The National Credit Union Administration yesterday raised the ceiling on loans federal credit unions can make for the next nine months from 15 percent to 21 percent. The action, intended to meet the rapidly increasing cost of funds, brings credit union rates in line with those of other lenders.
Rep. Frank Annunzio (D-Ill.), chairman of the House Consumer affairs sub-committee, immediately denounced the increase, warning that credit unions could become "loan sharks." He said "it was a cowardly act on the part of the three-member NCUA board [which] caved in to pressure from a small group of credit union officials, most of them from California. . . . Scrooge would look good compared to Lawrence Connell, P.A. Mack and Harold Black."
Although the 21 percent ceiling was voted unanimously, Chairman Connell had tried without success to hold it to 18 percent, with the possibility of a further rise later if necessary.
The NCUA had been under pressure for some time from the federal credit unions it regulates to raise the loan limit. Annunzio asked for a delay until the board supplied economic justification by showing loan demand. The NCUA replied that as of June 1980, 70 percent of its outstanding loans were at 12 percent and only 5 percent at between 12 percent and 15 percent. (The loan ceiling was raised from its historic 12 percent to 15 percent last April.) Annunzio claimed the figures showed the increase was not necessary.
NCUA members disagreed, citing current competitive figures. Large New York banks now charge 18 percent for car loans and 19 percent on unsecured personal loans. State-chartered credit unions charge between 16 percent and 18 percent.
Trade associations for credit unions hailed the move. John J. Hutchinson, president of the National Association of Federal Credit Unions, stated, "We applaud the board's action in giving credit unions the ability to operate in today's volatile market. Judging from past experience we can be confident that credit unions will increase rates only when absolutely necessary."
J. Alvin George, chairman of the Credit Union National Association, declared, "the new ceiling rate will go a long way toward insuring that loanable funds remain available at the nation's federal credit unions."