ICBA’s Wake Up campaign is gaining traction

Three webpages

ICBA’s campaign grabbed the headlines in the CU Times, the Wall Street Journal and American Banker, among other publications.

The media and policymakers are hearing the call of ICBA’s Wake Up campaign on the credit union threat.

The Wake Up campaign is opening the eyes of policymakers and regulators to the costly tax subsidies and risky practices of credit unions.

Launched in October 2019, ICBA’s initiative is calling on Congress and the public to recognize the growing threat of credit unions, which are costing taxpayers billions and ignoring their original mandate to serve those of modest means.

The campaign is making waves among members of the media and those on Capitol Hill. Take recent headlines in American Banker (“ICBA plans major offensive in fight against credit unions”), Politico (“Pitting credit unions vs. banks”) and even CU Today (“Bankers group wants Congress to ‘wake up’ to ‘risky, tax-subsidized’ credit unions’”) and CU Times (“Uh-oh, banker arguments are gaining traction on Capitol Hill”). ICBA president and CEO Rebeca Romero Rainey recently underscored this coverage with an op-ed in American Banker’s BankThink.

“It’s no longer a question of whether credit unions have outgrown their mandate,” says Michael Emancipator, ICBA’s vice president, regulatory counsel and chair of ICBA’s Task Force, an interdisciplinary team of ICBA experts. “It’s now, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, ‘how they have outgrown their down-home reputation.’ I think there’s been a much-needed shift in the ways credit unions are being viewed.”

How you can help

Attend the ICBA Capital Summit 2020, where ICBA will be meeting with policymakers on the issue. Visit icba.org/events to register for the April 28–May 1 event.

Visit icba.org/wakeup this month to register for a webinar hosted by ICBA focused on the Wake Up campaign. The webinar will go over ways you can participate in vital grassroots efforts.

Be sure to check back in at ICBA’s Wake Up page for regular updates and ways you can stay involved.

Congress takes notice

Policymakers are also waking up to the credit union threat. For example, in a December 2019 House Financial Services Committee hearing with banking regulators, Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) and Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) questioned the legitimacy of deals where nonprofit credit unions are able to buy for-profit community banks. In response, FDIC chair Jelena McWilliams said credit unions have benefits that community banks don’t have and that “the playing field may not be exactly level.”

ICBA is calling on several congressional committees to hold hearings on this overstep from credit unions. The Hill recently published letters from community bankers requesting lawmakers discuss the credit union issue publicly.

ICBA’s Wake Up campaign needs grassroots support from community bankers to keep those in power and the public engaged on this issue.

“While it’s satisfying to see the campaign gain traction, we can’t rest on our laurels,” Emancipator says. “It’s incumbent on us to keep this in front of media, members of Congress and key policymakers from the regulatory agencies, and the best way to do that is to actively engage in ICBA’s grassroots advocacy efforts.”

“While it’s satisfying to see the campaign gain traction, we can’t rest on our laurels.”
—Michael Emancipator, ICBA

$2 billion

The amount credit unions escape paying in taxes each year


of lost tax revenue stems from credit unions with more than $1 billion in assets

1 in 3

subsidy dollars that go to credit unions wind up in their pockets

Eric Best is deputy editor of Independent Banker.