Bankruptcy Filings Set a New Post-Reform High

Bankruptcy filings rose for the fourth consecutive month in September, now averaging about 14,000 per week compared to approximately 8,000 filings per week in the fourth quarter of last year. One-year ago filings averaged 35,000 per week, prior to the full implementation of the “Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005.” During September filings topped to 56,000, the highest level since October 2005 when the reforms went into effect. The number of filings in the first quarter of 2006 is the lowest number of quarterly filings in the last 20 years. Through the first nine months of 2006 bankruptcy filings have exceeded 400,000 and will likely hit 600,000 by year’s end.

MONTHLY FILINGS
Nov 05: 21,457
Dec 05: 32,480
Jan 06: 34,411
Feb 06: 39,636
Mar 06: 42,724
Apr 06: 44,989
May 06: 43,780
Jun 06: 46,620
Jul 06: 48,849
Aug 06: 54,937
Sep 06: 56,412
Source: CardData (www.carddata.com)

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Equifax Acquires Austin-Tetra

Atlanta-based Equifax has closed an acquisition of Austin-Tetra, a privately-held company that is a provider of business-to-business data management solutions. Austin-Tetra leverages a proprietary database of more than 30 million global businesses, with information aggregated from more than 300 information sources. Leading companies spanning a number of industries rely on its data management solutions to enhance their decision-making processes, enabling them to drive increased value from customer and supplier relationships. Equifax Inc. is a global leader in information technology that enables and secures global commerce with consumers and businesses.

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Bankruptcy Counseling More Costly Than Expected

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling reported that its members delivered 563,494 bankruptcy counseling and education sessions and issued 630,422 certificates since the new bankruptcy law took effect about one-year ago. A recent analysis by the NFCC also found that the time required to complete pre-discharge education sessions averaged more than two and a half hours across all channels of delivery, which was 25% greater than originally anticipated. The cost of providing services exceeded the fee income collected by NFCC agencies. Based on current estimates of 600,000 bankruptcy filings in 2006 and assuming the same delivery mix, an annual funding shortfall of $7.52 million appears likely for pre-filing counseling services delivered by NFCC agencies. The NFCC noted that its agencies waived the fee for services provided for all consumers unable to pay for them. This represented 16& of pre-filing sessions and 13% of consumers attending pre-discharge education classes.

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IKEA Selects VeriFone’s Payment Solutions

IKEA North America, with 28 home furnishing stores in the U.S., has selected VeriFone’s customer-facing payment system with signature capture for use in its domestic locations. IKEA is acquiring the systems through Torex Retail and the deployment in existing stores is scheduled to be complete by mid-2007. Torex Retail Americas provides store & enterprise retail solutions for the General Retail, Grocery, & Food Service/Hospitality segments. VeriFone Holdings, Inc. a global leader in secure electronic payment technologies, provides expertise, solutions and services for today with a migration strategy for tomorrow.

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Wire Transfer Process Needs Streamlined

A new study released by The Clearing House Payments Company and the Federal Reserve Banks says that wire transfer volume will grow significantly if parties involved in the wire transfer process work together to overcome current inefficiencies. “Business-to-Business Wire Transfer Payments: Customer Preferences and Opportunities for Financial Institutions,” found that both small and large companies want a more streamlined process for making wire transfer payments and favor a single remittance information standard. The survey also found that institutions are willing to pay more for payments that include remittance information, since this information will streamline their accounts payable and receivable operations. The report concluded that if financial institutions do not take an active role in making improvements to the wire transfer system, payments that could benefit from the immediacy and finality of wire may default to the “ACH” instead.

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Vmark Network Offers DM & Card Services

A group of eight related companies have banded together to form a network of companies offering turnkey direct marketing solutions from form and plastic card printing to personalization and lettershop services. The “Vmark” network includes Automated Presort, Creative Automation, Fulfillment Xcellence, Global Card Services, Unique Data Services, Unique Embossing Services, Unique Mailing Services and Versatile Card Technology. Many of these companies are based in suburban Chicago but also include manufacturing plants in India and New Jersey. In addition to being able to fulfill the card needs for the direct marketing industry, Versatile Card Technology has the capabilities to produce virtually any type of card with choice of finishes, including UV-coating, laminated, polished, lenticular, foil or matte. Global Card Services has the capacity to personalize over 500 million cards per year in their VISA and MasterCard certified facility.

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Americans in Excellent Financial Fitness

A new poll taken this month has found that nearly 84% of Americans believe they are in either “excellent” (28%) or “okay” (56%) financial fitness shape. Eleven percent believed they were in troublesome shape and 4% were unsure. The poll also found that 67% of consumers had never received advice on their personal finances. The “Financial Services Roundtable” says only 4% of respondents had considered filing or filed for bankruptcy, and of those only 2% considered filing in the past year. Of those who considered bankruptcy, 1 in 2 felt that the new law did not impact their decision, and none of them had sought advice on their personal finances. The Financial Services Roundtable represents 100 of the largest integrated financial services companies.

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Cross Keys Bank Outsources to Diebold

Louisiana-based Cross Keys Bank has signed an outsourcing agreement for Diebold to provide ATMs, transaction processing, card management, software, monitoring, help desk services, custom ATM screens plus on-site and depot repair service for the bank’s existing and newly installed ATMs. Additionally, Diebold will provide on-site and depot repair service for the bank’s existing and newly installed ATMs. Cross Keys Bank survived the Great Depression and other hard times through the insight of conservative leadership that remained true to the bank’s core values. Diebold, Incorporated is a global leader in providing integrated self- service delivery and security systems and services.

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Experian Enhances its National Business Database

Experian announced the addition of more than 30 new data elements to its National Business Database. Some of the new information incorporated into the National Business Database includes more than six million additional contact names, bringing the total number of business contacts in the database to more than 22 million. The expanded file also includes new specialty data elements such as commercial vehicle information. Experian is a global leader in providing analytical and information services to organizations and consumers to help manage the risk and reward of commercial and financial decisions.

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FleetCor Expands Fuel Cards in the Czech Republic

Atlanta-based FleetCor acquired CCS, the top fuel card operator in the Czech Republic. CCS is the number one fuel card operator in the Czech Republic, serving 23,000 fleets of all sizes. This is the second European fuel card provider acquired by FleetCor this quarter; they purchased Keyfuels, a leading fuel card operator in England, in early September. FleetCor is the worldwide leader in fuel card processing serving over 530,000 business Fleets in the US, Canada, and Europe. Advent International is one of the world’s leading private equity firms, with $10 billion in cumulative capital raised and offices in 13 countries. CCS was established in 1991 by its management team and is the leading fuel card issuer and processor in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

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NAMOS Compact Earns PCATS Certification

Wincor Nixdorf announced that its “NAMOS Compact” software for petroleum/convenience retailing has achieved the “Conformance Validation Certificate” by the Petroleum Convenience Alliance for Technology Standards. The PCATS certification validates that NAMOS Compact complies with specific-use instances for the PCATS-NAXML standards, which were designed to ease integration and communication between point-of-sale (POS) systems and the back office. PCATS was formed in September 2003 to continue developing and maintaining standards work that was initiated under the National Association of Convenience Stores’ (NACS) Technology Standards Project. The Petroleum Convenience Alliance for Technology Standards (PCATS) was founded in September 2003 to continue the development and maintenance for standards work initiated under the National Association of Convenience Stores’ (NACS) Technology Standards project. Wincor Nixdorf is one of the world’s leading suppliers of IT solutions to the retail and banking industries.

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Finpago Introduces New FSA Card Products

PA-based Finpago has released the “FSAok Debit Substantiation” service including Finpago’s “FSAok Real-Time Eligibility Engine” for FSA debit card use. For most retailers to accept FSA Debit Cards for OTC and pharmacy purchases, the IRS has ruled that each line item of the purchase must be confirmed as “eligible” before the money is spent. Finpago provides FSAok, the first independent clearinghouse solution for automating in-store health care purchases. WageWorks is the nation’s leading provider of tax advantaged consumer spending and savings programs, including flexible spending accounts, health savings accounts, health reimbursement arrangements, commuter benefits and COBRA.

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