The following article excerpted from the Callahan Report was written at a time of bank attacks and legislative initiatives. Ed's strategy for fighting back suggested then, is still relevant today.
Like that irrepressible scary movie character Freddy Krueger, the bankers will be back. They have not finished with us. They have not gotten what they wanted.
Our association execs can pop the champagne corks and pat themselves on the back on account of our recent legislation. The bankers, however, are not calling it quits. We may have won a battle this year, but we did not win the war. The war is still going on. We are having our party inside the tent, while the bankers are circling on the outside and sharpening their weapons.
Why? Because in all our lobbying and maneuvering, we only took care of ourselves. The bankers still feel a great need for rationalizing financial services in their favor. They will keep jabbing us so long as those needs are outstanding.
If history is a guide, they will make their initiatives and attacks, and we will have to make our counter efforts, as we did going to Congress after the Supreme Court decision. This pattern could spiral down into a numbing cycle of banker offensive and credit union counter-measure ad infinitum. We would have to go to Congress so many times they would get sick of us. We need a different strategy.
Get Their Attention
Like Freddy Krueger, the bankers will be back, because they have unlimited amounts of money and do not respect us. Like a cat playing with a mouse, bankers can play and play with us at their leisure. They will just keep on doing so until they learn some respect.
Bankers used to have some. Back in the 80's both everyone understood that if we did not in some sense hang together to set the financial arena straight we would all perish together. So we worked at least in some harmony and mutual respect to pull the financial world back onto the tracks. They have forgotten those days, in part because we have never shown them that we can harm them. We are going to have to earn back their respect. I think that might have to come in the form of a poke in the eye.
Long ago I advocated suing the banks over violations in the Glass-Steagall Act. Everyone knows they are acting outside the law with their insurance and brokerage dealings. The Supreme Court would have to declare their illegalities. That would certainly get their attention.
Hammering Out HR10
If a poke in the eye is too hostile, working with bankers to set the financial world on the right track provides a less adversarial way. Everyone knows that the legislation we have been hitched to for so long was designed in the Great Depression and since then only tinkered with. It is not the kind of legislative environment that is going to work in the 21st century.
What we have to do is to get to work with all the stakeholders and participate in HR10, the comprehensive legislative overhaul of banking and financial industries. We do not have to be adversarial. We should let bankers know that we don't mind them getting what they need to survive and thrive, so long as they accord us the same.
But we cannot allow them to be the sole participants. We have to be fully engaged in the legislation. We should go to the politicians in Congress and say, "We want to participate and if we can, we will support you, but if we cannot participate we will work to defeat the bill that you put together."
Our associations are too timid. They are fine at celebrating the small victories but weak at tackling the issues that threaten to defeat us in the long run. Our associations want to preserve the "good guy" image, believing that is a strength. They must find the backbone to do what's really needed, to take the hard paths that are going to restore respect for us in the banking community.
The time to work is now. We have to be dealing with the bankers while the legislation is taking shape, while they still have a need. Once a bill is passed, their need is gone and the opportunity is lost.
Bankers won't be expecting us. They have been working to line up the insurers and the brokers so that the legislation can move forward to their advantage. Bankers want their once-in-a-blue-moon lawmaking, and they won't be expecting a major lobbying effort from 70 million people against it. So we have an advantage now. We tell them to give us a place at the table, so we can make sure the course that is set is a good one for credit union members.
Freddy Krueger may still be hanging around in the movies, but when we leave the HR10 table we should be pretty confident the bankers won't be coming after us for a long time.