Wis. league, co-ops await committee action on reg. consolidation

April 22, 2015
MADISON, Wis. (4/23/15)--The Wisconsin Credit Union League (WCUL) and Cooperative Network brought their opposition to a proposed merger of the state's regulatory agencies during a public Senate committee hearing Wednesday.

Senate Bill 119 is identical to an item in Gov. Scott Walker's proposed biennial budget bill--also met with concern by financial institutions--that would create the Department of Financial Institutions and Professional Standards by combining the Department of Financial Institutions, which houses the Office of Credit Unions (OCU), and the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS).

"Merging the agencies tasked with regulation of the state's 350 financial instuitions with the agency responsible for credentialing massage therapists, soil scientists and boxing regulation is something that isn't needed right now," said Tom Liebe, WCUL's senior vice president of advocacy. "Furthermore, the status quo is working extremely well for the state's financial institutions that employ more than 15,000 Wisconsinites and currently hold approximately $75 billion in assets."

Credit unions are apprehensive about the merger because it:
  • Lacks any identified problems that need to be resolved;
  • Offers no benefits to financial institutions;
  • Was not requested by private sector stakeholders;
  • Jeopardizes consumers' current satisfaction and effective service at each agency;
  • Provides no evidence of cost savings or efficiencies for credit unions or banks as OCU/DFI operate on fees paid by the regulated industries; and
  • Creates a larger bureaucracy.
A Wisconsin Department of Administration study reported satisfaction with DSPS service and recommended against merging with a different agency.

"DSPS currently reviews nearly 50 diverse boards and councils with which the Department of Financial Institutions has little overlap," said Bill Oemichen, president/CEO of Cooperative Network, which represents the interests of Wisconsin's cooperative businesses, including credit unions. "As with the unsuccessful proposal to merge DSPS and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection just a couple of years ago, we fear this consolidation could dilute the new agency's focus and put at risk the safety and soundness of Wisconsin's financial institutions."

SB 119 was introduced by Sen. Roger Roth (R-Appleton) and Rep. Joan Ballweg (R-Markesan).