Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Reminder: Legislative Wrap Up is tomorrow (May 26)

We invite you to join MCRC and coalition partners for a Legislative Wrap-Up on May 26th. Space is limited so please inquire before arriving: contact robin@mdcash.org.

Legislative Wrap-Up
May 26, 2010 10am-1pm
Miller Senate Building,
President’s Conference Center West (I)
111 Bladen Street
Annapolis, MD

Agenda

Welcome and Introductions – Henry Bogdan, Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations  

Budget Overview - Neil Bergsman, Maryland Budget & Tax Policy Institute  

Non-profit advocate panel
·        Melissa Chalmers Broome, Job Opportunities Task Force
·        Robin McKinney, Maryland CASH (Creating Assets, Savings & Hope) Campaign
·        Marceline White, Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition
·        Matthew Joseph, Advocates for Children and Youth
·        Branden McLeod, Maryland Alliance for the Poor

Lunch

Keynote – Erin Currier, Pew Economic Mobility Project

Remarks by The Honorable T. Eloise Foster, State Secretary of Budget and Management (invited)

Unfinished business and discussion of unmet needs – Henry Bogdan (moderator)

Adjourn

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Senate passes financial regulation bill - auto dealers not exempt ... for now

The Senate approved far-reaching new financial rules on Thursday aimed at preventing the risky behavior and regulatory failures that brought the economy to the brink of collapse two years ago and cost millions of Americans their jobs and savings. Read full story here.
In a huge win for consumers, the Brownback amendment that would have exempted auto dealers was not part of the final bill. But the fight isn't over yet; it could still be an issue as the House and Senate reconcile their two bills.

Here's the auto industry's take on it: Before this meeting of House and Senate leaders takes place, though, the Senate has scheduled a vote Monday, May 24, on a proposal by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., said Bailey Wood, a National Automobile Dealers Association spokesman.

The Brownback proposal would instruct Senate conferees to agree to the House bill's exemption for dealers, Wood said.

If the Senate approves this proposal -- and Wood is confident it will -- Senate leaders would be bound to join House leaders in including the dealer exemption in the single bill that emerges from conference, the NADA spokesman said.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Join us for a Legislative Wrap-Up

We invite you to join MCRC and coalition partners for a Legislative Wrap-Up on May 26th. Please RSVP if you have not already to robin@mdcash.org. There is no fee to attend and lunch will be provided. Feel free to distribute to your networks.

Legislative Wrap-Up
May 26, 2010 10am-1pm
Miller Senate Building,
President’s Conference Center West (I)
111 Bladen Street
Annapolis, MD

Agenda

Welcome and Introductions – Henry Bogdan, Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations  

Budget Overview - Neil Bergsman, Maryland Budget & Tax Policy Institute  

Non-profit advocate panel
·        Melissa Chalmers Broome, Job Opportunities Task Force
·        Robin McKinney, Maryland CASH (Creating Assets, Savings & Hope) Campaign
·        Marceline White, Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition
·        Matthew Joseph, Advocates for Children and Youth
·        Branden McLeod, Maryland Alliance for the Poor

Lunch

Keynote – Erin Currier, Pew Economic Mobility Project

Remarks by The Honorable T. Eloise Foster, State Secretary of Budget and Management (invited)

Unfinished business and discussion of unmet needs – Henry Bogdan (moderator)

Adjourn

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Senate delay is your chance to contact Sens. Cardin and Mikulski

The Senate's financial overhaul bill is stalled (they can't get a cloture vote), so we urge you to take this opportunity to contact Senator Cardin and Senator Mikulski and tell them that when the bill moves again you urge them to vote against the Brownback amendment.

Auto-dealers across the state have been lobbying Senators Cardin and Mikulski to support the Brownback Amendement, which would exempt auto dealers from the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Auto dealers argue that only financial products that were related to the crisis should be regulated under the new agency.

The reality is that some auto dealers sell, finance, and promote cars in the same way that mortgage brokers sold houses and banks extended credits. Car ownership can involve sophisticated financial, credit, and sales transactions. Some dealers are honest while others engage in the same types of predatory and deceptive practices that mortgage companies are being scrutinized for.

MCRC believes that auto dealers should be regulated under the CFPA.

Ask Senators Cardin and Mikulski to
• Oppose "The Brownback Amendment" and
• Protect the right of Maryland and other states to pass strong state-level regulations and enforcement by ensuring that federal efforts are the floor, not the ceiling, for reform.

Find contact information here.

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Financial overhaul dealt setback

The plan was for the financial-regulation reform bill to have a vote for cloture -- that is to say, a vote to end debate and move to a final vote -- at 2 p.m. today. But a handful Senate Democrats angry that their amendments haven't been considered derailed that. At 3:15 p.m., Democrats called an emergency caucus meeting. About 30 minutes after that meeting, Majority Leader Harry Reid called for a cloture vote.

Read more here.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Consumers fighting to be heard? A grassroots organization? (Have you no sense of decency?)


Here's a post from a payday lender's blog. It's touting the "Consumer Rights Coalition," which it calls a "grassroots organization" fighting for consumers' right to take out payday loans. (Hey, who wouldn't fight for 600% interest rates!?) The kicker is that this is anything but a grassroots organization; it's a lobbying effort funded by the payday loan industry.

With anti-payday loan legislation either already on the books or being proposed in many U.S. States, the Consumer Rights Coalition is helping hardworking Americans protect their right to reliable credit options. ...

Now with more state legislatures – including Maryland and Arizona - proposing payday loan bans of their own, some consumers are standing up and telling lawmakers that they don’t want to lose one of their last remaining credit options. One grassroots organization that is helping these customers be heard is the Consumer Rights Coalition.
Read about this outrageous group and its claims in this article.

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Audacious Idea: A mortgage lender license is a privilege not a right


MCRC board member Phillip Robinson, who is executive director of Civil Justice Inc., has a post today on the Open Society Institute site about predatory lenders and defaults. Read it here.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Senate passes amendment on debit and credit card swipe fees


"Retailers won a long-sought victory late Thursday as the Senate approved a measure that would give them more power over the fees they pay to banks each time shoppers swipe a credit or debit card.

... Banks large and small aggressively fought Durbin's amendment, even after he agreed to exempt banks and credit unions with less than $10 billion in assets. The Independent Community Bankers of America and the National Association of Federal Credit Unions said the provision could lead retailers to discriminate against their members' higher swipe fees."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/13/AR2010051303571.html?hpid=moreheadlines

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Two Critical Consumer Financial Reform Issues Hang in the Balance

A message from the Consumer Federation of America:

Please Call Your Senators NOW!
Two Critical Consumer Financial Reform Issues Hang in the Balance
Your Senators Need to Hear from YOU!

The Senate debate on the financial reform bill, S. 3217, is in full swing and within the next day they will start consideration on two issues that have a great impact on consumers – preemption of state consumer protection laws (Carper Amendment #3949) and exemption of auto dealers from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Brownback Amendment #3789).

The Carper Amendment (#3949) would:
· Prevent state Attorneys General from enforcing rules developed by the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau against national banks. This amendment takes our on-the-ground state cops – the state Attorneys General – off the predatory lending beat.
· Leave enforcement for most banks entirely up to bank regulators, whose lax enforcement led to the recent economic crisis.
· Permit the Office of Comptroller of the Currency to let national banks ignore state laws that address new abuses not covered by federal protection – thus keeping states from acting as first responders that can stop local problems before they become national catastrophes.

The Brownback Amendment (#3789) would:
· Exempt auto dealers from oversight by the CFPB, even though dealers negotiate the price, term and structure of car loans – whether they originate the loan or sell the loan.
· Allow the status quo to continue, in which rulemaking and enforcement of consumer protections for auto dealers is fragmented and ineffective, thereby allowing unscrupulous dealers to continue targeting our Service members and minorities with predatory auto loans.
· Create an uneven playing field where auto loans issued by community banks and credit unions are subject to CFPB rules, but loans originated by auto dealers are not.
· Undercut reputable auto dealers and other lenders who have nothing to fear from the CFPB. The Bureau will work to support responsible lending and weed out those who engage in deceptive practices, like bait-and-switch financing or those who take kickbacks to steer consumers into higher priced loans, practices currently used by some auto dealers.

Call or email your Senators NOW and tell them to OPPOSE:
1. The Brownback Amendment to carve out auto dealers from the CFPB
2. The Carper Amendment to weaken enforcement of bank consumer protection rules!
Call: Toll-free at: 866-544-7573

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A Proposal to End Shady Car Dealers

... Even the Pentagon has weighed in, insisting that automobile purchases and dealer-assisted financing should be part of any new financial legislation because low-income military people are victimized in large numbers by shady car dealers that set up shop just outside many bases.

Officials say distractions caused by these bad auto deals could affect the readiness of the armed forces.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/12/business/12dealers.html?emc=eta1

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Debt Settlement industry gives blueprint for skirting consumer-protection laws



Steve Rhode of GetOutofDebt.org has posted some documents from The Association of Settlement Companies that give debt settlement companies a myriad of ways to get around new laws aimed at protecting consumers from this dubious financial product.

It's a rare look into the highly aggressive world of debt settlement.

To read MCRC's debt settlement report or executive summary, go here.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

National Consumer League warns of local car scam

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Friday, May 7, 2010

Senate declines to stop "too big to fail"

Huffington Post: A move to break up major Wall Street banks failed Thursday night by a vote of 61 to 33. ...

The amendment, sponsored by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), would have required megabanks to be broken down in size and capped so that their individual failure would not bring down the entire system.

Under Brown-Kaufman, no bank could hold more than 10 percent of the total amount of insured deposits, and a limit would have been placed on liabilities of a single bank to two percent of GDP.

Read the full article here and see the roll call vote here. (Both Senator Cardin and Senator Mikulski voted in favor of the amendment.)

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Newly implemented credit card reform can mean real savings for consumers

Huffington Post: The credit card reform that took effect this year can save big money for cardholders who pay more than their minimum account balance -- as much as $2 for every $1 paid above the minimum, according to the Center for Responsible Lending.

That's all there is to it: Pay more than the minimum balance and potentially, you could save big because your payment will be applied to the debt with the highest interest rate instead of to the debt with the lowest interest rate. The new payment allocation order, along with an end to arbitrary rate hikes and an opt-in requirement for overdraft charges, was one of the central components of the Credit CARD Act, which Obama signed into law in 2009 and which took effect this year.

Read more here.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Howard County Reaches Settlement on “Cattail Creek” Lawsuit

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman announced today the settlement of the County’s lawsuit against the builder and developer of the Villas at Cattail Creek, an age-restricted condominium community located in Glenwood, Maryland. The County sued NVR, Inc., the builder, and The Villas at Cattail Creek, LLC, the developer, in 2008 for alleged violations of the County’s Consumer Protection statute.

“This suit demonstrates the County’s commitment to ensuring that consumer transactions in the County are free from deceptive and unfair trade practices,” County Executive Ulman said. “I am pleased that this community now has the fully functioning waste water system it deserves and that our agreement provides residents with financial compensation that will assist them in running that system for years to come.”

Settlement with the defendants was reached after the developer replaced the original wastewater septic system with a treatment facility that is now meeting state discharge requirements. The developers have also posted a bond with the County which ensures the performance of the system and have made further modifications to the system to eliminate odors.

The settlement provides benefits valued at as much as $1,051,118 if all homeowners agree to release the defendants of their individual claims and those of the condominium association. If the majority (51%) of homeowners accept the terms of this release, the owner(s) of each unit will receive $3,803.23 in cash and the release of their private front foot benefits charge for the next 28 years (valued at $5,643 per unit). The builder will pay $43,000 to the County for the relocation of a sewer line and $100,000 for the County to use in its oversight of the wastewater treatment facility for the next five years. Homeowners who paid a golf-course view premium will also receive a partial refund.

If less than 51% of Cattail homeowners accept the terms of the release, the County will receive $43,000 for the relocation of a sewer line, $25,000 for its litigation claims, plus $1,903 for each homeowner who opts in to use for its oversight of the wastewater treatment facility. Only those homeowners who paid a golf course view premium and opt-in will receive any monetary benefit.

The County’s suit included allegations that the defendants either misrepresented or failed to provide material information to purchasers regarding: the effectiveness of the community’s wastewater treatment facility; the number of wells available to the community for drinking water; the creation of a nine-hole golf course to be built adjacent to the community; and the provision of other community amenities. The Defendants have denied liability.

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Let your senators know you support consumer reforms

From the Consumer Federation of America:

The Senate starts debating S. 3217, the Restoring American Financial Stability Act, TODAY.

Please contact your Senators NOW and ask that a strong pro-consumer and pro-investor bill be passed immediately!

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:
· Oppose the Brownback Amendment to exempt auto dealers from CFPB jurisdiction, thereby ensuring that the CFPB oversees auto dealers.
· Oppose amendments to further preempt states from enacting and enforcing their own laws so that the CFPB rules generally provide a floor of consumer protection, allowing states to enact and enforce tougher laws to protect their citizens.
· Oppose amendments to stop state Attorneys General from enforcing rules issued by the consumer regulator.
· Support amendments that do not give bank regulators, whose primary concern is the profits of the banks, veto authority over CFPB rules.
· Support amendment to give the CFPB enforcement authority over all nonbanks, including payday lenders.
· Support amendment to provide CFPB with authority to ban mandatory arbitration.

Investor Protections:
· Support the Akaka-Menendez fiduciary duty amendment requiring brokers and insurance agents to act in the best interests of their customers when giving investment advice.
· Oppose an amendment that would remove the requirements in the “Sarbanes-Oxley” law that publicly traded companies of all sizes take steps to prevent accounting fraud.

Credit Rating Agencies:
· Oppose amendments to weaken provisions of the bill that make rating agencies legally liable when they violate the law or fail to conduct an adequate investigation to support an accurate rating.

Call: Call your Senators NOW toll-free at: 866-544-7573 and tell them you want someone looking out for consumers!

Sign Petition: Tell your Senators to hold the big banks accountable by signing the petition here.

Email: Go to this list of Senators here, then click through to your Senators’ web pages and tell them you want real financial reform.

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Bank lobbyists fear Senate might do its job


As the Senate dives into the details of far-reaching legislation to overhaul financial regulations this week, lobbyists who represent some of the nation's biggest banks are feeling on edge. Read article here.

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