09/11/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Credit Unions Lose Money On Paper: "Nobody Is Insulated From This"

Credit unions are not-for-profit, member-owned cooperatives that take deposits and lend money like banks. The mortgage problems are focused on so-called corporate credit unions, which are key players in the industry. They don't deal directly with consumers, but provide investment services and financing to regular credit unions, which do.

The five corporates showing big mortgage-related losses, according to federal regulatory filings, are U.S. Central Federal Credit Union; Western Corporate Federal Credit Union; Members United Corporate Federal Credit Union; Southwest Corporate Federal Credit Union; and Constitution Corporate Federal Credit Union. Together, they reported about $5.7 billion in "unrealized" losses as of the end of May, the filings indicate. Unrealized losses happen when the market value of a security falls, even if it hasn't been sold.

Credit unions in general are among the most conservatively run financial institutions in the U.S. That some are showing strains indicates that almost no financial sector is immune from the mortgage meltdown that has caused widespread carnage among commercial banks and on Wall Street. Financial-services firms have already taken write-downs of more than $300 billion in connection with the mortgage mess.

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Read up on other ways the housing crisis has spread out and threatened other financial institutions