Would Postal Banking Be Better than Payday Loans?

Editor’s note: The CFPB, a federal agency, has proposed new rules for payday, car title, and high-cost installment lenders.

BUT, they need to hear from consumers- that means you! We have an easy-to-use page where you can weigh in- it only takes a minute and will help bring about important consumer protections with these loans. Please share a line or two in the comments box about why you care about this issue and want to see strong federal reforms.

PS: You do NOT have to be a payday, car title, or installment borrower to sign the petition.

 

Earlier this week, Liana Molina, director of community engagement at the California Reinvestment Coalition, testified at a field hearing held by the Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service.  The alliance is focused on  “the choice now facing the U.S. Postal Service: Build on the heritage of universal, nationwide service and expand to meet the needs of the hi-tech economy and low-income communities – or continue to shrink with declining service, facility closings and job cuts.”

USPS picture

Molina’s testimony focused on a proposal for the USPS to complete with fringe, predatory payday, car title, and other high cost lenders by instead offering safe, low-cost financial services.  Her testimony is included below.

Good evening, my name is Liana Molina. I’m the Director of Community Engagement at the California Reinvestment Coalition (CRC). The California Reinvestment Coalition is a statewide, membership based organization working to build a fair and inclusive economy that meets the needs of communities of color, low-income communities, and others who have been marginalized and historically underserved.  We use strategic advocacy that leads banks and other corporations to provide investments and financial services that expand access to housing that is affordable, entrepreneurial opportunities, good jobs, and other tools to create and sustain household and community wealth.

Historically CRC has advocated for greater transparency and accountability of the banking industry, and we’ve pushed banks to grow and strengthen their community reinvestment lending, services and investments in low-income communities across California. Today we continue our work to expand access to fair and affordable banking, credit and other financial services and opportunities for underserved consumers.

I lead CRC’s Stop the Debt Trap campaign to reform high-cost payday, car title and installment lending practices. We are employing a multi-pronged approach that entails legislative and regulatory advocacy at the local, state and federal level. Before I delve into the specific policy reforms we are seeking and how the US Postal Service can play an important and impactful role in the struggle against predatory lending, let me share why we got involved in the fight to end predatory payday lending.

Our efforts against predatory payday lending stem from our work to change and improve the mainstream banking sector.

Did you know that every single payday loan borrower is also a bank customer? A consumer needs to have an active checking account in order to obtain a payday loan, since the loan is secured with a post-dated check which is then deposited by the lender on the consumer’s next pay date.

So these consumers are not entirely unbanked. These are people who likely use their bank accounts for direct deposit of their income and to handle other basic financial transactions, such as paying regular bills. Yet, these consumers cannot borrow a $300 or $500 loan from their bank because the banks do not make small dollar loans that meet the credit needs of their clients. So this is one way the banks are part of the problem.

Additionally, many of the big banks are actually invested in payday loan corporations through extending lines of credit they provide to payday lenders, which enable payday lenders to conduct their business. So while the banks aren’t making affordable small dollar loans directly to their customers, they have major credit agreements with payday lenders who then charge these same customers triple-digit interest rates on short-term loans. Banks involved in financing high-cost, low-quality lending through lines of credit and term loans to payday loan corporations include Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, US Bank and others.

Finally, CRC has prioritized our Stop the Debt Trap campaign to end predatory consumer lending because when we talk about the provision of financial services in low-income communities, many economically disadvantaged neighborhoods do not have access to full service bank branches. Instead, these neighborhoods are saturated with fringe financial entities such as check cashers, pawn shops and payday loan outlets, all of which strip the income and assets of consumers struggling to make ends meet. We also know that payday loan stores are more likely to be located in African-American and Latino neighborhoods than in white neighborhoods.

Given this landscape, there is room for a lot of improvement in how our financial system meets the credit and capital needs of low and moderate-income consumers. While CRC agrees that there is a legitimate need for access to credit, debt trap products like payday, car title and installment loans (which are basically payday loans on steroids) do not help people over the long-term.

Payday Lenders

In California, the interest rate on a two-week, $300 payday loan is 459% APR. It amounts to $15 per $100, or $45 to borrow $255. It may not seem so bad at the face value, and most consumers can afford to pay $45 for a $255 loan. However, payday loans require a balloon payment of the full $300 at the borrower’s next pay date, two-weeks later. Most borrowers do not have $300 to pay off the debt without having to re-borrow. So unless the borrower has an increase in their income or a decrease in their expenses, in 4 out of 5 cases, they will take out another loan in order to meet their basic expenses for the next two weeks. This cycle repeats itself an average of 7-10 times for consumers, and drains Californians of over $578 million in interest and fees, annually.

High-cost car title and installment lending is growing in California. Now that the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is poised to issue rules on payday lending, more payday lenders are moving into these other loan products that are just as dangerous. Our state doesn’t regulate the interest rates on payday loans below $300 or on consumer loans above $2,500. We are seeing more car title loans at interest rates at around 100% APR and longer-term installment loans with interest rates at 200% or higher. For example, one borrower working with us on the campaign paid $6,700 over 24 months for a $2,529 car title loan at 112.47%. It’s outrageous.

CRC and other consumer groups have been advocating for changes to local and state laws to rein in these predatory lending practices for many years, and it has been an uphill battle. One of our greatest challenges is the lack of wide-scale alternatives available on the market. Many of our policy makers accept predatory lending as a necessary evil, because they claim that their constituents need access to these loans, and the banks are not lending.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

This is where the concept of postal banking could really make a tangible difference in providing an accessible, responsible, affordable alternative loan product to consumers. The US Postal Service already provides some financial services, such as money orders, cashing of treasury checks, international paper and electronic money orders and gift cards. There is tremendous potential to expand the products and services offered by the USPS to meet the financial needs of underserved populations. We recognize that moving the postal service into offering consumer loans is a long-term process, not an immediate step. However, given the huge demand for small dollar consumer loans, it is a vision that is worth working toward.

When CRC learned about the Campaign for Postal Banking, we were excited to learn that a national coalition has come together to advocate for the USPS to act immediately to expand and enhance existing products and services. While the creation of small dollar lending and savings programs would necessitate Congressional legislation, the USPS could begin to build on the financial products and services currently offered. For example, the postal service could start cashing payroll checks, it could install surcharge-free ATMs in post office lobbies to enable recipients of public benefits to access their funds without paying fees, and it could introduce bill payment and electronic fund transfer services.

By providing less expensive financial products and services, the USPS could help improve the financial stability of millions of Californians. A postal banking system would not only benefit consumers who do not have access to mainstream financial institutions, it would also provide a sorely needed alternative to the big banks who wrecked our economy with predatory mortgage lending and then exploited tax payers by receiving trillion dollar bailouts.

We know that a public banking option is possible. The United States had a Postal Savings System from 1911-1967, which at its peak held about 10 percent of assets in the entire commercial banking system. Today, 1.5 billion people worldwide receive some financial services through their postal service in countries like the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Japan. Posts around the world have demonstrated the feasibility of successfully providing financial services, increasing financial inclusion and generating revenue for the postal service.

We believe this is possible in the United States, and it will require our persistent advocacy and campaigning to bring about these types of changes. CRC is optimistic about the current dialogue around postal banking, and we look forward to participating in local, regional and statewide efforts to move this conversation forward. We greatly appreciate the work of A Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service and the Campaign for Postal Banking.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

 

ThrowBack Thursday: The Roots of the Mortgage Crisis

CRC recently stumbled across a copy of a 2007 report entitled “Sustainability, not attainability: An Examination of Nontraditional Residential Mortgage Lending Products and Practices.” The report included testimony from some companies like New Century Mortgage, who caused billions of dollars in damage to the economy, to say nothing of the individual impact on families who lost their homes. You can order a copy of the report from the CA Senate for $11.75.

Below, we include some choice quotes about the valuable services that companies like New Century Mortgage were providing, or that community advocates didn’t know what they were talking about when they asked for stronger consumer protections. Of course, it turned out the advocates were right, these mortgage would go bad, and our economy would implode as a result. Perhaps smart regulation isn’t so bad after all?  Especially when it comes to the largest asset that many American families will ever own?

Want to learn more about the cost of this crisis?  Check out some other CRC posts below:

NEW CFPB MORTGAGE RULES: WHY DO WE NEED THEM? PART 1

CITY OF LOS ANGELES LAWSUIT AGAINST CHASE, WELLS FARGO, CITIGROUP, AND BANK OF AMERICA

ONEWEST BANK FORECLOSURE TRACKER: HOW MANY FAMILIES ARE LOSING THEIR HOMES?

 

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CRC Guest Blog: Families Win When Banks Stop Funding Displacement

Paulina Gonzalez, executive director at the California Reinvestment Coalition, wrote a guest blog on the Mission Economic Development Agency blog today about Ellis Act evictions, bank loans that finance these evictions, and one bank’s decision to stop providing these loans.  Take a look!

In August of 2015, community organizations and tenants in San Francisco joined together to take a stand against the banks and the role their loans are playing in financing displacement in the city. The story of this organizing victory sets the stage for holding corporate actors accountable to their communities and builds a model for public-private partnerships for the preservation of affordable rental housing…

Read the rest of the post on MEDA’s blog. 

North American Title Loans Repossesses Car from Injured Customer

Editor’s note: The CFPB, a federal agency, has proposed new rules for payday, car title, and high-cost installment lenders.

 

BUT, they need to hear from consumers- that means you! We have an easy-to-use page where you can weigh in- it only takes a minute and will help bring about important consumer protections with these loans. Please share a line or two in the comments box about why you care about this issue and want to see strong federal reforms.

PS: You do NOT have to be a payday, car title, or installment borrower to sign the petition.

 

How does the debt trap work?

Watch this PBS NewsHour episode about T.J. McLaughlin, who had to take some time off work after a medical problem.  Short on money for bills, he borrowed $1,200 from a car title lender (North American Title Loans), at 300% interest rate.  But when he lost his job and was unable to make the payments on this loan, they took his car.

If you’re in California and have had a similar experience with car title, payday lender, or high-cost installment loans, please share it with CRC (Click on this link to share your story- it only takes 3 minutes).

The CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) is writing rules about high-cost payday, car title, and installment loans. By sharing your experience, you can help the CFPB understand how to make these products safer.  Ultimately, that can mean fewer people going through financial heartaches like the one TJ McLaughlin experienced.

Here’s 7 Reasons Payday Lenders Are Worried About Their Profits

Editor’s note: The CFPB, a federal agency, has proposed new rules for payday, car title, and high-cost installment lenders.

BUT, they need to hear from consumers- that means you! We have an easy-to-use page where you can weigh in- it only takes a minute and will help bring about important consumer protections with these loans. Please share a line or two in the comments box about why you care about this issue and want to see strong federal reforms.

PS: You do NOT have to be a payday, car title, or installment borrower to sign the petition.

Payday Pay to Play

1. They’re spending a LOT of money on politicians BUT money can’t always buy you love

The payday lending industry has always “invested” gobs of money in politicians and elected officials as a way to fight off state-level regulation.  According to a new report from Americans for Financial Reform, the industry must be really worried. They spent over $15 million in campaign contributions during the 2013-14 campaign cycle. Some notable recipients include Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz from Florida who received $31,250.  Wasserman Schultz later signed onto a letter with her Florida colleagues, suggesting that the CFPB shouldn’t make payday lending rules too restrictive.  In response, more than 20 Florida organizations that actually work with people who use payday loans (and see the damage caused by them), wrote a letter to the Florida delegation, reminding them that contrary to the marketing of these loans, the reality is that 63% of payday loan customers in Florida take out 12 or more loans each year.

 2. Regulators are clamping down on their illegal practices:

“A huge payday lending operation based in Kansas City will be banned from offering any more loans under a $54 million settlement announced by federal regulators Tuesday.”  Firms accused of faking loans, draining bank accounts settle with feds

“The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is suing the NDG Enterprise, a complex web of commonly controlled companies, for allegedly collecting money consumers did not owe. According to the agency’s complaint, the defendants illegally collected loan amounts and fees that were void or that consumers had no obligations to repay, and falsely threatened consumers with lawsuits and imprisonment.”  Offshore payday lender hit with CFPB lawsuit

And, World Acceptance, one of the shadiest lenders out there, also recently shared that the CFPB is investigating it: This Payday Lender Is Being Investigated by the CFPB, and the Stock Got Crushed

3. People don’t like payday loans, in fact, 75% of people want stronger regulation of them.

The more that people learn about payday loans, the more they support regulation of them.  For example, a recent survey by the Pew Charitable Trusts finds that 75% of respondents believe there should be more regulation of payday loans.  This is an increase from 72% of respondents surveyed in 2013.
Did we mention that there have been 95 newspaper editorials written AGAINST payday lending in the past year and a half?

 

4. The gloves are off in exposing payday loan financiers

 The HuffingtonPost broke the story that a new project run by Allied Progress will expose secrets of the payday lending industry- and who profits from it:

“We’re going to do the hard work to expose who these people are and their links to some big corporations and individuals who would prefer to stay in the shadows,” said Frisch. “We’re looking at all types of predatory lending, payday loans, car titles, check cashing, bank fees. Nothing is off the table, both nationwide and in the states, if we see that we can make an impact.”

Read more here: New Project Seeks To Unmask Shadowy Payday Lenders

Another excellent resource for unmasking the folks that profit off of the payday loan debt trap and other shady companies is a website created by Unite Here, called “Loan Shark Funds”, nicknamed after the “Lone Star Fund” that is investing in payday lenders like DFC Global, which it purchased in December 2014.

Take a look: LOAN SHARK FUNDS website:

Lone Shark Funds

5. Companies are heading for the exit doors

Some companies like EZ Corp are seeing the writing on the wall.  The more people learn about payday, car title, and high cost installment loans, the less they like them.  The company announced in July 2015 that it is no longer going to originate payday, car title, or high cost installment loans.

6. Payday Money = Dirty Money  (can somebody please tell the politicians?)

Money made off of putting people in a payday loan debt trap is dirty money.  Take a look at this private school that announced it was returning donations from a payday loan company that is part of a settlement with federal authorities.

7. Banks don’t want to aid and abet this predatory profit model anymore

In this case, it’s a bank in Australia: “Westpac pulls out of funding payday lenders

According to a recent report from our allies Reinvestment Partners, (Connecting the Dots: How Wall Street Brings Fringe Lending to Main Street) there’s still some banks in the US that are willing to fund payday lenders.

Some of the largest banks include:

Wells Fargo ($WFC)

Bank of America ($BAC)

US Bank ($USB)

Capital One ($COF)

Read the report to see more excellent graphs and information like this one:

Wells Fargo Funding High Cost Consumer Loans

 

Did you like this post?   Check out a few of our other most popular payday lending posts:

95 Editorial Against Payday Lenders

CFPB Field Hearing in Richmond, Virginia Summary

The Payday Lender Hall of Shame

 

We Submitted A FOIA Request About Mortgage Servicers: Here’s the GAO’s Response

Since the start of the foreclosure crisis, CRC has publicly voiced concerns that assistance provided by banks and servicers is not reaching all communities equally.  In other words, some of the communities that were targeted for some of the worst, most predatory mortgages, are the least likely to get the help they need (including sustainable, affordable modifications that keep them in their homes). CRC has worked with housing counselors across California including 10 surveys we’ve conducted with them about their first-hand experience trying to help people to avoid foreclosure.

In our most recent survey, published in May 2014, over half of the housing counselors and legal aid attorneys  said they believe that communities of color and homeowners who aren’t proficient in English are receiving worse outcomes when they seek help.

This may be due in part to banks and servicers not translating written materials they send the homeowners.  Homeowners have also shared with us that some servicers lack adequate and competent translators when homeowners call to speak to their servicer.

Our concerns were reaffirmed when the GAO released a report in February 2014 that analyzed data from the government’s main anti-foreclosure program, the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP).  The GAO found statistically significant differences in the rate of denials and cancellations of trial modifications and in the potential for re-default for homeowners who are protected by fair lending laws.

FOIA to GAO

Unfortunately, the GAO did not report which four banks provided data that the GAO analyzed to reach these troubling conclusions.  So, we filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the GAO to find out which four banks were included.  We also asked the US Department of Treasury if the Department took any action to address the potential fair lending violations identified in the GAO report. You can read Treasury’s response here.

In December, the GAO informed us that they would NOT be providing us the data that we requested, and CRC has subsequently filed an appeal of this decision.  Stay tuned!

Why does transparency in mortgage modification data matter?  

We’re glad you asked!

In our recent comments to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, we weighed in with seven suggestions on the CFPB’s update to the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act and outlined the importance of transparent reporting on mortgage modifications:

The performance of financial institutions in modifying loans is and will continue to be a major factor in determining whether they are meeting local housing needs and complying with fair housing and fair lending laws. We urge the CFPB to include in its final rule the requirement that financial institutions report data on all loan modification applications, denials, and modification terms, broken out by race, ethnicity, gender and age of applicants and census tract; and that this data be publicly disclosed. 

Part of our recommendations are based on our concerns about access to relief not reaching all communities equally.  Based on the City of San Francisco’s recent RFP for banking services, we also know that banks like Bank of America, have the capacity to report on this data, even if they have resisted providing it.

Click here to view BOA’s responses to the City of San Francisco’s banking RFP.  BOA’s response includes demographic data for homeowners who sought help from the bank, so we know this is possible to do.

CRC isn’t the only organization concerned about the transparency and access to relief issue.  In March 2013, CRC, Americans for Financial Reform, and about 100 other organizations asked Joseph Smith, the National Mortgage Settlement Monitor, to provide this data.  However, he declined, stating that he didn’t believe he had the authority. (See letter here).

Bottom line: The CFPB should incorporate transparent mortgage modification data requirements so the public can see who is getting access to mortgage relief (and who isn’t), the GAO should release the data on which four banks it looked at, and more cities should follow San Francisco’s lead in asking banks to be transparent about their mortgage modification practices. 

 

Alameda County to Install ATMs so Families Don’t Have to Pay Fees

What ATM fees could have paid for instead

Remember the $19 million ATM fee report by CRC, released last year?

The Contra Costa Times reports that Alameda County will be installing ATM machines in Oakland and Hayward so that Alameda County residents can withdrawal their benefits without incurring costly ATM charges.

Andrea Luquetta, Policy Specialist at CRC, comments:

“Alameda County supervisors have shown incredible leadership with this…Other counties have taken creative steps, but this is the most creative and practical we’ve seen, and it’s the right thing to do.”

Take a look:

The special ATMs will be installed in the lobbies of Oakland agencies, such as the Eastmont Self-Sufficiency Center; the Adult and Aging Office; the Enterprise Office; and the Thomas L. Berkley Square Office. The machines also will be placed in the Eden Multiservice Center in Hayward.

Read the rest of the story here: Alameda County to install no-fee ATMs for families in need