Consumer Lending Reform - Blog Posts

January 6, 2011

2010 was a heartening year for consumer advocates working to eliminate income tax refund anticipation loans (RALs), the high-cost loans that strip assets from low-wealth tax filers. First, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the federal regulator of national banks, issued a policy statement regulating the provision of RALs that strengthened its hand compared to previously unenforced policies. On the heels of that announcement, Chase announced it was leaving the RAL business. Chase was the second of the three major banks who provided RALs to withdraw, following Santa Barbara Bank & Trust’s forced exit in 2009. In August, the IRS announced it would stop facilitating the preparation of RALs by providing information on a borrower’s debts to tax preparers. Finally, the year ended with more happy news: the OCC ordered the third main RAL provider, HSBC, to stop providing RALs, leaving H&R Block without a bank partner for the upcoming tax season. Republic Bank and Trust, an FDIC-regulated bank that is currently the last bank around to provide RAL financing, is even limiting the amount of funding available to its RALs, including those arranged by Jackson Hewitt. With few financing options left for tax preparers who want to make wealth-stripping loans to working families, this could be the beginning of the end for RALs as a meaningful market.

December 16, 2010

On a cold Monday morning under a persistent snowfall, strains of holiday carols could be heard outside of a Chicago payday loan store. These were not your usual carols celebrating sleigh rides, mistletoe, and peace on Earth; indeed, these carols had a less cheery message.

December 7, 2010

Remember the story of the Grinch? He’s the green creature with a heart two sizes too small who stole holiday presents and good cheer from the unsuspecting citizens of Whoville. We’re kicking off a campaign to warn against a slightly different species of Grinch that poses a danger during the holiday season: the Payday Grinch.

October 5, 2010

Since 1977, the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) has been an effective tool to ensure that financial institutions live up to their community investment obligations, but many of the opportunities for public input on how a bank served the community’s needs only occur when a bank applies to merge with another bank.  The past decade has seen considerable industry consolidation, resulting in fewer merger opportunities for public input. As a result of the ongoing financial and foreclosure crisis, the few large mergers that have occurred were the result of financial insolvency and have taken place on an emergency basis, with no public input for consideration of the merged institutions’ community investment commitments.
Under the American Community Investment Reform Act, a proposal to modernize the CRA introduced by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-4), the public would be able to more effectively hold financial institutions accountable for their community development practices and the financial products they offer.

October 5, 2010

Since 1977, the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) has been an effective tool to ensure that financial institutions live up to their community investment obligations, but many of the opportunities for public input on how a bank served the community’s needs only occur when a bank applies to merge with another bank.  The past decade has seen considerable industry consolidation, resulting in fewer merger opportunities for public input. As a result of the ongoing financial and foreclosure crisis, the few large mergers that have occurred were the result of financial insolvency and have taken place on an emergency basis, with no public input for consideration of the merged institutions’ community investment commitments.
Under the American Community Investment Reform Act, a proposal to modernize the CRA introduced by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-4), the public would be able to more effectively hold financial institutions accountable for their community development practices and the financial products they offer.

October 5, 2010

Since 1977, the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) has been an effective tool to ensure that financial institutions live up to their community investment obligations, but many of the opportunities for public input on how a bank served the community’s needs only occur when a bank applies to merge with another bank.  The past decade has seen considerable industry consolidation, resulting in fewer merger opportunities for public input. As a result of the ongoing financial and foreclosure crisis, the few large mergers that have occurred were the result of financial insolvency and have taken place on an emergency basis, with no public input for consideration of the merged institutions’ community investment commitments.
Under the American Community Investment Reform Act, a proposal to modernize the CRA introduced by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-4), the public would be able to more effectively hold financial institutions accountable for their community development practices and the financial products they offer.

September 7, 2010

In response to some of the recent criticism of the consumer reporting service mandated by the landmark payday loan reforms passed last spring, I would like to provide a brief history of payday loan reform in Illinois and why this database is so critical to protecting consumers.

August 12, 2010

Tax preparers who arrange refund anticipation loans (RALs)—high-cost loans secured by a taxpayer’s expected income tax refund—have long relied on the IRS to provide information on any outstanding debts, such as back taxes or child support, that will be withheld from the borrower’s tax refund. This information, called the “debt indicator,” allows tax preparers to underwrite RALs and facilitates an industry that strips $114 million from Illinois taxpayers. In a huge victory for consumers, the IRS announced that it would stop providing the debt indicator to tax preparers.

June 21, 2010

In a crackdown on 700 percent interest rate payday loans, Governor Quinn signed HB 537, capping rates and closing the legal loophole that has allowed some payday loan companies in Illinos to operate almost completely unregulated.  Starting in March 2011, the law caps rates for nearly every short-term credit product in the state, prevents the cycle of debt caused by frequent refinancing, and gives regulators the tools necessary to identify potentially predatory lending practices before they become widespread.

June 7, 2010

More women will declare bankruptcy than get college degrees this year. Over one quarter of U.S. households are unbanked or underbanked, and 85 percent of these consumers are people of color. For every dollar that white Americans have, Latinos have 12 cents and African-Americans have 10 cents.

May 31, 2010

High-cost consumer credit, extended with no consideration of a borrower's ability to pay it back, has stripped billions in wealth from Illinois communities since the beginning of the economic crisis. While lending reform is still being debated in Washington, the Illinois General Assembly passed strong consumer protections designed to cap rates for the often controversial payday lending industry.

May 26, 2010

Consumer advocates scored a significant victory today as the Illinois General Assembly passed strong consumer protections for high-cost installment loans and closed the payday loan loophole that allowed some payday companies to operate almost completely unregulated. As we move forward, we need your help to contact Governor Quinn and ask him to sign HB537, which puts an end to 700 percent payday and payday installment loans.

May 12, 2010

Woodstock Institute and Americans for Financial Reform (AFR) reached out to key Senators on Tuesday to express their support for interstate lending reform, which would ensure that out-of-state lenders could no longer supersede state interest rate limits that apply to local banks, credit unions, and other lenders.

May 5, 2010

As debate begins on the Senate financial reform bill, the strong consumer protections contained in the Restoring American Financial Stability Act (S. 3217) will surely come under assault from special interests and their armies of lobbyists—and not all of them are from big banks.

April 12, 2010

High-cost credit, extended with no consideration of a borrower's ability to pay it back, has stripped billions in wealth from Chicago region communities since the beginning of the economic crisis.  While lending reform is still being debated in Washington, policymakers in Springfield have finally recognized that at least one form of high-cost credit - payday installment lending - cannot continue to operate in Illinois without a basic set of ground rules. The Monsignor John Egan Campaign for Payday Loan Reform agrees and publicly supports one proposal, Senate Bill 655, which will finally put an end to predatory payday installment loans with rates that too often top 1,000 percent.

March 18, 2010

If you live in Illinois, call your State Senator and tell them to support the Consumer Installment Loan Reform Act (SB655 Amendment #1) today.

December 22, 2009

Last week, the Monsignor John Egan Campaign for Payday Loan Reform and Woodstock Institute called for much-needed consumer protections for the currently unregulated payday installment loan industry at a press conference in downtown Chicago.  These new consumer protections, included in a recent proposal by Senator Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood), would ensure reasonable fees in an industry that has operated for years outside the consumer protections established in the 2005 Payday Loan Reform Act.

July 25, 2007

Credit unions can offer sustainable, affordable short term credit at a fraction of the cost of traditional payday lenders, says a recent report by Marva Williams, until recently Woodstock Institute senior vice president.

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