Friday, August 6, 2010

Nissan credit union faces regulators' scrutiny

Federal regulators have cracked down on Nissan North America's credit union, saying the independent financial institution's "future may be in serious jeopardy" because of weak management, poor record keeping and sagging earnings.
The National Credit Union Administration signed an agreement this summer with Veritas Federal Credit Union to make changes, including hiring a certified public accountant to do an audit. The organization is owned by its members and is not controlled by Nissan.

Teri Crowl, the chief executive officer of the credit union, said the institution has since made several changes to address regulators' concerns, including conducting the audit.

"At this moment, we're in better shape than we probably have been for several years,'' she said.

The credit union has 5,000 members and three offices, including one at Nissan's headquarters in Franklin. It had $34 million in assets as of June, about a 12 percent decline from two years ago.

Attempts to reach the credit union's customers were unsuccessful, because many Nissan employees said they weren't members.

'Hurt by weak economy'

Crowl said the institution's members, which are spread out across the country, have been hurt by a weak economy in the last few years, and some had their hours cut by Nissan, which caused them to have trouble paying back loans. But she said that situation has turned around this year, and she has noticed an improvement in loan repayments.

Also, Crowl said the credit union has lowered its costs by shutting down its Southern California office in January, where Nissan's headquarters used to be located.

During each of the last three years, Veritas lost money, including $1.1 million last year, according to the National Credit Union Administration. More than 5 percent of its loans were past due as of June, a slight increase from December, records show.

In addition to automobile and personal loans, Veritas had $12.6 million in real estate loans to members, mostly residential mortgages. If Veritas were to violate its agreement with regulators, it could face fines or even liquidation.

Veritas is federally chartered, and credit unions deposits are insured for up to $250,000 per account.

Tennessean reporter G. Chambers Williams III contributed to this story. Contact Naomi Snyder at 615-259-8284 or

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