Field of membership dispute nearly derails merger

Positioning Merrimack Valley CU for success took extra effort after district court ruling.

A not-so-funny thing happened on the way to the Feb. 1 merger of Merrimack Valley Credit Union and Bridgewater Credit Union: The legal fight over federal field of membership rules almost derailed it.

In June 2015, leaders of Merrimack Valley CU were studying the likely impact on their strategic growth plans of the National Credit Union Administration’s proposed FOM rules, which would permit credit unions to expand their membership base in a combined statistical area up to 2.5 million potential members. In comparing options to move forward with the CU’s existing federal charter or a new Massachusetts state charter, the executive team and board agreed that the former, with the new FOM rules in place, would be the best path forward, recalls Peter Matthews, who was then president/CEO.

The new rules took effect in December 2016, and a few months later, Merrimack Valley CU began merger discussions with Bridgewater Credit Union, which served a complementary field of membership in the Boston metropolitan area. Plans were developed for Bridgewater CEO and former Merrimack Valley CU executive John Howard to lead the continuing credit union upon Matthews’ retirement.


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