Dear Secretary Shultz and Secretary Albright:
Thank you very much for your op-ed in last week’s Wall Street Journal. Your concern for excessive intervention by the government into the banking system was refreshing commentary. Unfortunately, your comments were specific to intervention by the Bangladesh government into the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Grameen Bank.
Sadly, the tragic irony is, of course, that government intervention into America’s banking system is equally as suffocating, yet that escapes you. Regulation and compliance within the banking industry is the equivalent of the infamous exit from the Clown Car at this year’s circus: you are intrigued and overwhelmed at first, but at some point it becomes frightening.
You supported your fellow Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who cautioned leadership during her visit to Bangladesh in May 2012 against any step that “would undermine or interfere in the operations of the Grameen Bank or its unique organizational structure.” Thank you very much Mr. and Madam Secretary. Can we count you in for making the same statement on behalf of America’s 7,000 credit unions?
You rightfully point out the virtues of Grameen Bank. Said virtues are not the exclusive domain of Grameen Bank. There is an entire credit union industry in your own backyard doing the same thing every day and we, too, are overrun with government regulation that is slowly eroding our impact in middle and lower income communities we work so hard to prop up.
Like Grameen Bank, credit unions are more than just another financial institution. We are a living demonstration of how people who lack advantages of any kind can nevertheless lift themselves out of difficult times through hard work and personal accountability complimented by fair and affordable financial services. It is a testament to the capacity of the human spirit to succeed in building wealth when afforded the opportunity to do so. And credit unions are, or at least should be, a fundamental source of pride for the government of the United States.
Madam and Masseur, you might recognize the aforementioned paragraph as eerily similar to what you had written in your op-ed. It is. All I did was change a few words and replace credit union for Grameen Bank. Without question, your thoughts conveyed can be replayed as a testament for America’s credit unions.
Your comments throughout this piece are a spot-on, accurate depiction of America’s credit unions. At St. Louis Community Credit Union, we are particularly moved by your statement that Grameen Bank’s “success is its loyalty to the principle that the same people who rely on it for credit also have a direct role in managing its operations.” Yes, you just aptly described credit union governance where the members of the board of directors are volunteers nominated and voted on by the members of the credit union.
Respectfully, I would suggest to you that even the absolute largest of credit unions, in our American credit union movement pales in size, scope and scale to that of Grameen Bank. As you might surmise, piling on with regulation to those of us of lesser means ultimately manifests itself in the increased likelihood that many populations will find themselves with diminished choices in consumer financial services. As you know, such an occurrence ultimately serves to hurt the consumer.
I couldn’t agree more with your comments on behalf of Grameen Bank. Can I get you to make the same passionate plea for America’s credit unions?