Bank Of America Agrees To Scan For Illegal Payday Lenders In NY

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.

Bank of America agrees to scan NY database to ensure they’re not helping illegal payday lenders. Via Consumerist.

Why the Dept. of Justice Should Require BOA to Report Homeowner Data as Part of Settlement

Various media reports suggest that Bank of America and the US Justice Department are in discussions for a deal over soured mortgage backed securities, and the figure of $5 billion in homeowner relief has  been cited as part of the deal.

Today, the California Reinvestment Coalition is calling on the US Department of Justice to inject a transparency provision into a potential Bank of America settlement, and any other large mortgage settlements the Department may agree to in the future.

1. Question: What exactly are you asking for?

CRC is requesting that Bank of America report the race, ethnicity, and census tract level data for homeowners who seek relief under this potential settlement.  We aren’t asking for any personally identifiable information- only the data at an aggregate level.

2. Question: What’s the point of asking for this data?

We believe that if banks have to publicize this data, then regulators, Congress, advocates, and the general public will have a better understanding of whether or not the relief is getting to all communities equally.

Since the start of the foreclosure crisis, we have been concerned that the help provided by banks and servicers is not reaching all communities equally.  In other words, some of the communities that were targeted for the worst loans are the least likely to get the help they need (including sustainable, affordable modifications that keep them in their homes) when they request it.  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.

These concerns are based on our work 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, over half of the housing counselors and legal aid attorneys who responded said they believe that communities of color and homeowners who aren’t proficient in English are receiving worse outcomes when they seek help.

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

3. Isn’t this a lot of extra work for the bank?

Not necessarily- Bank of America has already demonstrated its ability to provide this data when it responded to a Request for Proposal from the City of San Francisco for a banking services contract. Click here to view BOA’s responses, which include demographic data for homeowners who sought help from the bank.

4. Why hasn’t this been done before?

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).

5. Do you have any other suggestions for this settlement, or any others that are in the works?

We’re glad you asked!  In October 2013, CRC and 17 other organizations urged the Department of Justice to incorporate “lessons learned” from previous mortgage settlements.  We’re pasting them in below:

1. Relief commensurate with harm caused. Financial institutions have yet to be forced to pay for the total harm caused by predatory mortgage lending and improper foreclosure practices that have drained wealth from working families and their neighborhoods. Only counting 2012, over $192 billion in housing wealth was lost due to foreclosures, with the highest concentration of losses in pre-dominantly minority communities, according to a report by the Alliance for a Just Society.

2. A priority on keeping people in their homes and first lien principal reduction.Countless predatory and unsustainable mortgage loans were made over the last several years, leading to hundreds of thousands of unnecessary foreclosures as servicers failed to follow federal and state rules designed to encourage loan modifications. Banks entering into settlement agreements must halt all foreclosure activity to ensure that no improper foreclosure is processed before impacted borrowers can claim settlement relief or servicing protections to which they are entitled. Likewise, Californians need first-lien principal reduction loan modifications so they can return to being above water and sustain homeownership. While the National Mortgage Settlement (NMS) provides significant first-lien principal reduction relief, a greater amount of relief was provided via short sales where homeowners must leave their homes.

Maeve Elise Brown, Executive Director of Housing and Economic Rights Advocates, explained, “In designing this settlement, the Department of Justice should remember the Independent Foreclosure Review with its $2 billion consultant price-tag but only $300 or $500 for homeowners. The Department of Justice must prioritize reducing principal on first-lien mortgages, a strategy that is most effective at keeping people in their homes.”

3. Support for housing counselors and legal service lawyers. Nonprofit advocates have helped California families navigate a Byzantine loan modification process and keep their homes. But funding for these groups is dwindling and consequently they can serve fewer people. These groups, whose sole focus is on their clients, are the only real competition for the steady stream of loan modification scam artists who gladly charge families thousands of dollars while doing nothing to save their homes. The National Mortgage Settlement was scheduled to deliver over $400 million to the state of California, much of that potentially going to support nonprofit housing counselors. But, almost all of these funds were taken by the Legislature and Governor to back-fill a budget deficit.

4. Best practices and strong standards going forward. Stronger servicing standards have been put in place by the California Homeowner Bill of Rights (HBOR), the National Mortgage Settlement, and the soon to be effective rules of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But an April 2013 CRC survey of over 80 housing counselors in California found that large servicers were routinely violating key provisions of HBOR and NMS. The NMS Monitor found some of the same issues; almost half of the nearly 90,000 complaints made to his office were related to problems with a bank not providing a responsive, capable Single-Point-of-Contact or apparent dual track violations. Besides compensating victims, settlements must end harmful practices.

5. Support for affordable housing. The foreclosure crisis has not only harmed homeowners, it has exacerbated an already desperate affordable housing crisis. Families displaced from their homes by foreclosure are now competing for housing with tenants in a heated rental housing market. These families are also competing with Wall Street investors who pay all-cash for homes, beating out first-time homebuyers and then renting the houses back to some of the same people originally displaced by the Wall Street-generated economic crisis.

During the Savings and Loan crisis, banks were required to support the development of affordable housing through programs such as the Affordable Housing Program (AHP). Tying a percentage of settlement dollars to providing a source of funding for affordable housing is a logical mechanism to help mitigate the broader harm caused by improper mortgage and foreclosure practices, and can begin to address a growing need as the loss of redevelopment agencies in California and other factors have created a new crisis in affordable housing finance.

Amie Fishman, Executive Director of the East Bay Housing Organizations explains, “We’ve had a triple whammy in California of the foreclosure crisis which contributed to pushing rents sky high, alongside the draconian cuts to funding for affordable housing with the elimination of redevelopment agencies and federal sequestration cuts. As a result, too many California families are doubling up with relatives and using half or more of their paychecks to try and keep a roof over their heads. Targeting some of this funding to affordable housing would be a necessary step to addressing this crisis.”

6. Transparency and data reporting to ensure relief is distributed fairly. Most of the recent settlement agreements have for the most part allowed the offending parties to determine how to distribute relief. This has contributed to a feeling that the hardest hit communities have been ignored. The California Attorney General did well to negotiate a separate California agreement as part of the NMS that created incentives for servicers to provide relief in hard hit counties. But even this provision didn’t ensure that relief reached the hardest hit communities. And the National Mortgage Settlement agreement did not require that servicers report the race, ethnicity, gender and income of borrowers and neighborhoods where relief was provided. All future agreements must require this level of transparency to ensure fair housing and fair lending laws are honored.

7. Strong enforcement and monitoring. A settlement agreement is not worth the paper it is written on if the terms are not clear and meaningful, and if the oversight and enforcement is lax to the point of inviting banks to ignore their obligations. The California Monitor (oversees the National Mortgage Settlement in CA) has been a positive force in resolving homeowner complaints and changing servicer behavior, but subsequent reports from the Monitor indicate there is still room for improvement.

Similarly, the ability for victimized homeowners to sue their bank, included in California’s Homeowner Bill of Rights, is a good step forward, but more needs to be done to protect homeowners from unnecessary foreclosures and to protect tenants from illegal evictions. Any settlement agreement must put in place both a credible and strong monitor empowered to ensure banks honor the settlement, as well as a mechanism for affected families to secure relief and assert their rights.

Additional Background

Link to PDF of CRC Freedom of Information Act Request to Dept. of Justice

Link to New CRC Counselor Survey Report (Published May 2014)

Link to Bank of America’s homeowner data disclosure for San Francisco Banking RFP

Link to GAO Report (TROUBLED ASSET RELIEF PROGRAM: More Efforts Needed on Fair Lending Controls and Access for Non-English Speakers in Housing Programs) (February 2014)


To stay up to date on financial justice issues in California, especially as they relate to low income communities, and communities of color, you can follow the California Reinvestment Coalition on our Facebook page, via TwitterGoogle+, watch our movies on our YouTube Channelsign up to receive our newsletter and action alerts, and of course, visit our website.

The Payday Lender Hall of Shame

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.


Cartoon - Shark Infested Waters

Ever wonder why people are concerned about payday loans and some of the companies that make them?  Is it the high interest rates? The debt traps they create for their customers?  Their shady collection tactics?  The amount of money they spend lobbying state legislators in order to protect their profits instead of their customers? Maybe it’s the extra fees they don’t disclose? All of the above?

We’ve compiled excerpts from a few of the articles that highlight some of the worst practices of payday lenders below.  You may also enjoy our compilation of newspaper editorials against payday lenders (click here).

If you are a customer with a complaint about your payday lender, we suggest filling out a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (click here).  The online process is fast, and it’s important for the CFPB to hear when companies are breaking the law, especially since they’re writing rules for payday lenders this year.

A graphic from the Ace Cash Express training manual confirmed advocate suggestions that the payday loan industry profits the most off of people who continualy renew their loans because they can’t afford to pay them off.  The end result?  The consumer pays hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a loan that was originally only a couple of hundred dollars.

ACE Cash Express



“Over the next five years, those five short-term loans of $500 each would cost him more than $50,000 in interest.” KC man pays $50,000 interest on $2,500 in payday loans (Donald Bradley, Kansas City Star, May 17, 2016)

For her part, Mitchell said she’s done with payday loans, noting that she tells her 12-year-old daughter to stay clear of the products. “I would starve before getting another payday loan,” she said. “I just think it’s robbery.” 1,000% loans? Millions of borrowers face crushing costs (Alain Sherter, MoneyWatch, April 25, 2016)

Judge: $1,820 repayment on $200 loan ‘unconscionable’

Monday’s ruling by Vice Chancellor J. Travis Laster involved a loan that Gloria James of Wilmington took out in 2013 to pay for food and rent. James, who was earning $11.83 an hour as a part-time housekeeper at the Hotel DuPont, went to a storefront business called Loan Till Payday. It is run by National Financial LLC, a Utah company that specializes in small-dollar, high-interest loans. She obtained what the business called a Flex Pay Loan, requiring her to make 26, biweekly, interest-only payments of $60, followed by a final payment comprising both interest of $60 and the original principal of $200. The total repayments added up to $1,820, equating to an annual percentage rate of more than 838 percent. “That level of pricing shocks the conscience,” wrote Laster, who said the loan could be rescinded because it was “unconscionable.” He also concluded that National had violated the federal Truth in Lending Act. (Randall Chase, AP, March 14, 2016).

Report of Examination gives look inside payday lender’s alleged wrongdoing                    Banking examiners say the over-charges are actually “double-charges” the lender collects by requiring a post-dated check from the borrower for the loan amount and fees when a loan is made. The lender gets the double-charge by processing the check through the Automated Clearing House, a nationwide electronic network for credit and debit transactions, while also collecting an in-store cash payment from the customer, according to examiners. All American had an “unwritten” policy of not refunding customers for overpayments, unless and until the customer specifically requested a refund, examiners say. (Ted Carter, Mississippi Business Journal Feb 18, 2016).

As regulators put a price tag — $1.32 billion — on what Scott Tucker’s payday-lending enterprises have squeezed out of poor people, a grand jury convenes  On January 20, the FTC asked a federal judge in Nevada to find Tucker and his companies liable for $1.32 billion. That sum, the FTC says, equals what Tucker’s customers have overpaid above the disclosed costs of their loans since 2008 alone. The FTC’s request to the judge was accompanied by thousands of pages of evidence, unsealed for the first time, that show how Tucker made his money, what he spent it on, and how he has attempted to shield himself from the glare of authorities. (Steve Vockrodt, The Pitch News, Feb. 2, 2016)

EZCorp settles federal payday lending complaint: The $10.5 million charge will be included in the company’s financial statements for the year ended Sept. 30. EZCorp also agreed to forgive all outstanding payday and installment debt, which had already been written off for financial purposes, the release indicates. (Christopher Calnan, Austin Business Journal, Dec 16, 2015).

Justices crack down on high-interest usury The court rejected defendants’ expert witnesses’ view that an 11,000 percent – or even an 11 million percent – interest rate would be acceptable in New Mexico because there is no usury statute.  (Marshall Martin, guest column for Albuquerque Journal, September 1, 2014)

High-Interest payday loans called predatory, but regulations die In Iowa Legislature Contributions from the payday loan industry amounting to over $83 million have poured into state campaigns across the country, according to data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics. The institute shows Iowa legislators have pocketed more than $360,000 from donors associated with the payday loan industry since 1998. (Lauren Mills, Iowa Watch, August 10, 2014).

Payday loan firms drove Samantha’s dad to suicide. But even death didn’t stop them hounding him He killed himself last November, too embarrassed by his debts to seek help. Giving evidence, Samantha told the inquest that after his death her father was sent more than 1,000 texts from loan companies demanding repayment.She has no idea how many texts Ian received before he killed himself, because he’d deleted his phone’s history, but she can’t believe they only started afterwards. She also found letters from payday lenders at his home demanding immediate repayment of outstanding arrears. One, delivered two days after his death, threatened court action and bailiffs unless he paid up.

ACE Cash Express paying $10 million to settle debt collection probe When a consumer “exhausts the cash and does not have the ability to pay,” ACE “contacts the customer for payment or offers the option to refinance or extend the loan.” Then, when the consumer “does not make a payment and the account enters collections,” the cycle starts all over again — with the formerly overdue borrower applying for another payday loan, the bureau said.   (Barry Shlachter, Star Telegram, July 10, 2014)

Will the Government Finally Regulate the Most Predatory Industry in America?  “Jones was almost lucky compared to Thelma Fleming, another Baton Rouge resident who pawned her jewelry, had her checking account shut down and lost her car trying to keep up with a string of loans she took in order to make ends meet after she lost one of her two jobs. “For me, it was devastating,” she said. “It got the best of me to the point where I considered suicide.””  (Zoë Carpenter, The Nation. June 27, 2014).

Payday loans may help, but at what price? “Almost half the borrowers are the people who are have fixed incomes, so they’re never going to have any more than they had this month,” Cook said. “Once they start down the payday loan route, they’re really trapped.” (Eric Schwartzberg, Journal-News. June 23, 2014)

Judgment Day for Payday Lenders  In a 2012 report, the watchdog organization Public Campaign found that the payday lending industry had spent more than $1 million during the previous decade to influence Missouri’s elections. In 2011, the legislature had voted to “cap” the APR for payday loans at 1,656 percent. “Members who voted for this pro-industry bill,” according to the report, “received nearly three times more payday money on average … than members who voted in opposition.” (Theo Anderson, In These Times, June 16, 2014)

McDaniel Files Suit Against Online Payday Lenders McDaniel’s suit says that the defendants issued short-term loans to Arkansas consumers with varying interest rates, but all loans had interest rates that were extraordinarily higher than the 17 percent limit set by state law. One loan had an annual rate of 782.14 percent. Others were 640 percent and higher. ( McDaniel Press Release, June 9, 2014)

Fast loans often come with high price tags  The company Hill used, Progressive Debt Relief, charged him a $25 fee for every $100 he borrowed. When Hill fell behind on monthly payments, the company, which required Hill to submit his bank account number before he could get any money, was able to draw the entire amount of the loan from Hill’s account. “They cleaned me out,” he said. (Susan Sharp, FME News Service, June 8, 2014)

Race-car driver’s payday lending business ‘deceived borrowers’ In a typical case, the company would tell someone borrowing $500 that they would only have to repay $650. But in reality, the company would rely on confusing language deep in the fine print to automatically renew loans borrowers thought they were paying off, the judge ruled. So a $500 loan could actually cost the borrower $1,925.  Navarro noted that the company’s own training material encouraged employees not to explain the true cost of the loan to borrowers.  (David Heath, Center for Public Integrity, June 6, 2014)

payday lobbyist

Payday Lenders Pay Premiums Of course, those weren’t the only ways Cash America and other payday lenders tried to elude the reach of federal investigators. As CREW chronicled in earlier reports, including Payday Lenders Pay More, released in 2011, the payday lending industry ramped up lobbying and campaign contributions over the past several election cycles while unsuccessfully attempting to ward off federal oversight and derail the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. CREW’s latest analysis shows the industry is still spreading money around in hopes of limiting federal regulation of payday lending.  (David Crockett, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington January 14, 2014)

Payday loan managers with Las Vegas ties to pay $100,000 in penalties The managers of an illegal payday loan business with operations in Las Vegas have been ordered to pay $100,000 in penalties and forfeit more than $1 million in outstanding loans, according to a final settlement announced by California regulators.  (Chris Sieroty, Las Vegas Review-Journal, December 25, 2013).

truth in lending crackdown on payday

Banks Must Stop Financing High-Cost Consumer Lenders Some of the retail storefront payday lenders financed by these banks lend those dollars back out to the community at rates of as high as 500%.This type of behavior is a net loss that outweighs many of the good things that banks do elsewhere in communities. (Adam Rust, BankThink Blog, December 16, 2013)

Cashing Out: The Usury Suspects, Part 2 “On average, repeat customers account for 40-50% of the Company’s annual loans,” the overview reads. “The Company’s average customer will borrow ~$1200 (~3 loans) and repay ~$2350 over a 4-year timeframe. Margins on loans to repeat customers average 150% higher than loans to new customers.”  To translate: The average person who takes out a loan from Kimball and Furseth ends up paying back double what he or she initially borrowed. Factor in the 500,000 loans that Evergreen Capital Partners says it has issued since its inception, and a picture emerges: Operators and investors can get pretty rich with a business model like this.  (David Hudnall, The Pitch, December 10, 2013)

How KC’s wealthiest enclaves became a shadowy nexus of predatory lending Over the next five years, Tucker, through CLK, is believed to have pioneered many of the shadowy hallmarks that now define the online payday-loan industry, such as constructing byzantine trails of front companies and merging with Indian tribes to provide his businesses with regulatory immunity. (Only the federal government can sue businesses on tribal lands. That makes it difficult for states to prosecute Tucker when his companies lend at interest rates surpassing the caps they have in place.)  (David Hudnall, The Pitch, December 3, 2013)

Payday lender Cash America fined over claims of robo-signing, gouging military members Problems at Cash America came to light when the bureau conducted its first exam of the company in 2012. Before the visit, examiners told the company to retain documents and call recordings for review. But bureau agents learned that employees were instructed to shred files and erase calls. Employees confessed that managers had also coached them on what to say to examiners, according to the compliant.  (Danielle Douglas, Washington Post, November 20, 2013).

payday vultures I Applied For An Online Payday Loan. Here’s What Happened Next “Once you made that application, you basically sent up a red flag with them that you are someone in need of this money, and you need it on a short-term basis,” he told me. “That’s when the vultures come out.” (Pam Fessler, NPR News, November 6, 2013)

 The Payday Playbook:  How High Cost Lenders Fight to Stay Legal Outrage over payday loans, which trap millions of Americans in debt and are the best-known type of high-cost loans, has led to dozens of state laws aimed at stamping out abuses. But the industry has proved extremely resilient. In at least 39 states, lenders offering payday or other loans still charge annual rates of 100 percent or more. Sometimes, rates exceed 1,000 percent.  (Paul Kiel, Propublica, August 2, 2013, part of the Debt Inc. Lending and Collecting in America series)

Usury Cartoon RJ Matson St. Louis Post Dispatch Jan 12 2012

To stay up to date on financial justice issues in California, especially as they relate to low income communities, and communities of color, you can follow the California Reinvestment Coalition on our Facebook page, via TwitterGoogle+, watch our movies on our YouTube Channelsign up to receive our newsletter and action alerts, and of course, visit our website.

City of Los Angeles Lawsuit Against Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Bank of America

Wrecking Ball

Last Friday, the City of Los Angeles filed a lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase for targeting minorities for predatory mortgages and the subsequent economic damage when these loans went into default.  The City Attorney, Mike Feuer, has already sued Wells Fargo, Citigroup Inc, and Bank of America for the same issues.

As Edvard Pettersson reported in Bloomberg News last week (Wells Fargo Can’t Shake L.A. Lawsuit Over Predatory Loans), a judge denied Wells Fargo’s attempt to have the lawsuit dismissed.   The lawsuit cites research (The Wall Street Wrecking Ball: What Foreclosures Are Costing Los Angeles Neighborhoods) by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and the California Reinvestment Coalition, which found homeowners in Los Angeles lost about $78.8 billion in home value as the result of 200,000 foreclosures from 2008 through 2012 and lost property tax revenues of $481 million.

In addition to the City of Los Angeles, CRC and ACCE also looked at Oakland, San Jose, San Francisco, and Sacramento to assess the financial damage caused by predatory lending.  See chart below.  (Note: reports were published in September 2011)

Meanwhile, David Dayen questions in the Guardian (Foreclosed outta Compton: can LA stop racist mortgage lending by big banks?) if the City of Los Angeles will produce better results in their lawsuit than other cities have fared.

Beyond the bad loans being targeted to minority borrowers, a GAO report released a few months ago supports CRC’s position that homeowners of color and homeowners whose primary language isn’t English are receiving worse results when they do seek a loan modification.

The GAO found statistically significant differences in the rates of denials and cancellations of trial modifications and in the potential for re-default between populations protected by fair lending laws and other populations.

For three of four servicers analyzed, denial rates for failure to provide information to servicers were higher for Latino borrowers, as CRC found in our earlier report, “Race to the Bottom,” put out jointly with Urban Strategies Council.  Counselors have pointed out in multiple CRC surveys that servicers not translating their written letters to borrowers or providing low quality verbal translation services may mean borrowers miss out on important notices, for example, a request for additional information.  See GAO Report here: TROUBLED ASSET RELIEF PROGRAM: More Efforts Needed on Fair Lending Controls and Access for Non-English Speakers in Housing Programs

City Property Tax Loss Lost Home Value Est. Cost for City Services on Foreclosed Homes
Oakland $75.3 million $12.3 billion $224 million
Los Angeles $481 million 78.8 billion $1.2 billion
San Francisco $42 million 6.9 billion $73.4 million
Sacramento $108 million 17.7 billion $620 million
San Jose $135 million $22 billion $288 million

The Wall Street Wrecking Ball: What Foreclosures are Costing Neighborhoods
September 15, 2011 
CRC joined with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) to analyze the full impact of foreclosures on a local level in five cities– Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, Sacramento, and San Jose. Foreclosures lead to decreased home values in neighborhoods, lost property tax revenues, and increased costs to local government. The reports include policy recommendations that would stop the wave of foreclosures and stabilize communities.
For a link to the Oakland report,click here 
For a link to the Los Angeles report,click here 
For a link to the San Francisco report,click here 
For a link to the Sacramento report,click here 
For a link to the San Jose reportclick here.