process, the “little guy.” Certainly, there must be a more enlightened way for you to communicate your views than by knocking the “little guy” – the average American consumer who feels abandoned by the very banks you represent.

While your position at the ABA does give you a platform to espouse your views towards credit unions, it doesn’t give you the right to misstate the facts. Nor, should it give credence to your lop-sided idea that consumers should be denied the right to choose their financial relationships; or, have the right to become members of credit unions; or, suggest that credit unions not be able to legally partner with organizations like the American Consumer Council, whose mission is to help our consumer-members obtain the financial services they need to live their dreams.

Thomas Hinton 
President & CEO
American Consumer Council 

No comments: