House Defense Bill Wins for Credit Unions: Anti-Money Laundering In; Banker Provision Out

Credit union trade groups should be pleased with the defense authorization bill passed by the House Tuesday—it maintains the free rent benefit that credit unions receive on military installations and it includes anti-money laundering provisions they’ve been pushing.

The House passed the overall defense bill, 295-125; it already faces a veto threat from President Trump on several hot-button issues. For instance, the bill would require the Pentagon to re-name military bases that currently are named after Confederate leaders—a policy the administration opposes.

Before passage, the House approved a large number of amendments that members wanted to add to the bill.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s (D-N.Y.) anti-money laundering amendment was among those that were accepted. The amendment would require companies to disclose their true, beneficial owners at the time a company is formed. The Financial Crimes Information Network would maintain the data, which only would be available to law enforcement officials.

In a strange twist, Maloney ended up voting against the overall defense bill, saying it would “explode the Pentagon’s budget while too many Americans are suffering.”

In a letter to House members before the vote on the defense authorization bill, financial trade groups, including the Credit Union National Association and the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions, said the Maloney plan “represents the best path forward to provide law enforcement with needed information to pursue criminals looking to exploit our financial system.”

On another issue important to credit unions, the defense authorization bill does not change the current policy of providing credit unions free rent on military bases. Banking trade groups have been calling on the Pentagon to provide for-profit banks with the same benefit and the Senate defense authorization bill contains that provision.

Credit union trade groups said they were pleased with the House decision to omit the banker proposal, but added they are concerned with the Senate provision.

“CUNA, leagues and credit unions pushed back against banker calls to expand the military base exemption by continually making sure credit unions’ legacy of member service and not-for-profit nature was brought to the attention to policymakers,” CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle said.

NAFCU Vice President of Legislative Affairs Brad Thaler echoed those sentiments in a letter to House leaders. “While we recognize the important role both credit unions and banks can play for our men and women in the military in the provision of traditional financial services, the fact remains that banks and credit unions are fundamentally different,” he wrote. “For-profit banks ultimately focus on benefiting shareholders while credit unions focus on serving their member-owners.”


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