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Credit unions prevail over banks in battle for military base access (CU Journal, December 10, 2019)

Thursday, December 12, 2019  
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Credit unions are claiming victory in a longstanding battle with banks over no-cost land leases on military installations.

For months banks sought legislative reform that would have granted them the same rent-free access to military bases that credit unions enjoy, but that provision was excluded from the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act, released late Monday.

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The legislation maintained the current law, which allows credit unions to rent space on bases at no cost if they can certify their membership is at least 95% military personnel or federal employees.

Credit union trade groups praised House and Senate lawmakers for maintaining the status quo.

“We commend the conference committee for putting our servicemembers’ financial readiness ahead of Wall Street profits in the FY 2020 NDAA,” Credit Union National Association President and CEO Jim Nussle said in a statement.

Both CUNA and the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions advocated against the provision, citing concerns that banks as large as Wells Fargo should not be treated the same as a not-for-profit credit union.

NAFCU President and CEO Dan Berger said changing the current law would have “granted banks the ability to end-run the Department of Defense.”

An earlier version of this legislation included an amendment that would have required the Defense Department to allow banks to operate rent-free on military bases, but that amendment did not pass.

Subsequent bills in the House and Senate were split on whether to extend credit unions’ access to banks, but conferees from both chambers ultimately kept that language out.

“Essentially, the bank lobby tried to pull a fast one and portray themselves as something they are not,” said Tony Hernandez, president and CEO of Defense Credit Union Council. “Credit unions called them on it and once Congress learned the facts, they made the right decision.”

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