The New CFPB Rule is a Testament to the Power of Community Organizing

Seniors were the largest age group of payday loan borrowers in California last year but a new CFPB rule will better protect borrowers.

Dear CRC Supporter:

Yesterday, the CFPB released a new rule that will protect working families from predatory loans and the financial heartaches they create.

This rule is a victory and is a testament to the power of community organizing by CRC, our members and our allies. Borrowers will benefit from new safeguards requiring lenders to better assess their ability to repay a loan and from restrictions preventing lenders from making multiple, unsuccessful attempts to debit their bank accounts, a practice that results in costly overdrafts and closed bank accounts.

As the CFPB began its work to write this rule, CRC members and their clients courageously stepped up to share their experiences. Working with our partners, we organized listening sessions with the CFPB and with our Congressional representatives where Californians talked about how they got caught in the payday loan debt trap- a cycle of costly rollovers that are profitable for the industry, but that extract precious income and assets away from working families.

California Consumer Leadership Academy

In 2015, CRC partnered with CRL-California and California LULAC to organize the first ever California Consumer Leadership Academy.  Eight courageous women participated in this day-long training, shared their experiences, and crafted strategies on how to stop predatory lending practices in our communities.

At the CFPB’s field hearing where it announced its draft proposal of the rule, I shared the story of a Santa Cruz borrower who had worked with a CRC member after getting a payday loan and then being illegally harassed for repayment of it. We applauded the CFPB’s initial proposal, while also highlighting where we thought the safeguards could be stronger.

Once the public comment period opened, we activated consumers, CRC members and allies, and engaged with local, state, and federal elected officials to ensure the rules were as strong as possible. Consumers shared their stories in the media and we helped them to file CFPB complaints. Local mayors voiced their support. As a result of CRC and our member’s organizing efforts, the LA County Board of Supervisors passed a unanimous motion in support of strong rules. California state legislators, as well as our two senators and more than half of our congressional delegation (led by Representative Maxine Waters) weighed in with their support.

Over 100 California nonprofits also weighed in with the CFPB and our message was loud and clear: California families need a strong CFPB rule that protects their income and assets from predatory lenders.

We applaud the CFPB for its thoughtful approach to this rule and we want to extend our gratitude to our members and allies who worked tirelessly to organize and to protect our communities from predatory lending. We’re also grateful to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation for their support of this work.

We anticipate the industry will attempt to get this rule overturned- either through the courts or the Congressional Review Act, but rest assured we will continue our advocacy in support of this rule and the other work the CFPB is doing to stand up for Main Street.

My statement on the rules is now available on CRC’s website and you can read a CFPB fact sheet about the rules here.

Thank you for your support.

Paulina Gonzalez

Executive Director

California Reinvestment Coalition Recommendations on Updating the Community Reinvestment Act

Community reinvestment act 2

Fact Sheet: Community Reinvestment Act Recommendations

To truly meet community needs, CRC members believe the CRA should be improved and strengthened. In a recent survey, 100% of members said that the level of CRA activity in their community needed improvement and that there was considerable room for banks to do more.

CRC recommends that CRA be reformed so that:

1. CRA implementation encourages, not discourages, reinvestment in rural areas. California is home to numerous rural reinvestment deserts, where a lack of lending and investment prevents communities from thriving economically. And yet, many of these areas already have bank branches and are included in bank CRA assessment areas. Regulators subject bank CRA activity in these areas to a lower level of scrutiny, as banks are able to denote these areas as subject to only “limited scope” review. For example, Bakersfield, California, has numerous bank branches, and those banks have CRA obligations in the city. However, these same banks are examined for their CRA activity far more closely in other, more urban areas of the state. This creates fierce competition, for example, for housing tax credit deals in urban areas, while rural projects struggle to find financing. Instead, regulators should ensure that the banks with the largest deposits in a given MSA are subject to a full scope review in that MSA.

2. Regulators should encourage banks to develop transparent, multi-year CRA Plans that reflect significant public input and that include measurable goals, such as tying reinvestment activity to a percentage of bank deposits. Banks are supposed to help meet community credit needs. And in many bank merger applications, banks must demonstrate that the merger will provide a community benefit. The public input process is critical to this assessment.

However, community input has been diluted, and is not sufficiently sought and considered under current CRA implementation, as an example, very few mergers will even have public hearings. Mergers most often lead to diminished resources for communities as 1 + 1 rarely equals 2 in terms of reinvestment. That is why a comprehensive review of mergers is so important, complete with strong community input and mitigation of any harm the merger may cause in the form of decreased reinvestment or reduced access to banking services or branches.

Regulators should encourage CRA plans, particularly in the context of mergers that must show a clear public benefit to the community. Strong and meaningful CRA plans reflect community input about community credit needs, motivate banks by setting strong goals for lending, investment and services, and allow communities to work in partnership with banks to ensure that they are treated equitably and fairly by financial institutions. CRA plans are a best practice that have resulted in significant gains for communities in the past few years. Strong CRA plans can help demonstrate that a merger will have a public benefit.

3. Banks should be downgraded for causing, enabling, or financing harm in communities, taking into account discrimination, and equity stripping conduct and transactions that lead to displacement. The CRA calls for an assessment of how well or poorly a bank is meeting community credit needs. This analysis must include an assessment of fair housing and related factors. Regulators should conduct a comprehensive review of a bank’s community impact. Wells Fargo is but the most recent example to demonstrate that simply investing in the community is insufficient- banks must also not cause harm or break the law.

For a regulator to give a bank a passing CRA grade while the bank engages in discriminatory lending would be to endorse discrimination. Further, a high CRA rating for a discriminatory bank could result in consumers being directed to a bank with an inflated CRA rating, only for the bank to potentially overcharge the consumer or deny that person a loan. In this way, regulators would abuse the public’s trust in its ratings.

Bank regulators should consider expensive overdraft programs and excessive reliance on fee revenue generated at the expense of the most economically vulnerable consumers as a basis for downgrading a bank in a CRA service test evaluation. Similarly, banks should be downgraded for financing high cost, predatory lenders, and for contributing to gentrification and displacement. Banks should also suffer CRA rating downgrades as a result of any involvement in the REO to Rental craze, which results in first time homebuyers being outbid by cash investors, tenants being displaced by Wall Street landlords, and neighborhoods losing long term residents as well as racial and income diversity.

4. Encourages banks to open and maintain branches in LMI and rural areas. Bank branches remain a critical part of how banks serve communities, and inequitable distribution of branches must be considered as part of the CRA service test. Critically, regulators cannot allow the industry’s preference for technology to result in fewer branches and shrinking CRA assessment areas, footprints, and obligations in LMI communities. Additionally, many LMI neighborhoods and communities of color not only lack access to bank branches, but also to a wide range of banking products and services, including ATMs.  Regulators should analyze whether banks are meeting the banking needs of all communities in their assessment areas.

Regulators should also consider how banks can better reduce the number of unbanked or underbanked consumers within their assessment areas. Moreover, banks should quantify the extent to which LMI bank customers are able to keep their accounts open and in good standing over time, or if their customers are pushed out of the bank by overdraft fees or other barriers. Low cost bank accounts should be offered and accessible to LMI consumers, including through bank acceptance of municipal identification cards and other accessible forms of ID.

5. Assessment areas should include areas where banks have branches, or where a significant number of their customers and depositors live. Regulation has lagged behind market innovation. Requiring reinvestment only around retail branches makes much less sense today, when internet, credit card, and fintech banks operate nationally but reinvest only in Salt Lake City or another headquarters location.

Assessment areas should be expanded to include areas where a substantial portion of a bank’s depositors and borrowers reside. At the same time, banks should not be allowed to receive additional CRA credit for lending or investing outside of the bank’s CRA assessment area, beyond the accommodation made to banks by regulators during the last CRA Questions and Answers review. This will only lead to a dilution of investment in LMI neighborhoods that are most in need of reinvestment. The primary purpose of the CRA is to serve communities where the bank is doing business, not to encourage reinvestment where it is easiest to do. Banks should not be able to circumvent obligations to serve the communities in their assessment areas. The focus of bank CRA should remain on LMI individuals and communities.

6. CRA examinations should consider and reflect new small business lending data that the CFPB will be overseeing. Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, prime job creators, and bulwarks of the community. Yet small business owners benefit from fewer protections than homeowners. HMDA data has been collected for years, and used to inform CRA examinations, without problem or incident. Small business owners should also benefit from a comprehensive and unified lending data collection system.

CRC members strongly support Congress’ charge in Dodd-Frank that §1071 small business lending data be collected in order to facilitate enforcement of fair lending laws and enable communities, governmental entities, and creditors to identify business and community development needs and opportunities of women-owned, minority-owned, and small businesses. Such data collection and dissemination will surely make affordable credit more accessible to all small businesses, and will inform CRA examinations.

A recent CRC survey of our CDFI, community lender and technical assistance provider member organizations revealed that small business clients still face discrimination; are pushed by banks towards higher priced credit cards; are frequently targeted for nonbank credit products (like Merchant Cash Advances), and are in need of greater access to affordable, safe, and transparent credit.

7. Banks serve all segments of the community, including the immigrant community. Banks can and should serve the immigrant community by directly providing loans and investments to immigrants, and by supporting community lenders and other organizations that serve the immigrant community. Immigrant community members have significant unmet credit needs, whether it is a safe place to save money, a loan to buy a house, purchase a car, start a businesses, or pursue a citizenship application.

Banks should ensure that employees represent the diversity of their service areas, and make translation, interpretation and related language access services available to all potential clients. Banks should make loans and investments accessible to all community members, and invest and support community lenders and other organizations that serve the immigrant community.

8. The bank examination process can be improved so that years do not go by after an examination before the pubic rating is released. The regulators should hire additional examiners and provide enhanced training to ensure that there is consistency in the examination process across agencies and examiners. CRC believes that a primary reason behind the delay in the public release of CRA ratings is the propensity of banks to challenge and appeal initial CRA ratings by regulators. This process should be reformed to limit the circumstances in which a bank can challenge a rating, and the public should be given an opportunity to comment on the appeal when a bank invokes this otherwise opaque process. It is of critical importance that regulators set high standards of review.

To make CRA meaningful, regulators have to end the long history of CRA grade inflation so that poor CRA performance will be reflected in CRA ratings. Streamlining the process while lowering the examination bar will only lead to less investment, more harm to communities, and potentially, to greater risk in the US financial system. We saw this happen in the years leading up the financial crisis, when regulatory agencies competed against each other to attract banks to their charters, fueling a regulatory race to the bottom, and leading ultimately to the failure of several savings and loans and the end of the Office of Thrift Supervision.

CRC’s Response to the New Threats Facing our Communities

Dear CRC Members and Supporters,

Like you, we were shocked and saddened by the violence and hatred demonstrated by white supremacists and neo-Nazis chanting anti-Semitic and racist chants in Charlottesville, culminating with the murder of Heather Heyer, a nonviolent protester. We were horrified to watch the president refuse to condemn the violent perpetrators and instead equate the actions of those who espouse hate with those who resist it. It was heart wrenching and rage inducing. Like many of us, I found it difficult to sleep that night. I found solace at church the next day when my pastor compelled us to keep our eyes on the prize through our sorrow and anger.

Today, I write to you to remind us to collectively keep our eye on the prize. CRC staff are working hard in this moment not just to respond, but to build; and to do it in greater partnership with our coalition members. We know our communities need our members and our work more than ever. While the forces in power are trying to drive us further into the margins, we are pushing back and are determined to do all we can to achieve our vision of a fair and inclusive economy that puts the needs of communities of color and low income communities at the center.

Thankfully, the five-year strategic plan that our board, members, and staff helped build a year and a half ago continues to give us the vision and structure to work toward our five strategic goals: holding financial institutions and regulators accountable to the needs of our communities, building economic opportunity, protecting and building family and household wealth, building people power through community engagement, and deepening and broadening our impact.

Since the election, the communities we serve are experiencing unprecedented pressures that threaten their financial health and stability. The race baiting, fear mongering, and overt racism we saw on the campaign trail is now a policy agenda. It is reflected in the proposal to build a wall, the Muslim Ban, attacks on affirmative action, dramatically increased detentions and deportations, proposed budget cuts and weakening of rules at HUD, a proposed ban on transgender people serving in the military, attempts to disenfranchise people from voting, and the attacks against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), our two strongest tools that ensure that all communities have access to safe and transparent credit and financial products that help build wealth.

A recent report from the Treasury Department outlined this administration’s goals to relax banking safeguards and to modernize the CRA. We will work to ensure that any CRA modernization plans do not entail weakening the law or reducing investment in California’s communities. CRC will also continue our work to preserve the common-sense safeguards that were implemented under Dodd-Frank to prevent another Great Recession.

While CRC will continue our CRA accountability work, I also want to update you on how we’re responding to these new threats.

CRC is Responding.

At three emergency summits that we co-hosted with the Greenlining Institute after the election, we heard concerns from our members and allies in Fresno, Los Angeles, and San Francisco about this administration’s approach to housing, its attacks on immigrants and people of color, and how local and state governments will need to step up and fill in the void at the federal level. Service providers also raised the need for dramatically increased organizing and advocacy.

CRC is taking these challenges head on. Our organizational mission, vision, and strategic plan call for no less. As the current administration further attempts to divide our country and marginalize the most vulnerable among us, we will fight back and work even harder with you to bring our communities together and to advance our shared goals in the following ways.

Resisting Economic Displacement: CRC is working with our local partners and members to fight displacement of low-income communities and communities of color in the East Bay, with a special focus on the mechanics of how this is happening, including who is financing this activity, and how we can stop it.

Protecting Immigrant Financial and Economic Resources: Next month, we will release the results of a survey of our members that reveals how their immigrant clients are being impacted, including some who have even gone “underground” in response to this new climate of fear.

We are also building from the momentum of a sold-out, standing room only symposium we co-hosted in March for front line providers in the East Bay focused on financial resources for immigrant families. CRC will be engaging with immigrant families and the service providers they trust to understand the unique financial and economic challenges they’re facing, and to identify and expand access to resources that can help, starting with better banking practices.

Making Government a Force for Good, not Harm: Many families are being ensnared in debt traps created both by government fines and fees and the abusive debt collection practices used to collect on them. The lack of income to pay a parking or traffic ticket can quickly spiral out of control into mounting debt, ruined credit, driver’s license suspension, job loss, criminalization, and incarceration. We believe now more than ever, local and state governments need to stand up on behalf of working families, not against them. We’ll be engaging in this new area of work with our California members and allies, and also with our long-term partners in three states: North Carolina, Illinois, and Maryland.

CRC stands in solidarity with our members, partners, and allies, and we will continue to advocate for policies that support communities of color and working families, and against policies that would cause them harm.  In what often feels like dark times, we are keeping our eyes on the prize, with the belief that together in struggle we can and will prevail.

We appreciate your support and I welcome your feedback.

In solidarity,

Paulina Gonzalez

Executive Director

The California Reinvestment Coalition

California Lawmakers Call on CFPB for Stronger Payday Lending Rule

Payday Lenders

Have you heard?  After decades of abusive lending practices by payday, car title, and high-cost installment lenders, a federal agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will be releasing a new rule to better protect borrowers who use these loans.

The Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) and California Reinvestment Coalition (CRC) applauded California members of the U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, California State Legislature, city and county officials, and California Attorney General Kamala Harris who all sent official statements to the CFPB, calling on the bureau to strengthen an earlier, draft version of the rule.

In their letters, California lawmakers and attorney general highlighted that the proposed rule is a step in the right direction, but  that more needs to be done to ensure borrowers are not trapped in a cycle of debt by these predatory loans.

In California, payday lenders typically charge 366% APR on a $300, two-week loan.

Payday lenders and high cost lenders are also offering loans of $2,500 and above at 100% or higher  APRs. Consumers are especially vulnerable to this abusive practice as California does not have an interest rate cap for loans greater than $2,500.

“As elected representatives, we respectfully urge the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to issue a strong federal payday lending rule that puts an end to the payday, car title, and high-cost installment loan debt trap nationwide” the legislators wrote.

“These high-cost unaffordable loans are detrimental to any community, but have a disproportionate impact on our African American and Latino neighborhoods. In California, payday lenders are twice as likely to be located in communities of color than in white communities, even after accounting for income. The core principle of CFPB’s proposal is the right approach—requiring lenders to ensure that a loan is affordable without having to re-borrow or default on other expenses. However, some of the details must be strengthened in order for this approach to truly work and protect Californians from predatory lenders.”

Payday lenders have invested in efforts to ward off state laws and federal regulations that would protect consumers. Some members of the California State Legislature, including California Assemblyman Ian Calderon (District-57) have pushed to weaken regulations against payday and car title lenders by calling on the CFPB to go light on rules that prevent abusive financial practices.

“This rule will create the first nationwide regulatory floor for the payday lending industry, while maintaining the prerogative of states to further strengthen their consumer protection laws and regulations as they see fit.” the attorney general wrote. “I strongly support the Bureau’s proposal to require a meaningful “ability-to-repay” standard and to curb collection abuses, as well as its proposals for structural protections to help protect consumers from being trapped in long-term, unaffordable debt.”

“Payday and car title lending significantly harm borrowers and their families. They lead to financial consequences, such as bank penalty fees, loss of cars, and bankruptcy. It’s discouraging to see that some members of the state legislature have aligned themselves with payday lenders instead of putting the interests of California families first.” explained Center for Responsible Lending Director of California Policy Graciela Aponte-Diaz. “We commend the members and the attorney general for their leadership and standing up against the payday lending industry.”

“For years, payday lenders have siphoned money out of the pockets of Californians who can least afford it,” said California Reinvestment Coalition Director of Community Engagement Liana Molina. “We applaud our state elected officials for standing up for responsible lending and we join them in urging the CFPB to finalize a rule that will protect borrowers.”

California state legislative members who signed the comment letter were:

Senators Bob Wieckowski, Mark Leno, Senator Fran Pavley, Hannah-Beth Jackson, Mike McGuire, Benjamin Allen, and Carol Liu; and Assembly Members Mark Stone, Patty Lopez, Philip Ting, Susan Talamantes Eggman, and Susan Bonilla.

The following local policymakers also called for a stronger payday lending rule:

Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, Menlo Park Mayor Rich Cline, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Roseville Mayor Carol Garcia, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, San Mateo County Board of Supervisors President Warren Slocum, and Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager.

Additionally, U.S. Representative Maxine Waters led a group of more than 100 Congressional members in sending a comment letter to the CFPB Director calling for a stronger payday lending rule.

The California Congressional delegation members who signed the comment were: Peter Aguilar, Karen Bass, Xavier Becerra, Ami Bera, Judy Chu, Mark J. DeSaulnier, Anna G. Eshoo, Sam Farr, John Garamendi, Janice Hahn, Mike Honda, Jared Huffman, Barbara Lee, Ted W. Lieu, Zoe Lofgren, Alan Lowenthal, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Linda T. Sánchez, Jackie Speier, Mark Takano, Juan Vargas, and Maxine Waters.

Both U.S. Senators from California, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, have also signed on to a letter urging CFPB for a stronger rule.

CRL and CRC have consistently fought against abusive predatory lending practices across California. Recently, CRL and CRC sent comments to CFPB calling for the Bureau to end the payday lending debt trap and close off paths to evasion for predatory payday lenders. Read CRL’s letter here and CRC’s letter here.

As part of its rulemaking process, CFPB released its proposed rule on June 2, 2016, and has since received public comments from families, communities, and organizations. The final day for public comment was on October 7, 2016. The CFPB is expected to make its final decision on the regulations in 2017.

Los Angeles County Takes Stand Against Predatory Payday, Car Title, Installment Lending Practices, Urges Strong CFPB Rules

Editor’s note: If your organization would like to support strong consumer protections being included in the new CFPB rules for payday, car title, and high-cost installment loans, please contact Liana Molina (liana AT calreinvest.org) at CRC and she can help.  The deadline to give your feedback is approaching fast- it’s October 7, 2016!

On Thursday, September 8th, the Chair of the LA County Board of Supervisors, Hilda L. Solis, hosted a press conference with LA community leaders where she talked about the financial harms caused by predatory payday, car title, and high-cost installment loans.

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(Photo credits: Supervisor Solis' office, LULAC, Samuel Chu, and CRC)

LA County Motion

At the press conference, Supervisor Solis announced an LA County motion in support of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) implementing strong federal rules to better protect consumers from harmful lending practices by payday, car title, and high cost installment lenders. The motion was approved unanimously the following week, making Los Angeles County the largest county in California (and the US) to pass a motion supporting strong rules by the CFPB to better protect consumers from predatory lending.

Supervisor Solis explained: “This motion is an important way for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to demonstrate that we believe protecting families and their pocketbooks is good public policy and that we strongly support the CFPB finalizing a rule that will prioritize borrowers over ill-gotten profits.”

Community Leaders

Rabbi Joel Thal Simonds, associate program director at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, opened the event. He explained: “The words of Exodus 22:24 remind us that ‘If you lend money to My people, to the poor among you, do not act toward them as a creditor; exact no interest from them.’ We seek a just and caring society in which those in need are not set on downward spiral of debt and hopelessness. That is why we must stop the abusive practice of payday lending which profits off the hardships of those living paycheck to paycheck. ”

Borrowers Discuss Their Experiences

During the press conference, former payday loan consumers also spoke about their experience with the so-called “payday loan debt trap.”  The “debt trap” refers to the fact that most payday loan borrowers are unable to repay their first loan when it comes due two weeks after they got it. So, they are forced to roll over or renew the loan, often multiple times, and they are paying an average APR in California of 366% when borrowing these loans.

Christina Griffin explained:

“When I had a financial emergency, I thought I could use a payday loan once and be done with it. Instead, I couldn’t pay back the loan two weeks later- and also be able to pay my other expenses. So, I had to keep rolling over my payday loan- which meant more and more fees and less money for other things- like groceries. As a former customer who survived the “debt trap,” I’m urging the CFPB to put a stop to this “debt trap” for future borrowers.”

Rosa Barragán shared her story of getting caught in a long term cycle of payday loan debt when she took out a loan following the passing of her husband.  You can read more of her story in La Opinión’s article about the press conference: Exigen mano dura para las compañías de ‘payday loans’.

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Rosa Barragan speaking

Pit of Despair Art Installation

In addition to the press conference, a visually stunning, life-sized 3D art installation, the “Pit of Despair” was unveiled.  It was created by an artist named Melanie Stimmel and the team at We Talk Chalk, and it is a graphic illustration of how payday lending really works. The interactive art display has traveled around the country to visually demonstrate the “debt trap” that the majority of payday loan borrowers find themselves in when they are unable to make a balloon payment to repay their loan two weeks after they receive it. As a result, most borrowers renew their loans repeatedly (incurring more charges each time), which has been labeled the “payday loan debt trap.”

Putting finishing touch on Pit of Despair- thanks Americans for Financial Reform!

Putting finishing touch on Pit of Despair- thanks to Americans for Financial Reform for sharing it!

The Negative Impact of Payday Loan Stores in Los Angeles
Los Angeles County is home to approximately 800 payday loan storefronts, by far the most of any county in California. Because of the structure and terms of payday, car title, and high-cost installment loans, they worsen the financial position of most borrowers. Research has found that lenders are disproportionately located in communities of color, and are a net drag on the overall economy.

Bill Allen, CEO of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, explained the impact  of payday loan fees recently in an LA Daily News OpEd:

“These “alternatives” drain low-income residents’ scant savings. More than $54 million in check-cashing fees and $88 million in payday loan fees each year are paid by county residents. If those consumers had better financial services options, much of that $142 million could go toward building household savings, thus increasing economic stability for their families and communities.”

Gabriella Landeros from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor explained: “Working families deserve better than the harmful financial products peddled by these lenders, and we join the LA County Board of Supervisors in urging the CFPB to finalize and enforce a strong rule to protect consumers.”

Liana Molina, director of community engagement at the California Reinvestment Coalition, helped organize the event and coordinated with the StopTheDebtTrap team at Americans for Financial Reform to bring the “Pit of Despair” art installation.  She explained:

“The payday loan industry advertises their loans as quick, one-time “fix” for a financial emergencies. In reality, these loans are designed to do the opposite. The majority of borrowers will end up renewing their loans repeatedly and incurring huge fees every time they do so. The CFPB can stop this “debt trap cycle” by implementing a strong rule that would require lenders to underwrite these loans, to determine that borrowers have the ability to repay without having to re-borrow or default on other expenses.”

CRC extends a big thank you to the organizations that made the event possible:

East LA Community Corporation (ELACC),

LULAC – California,

New Economics for Women (NEW),

Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (MAOF),

Montebello Housing Development Corporation (MHDC),

Consumer Action,

Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO,

Labor Community Services, AFL CIO,

Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment (PACE),

Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON),

Multi-Cultural Real Estate Alliance for Urban Change,

Thai Community Development Center (Thai CDC),

Haven Neighborhood Services,

Korean Churches for Community Development (KCCD),

Koreatown Youth and Community Center (KYCC),

Public Counsel,

Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, and

VEDC

Additional Background on the Impact of Payday Loans in California 

While fourteen states and the District of Columbia have interest rate caps of about 36% APR or less, California law allows for two-week, $300 payday loans at 459% APR interest.

The California Department of Business Oversight recently released two reports on payday lending, and car title and high cost installment loans.

A few stats are included below:

1) Total Number of payday loans: Approximately 12.3 million payday loans were made in California in 2015 and the aggregate dollar amount of the payday loans was about $4.2 billion.

2) Average number of loans and average APRs: The average number of payday loans per customer was 6.5, paying an average APR of 366% (a 5% increase from 2014).

3) Repeat borrowers and “churning” of loans: Contrary to loans being advertised as a “one time fix for emergencies,” 64% of fees in 2015 ($53.53 million) – came from customers who had seven or more payday loan transactions during the year.

The CFPB’s Impact in California

Have you heard? Yesterday was the 5th anniversary of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  In that short time, the agency has built a reputation for dramatically increasing transparency into the financial services market, leveling the playing field between consumers and financial corporations, and putting bad actors on notice that they will face consequences.

bday cake

Senator Elizabeth Warren is widely credited with the idea of an agency that would stand up for financial consumers, and the CFPB was included in the Dodd Frank financial reform that was passed in response to the mortgage meltdown.

While advocates had repeatedly warned federal and state regulators and elected officials about the predatory mortgages that were being made, these warnings fell on deaf ears.

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Predatory loan advertising

In the summer of 2013, CRC and our allies urged the US Senate to confirm Richard Cordray as director of the CFPB and we were happy to see that he confirmed on July 16, 2013.

CFPB confirm!

CRC and our allies delivering over 25,000 petitions from Californians, urging the US Senate to confirm Richard Cordray.

Since then, Cordray and his CFPB colleagues have been busy!

In an April snapshot about California and complaints submitted by Californians, the CFPB reported:

1) As of April 1, 2016, Californians had submitted 118,900 of the total 859,900 complaints the CFPB had received at that point, or about 14%.

2) Complaints from Los Angeles and San Francisco accounted for nearly 50% of these complaints.  (CRC won’t claim credit for all of the San Francisco complaints, but we receive a fair amount of phone calls from harmed consumers and we frequently suggest making a complaint to the CFPB if it is accepting complaints for that particular product.  Not only does this hopefully lead to redress for the affected consumer, but it also helps the CFPB to see if there are concerning trends- for example if a lot of consumers are complaining about a particular company or product).

3) Speaking of “lots of complaints about a particular product,” mortgages were #1 most complained about product in the April snapshot, accounting for 32% of complaints.  In fact, complaints from California were more likely to be about mortgages as compared to the number of complaints made about mortgages at the national level (about 26%).

4) Debt collection was also frequently complained about, representing 24% of all California complaints, as compared to 26% nationally.

5) Most complained about companies: The CFPB received the most complaints from California consumers about Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Experian.

We’re including five examples of how the CFPB has stood up for consumers below:

1) Stopping Illegal Harassment of Payday Loan Borrowers: The CFPB has stopped companies from engaging in illegal and predatory behavior- like Ace Cash Express illegally harassing their customers into rolling over their payday loans. In announcing the settlement, Director Cordray explained: “This culture of coercion drained millions of dollars from cash-strapped consumers who had few options to fight back.”   Take a look at this graphic from the CFPB’s settlement with Ace Cash Express.  It’s from their new employee training manual and provides a clear diagram on how Ace tried to keep its borrowers caught in the payday loan debt trap:

ACE Cash Express

2) Targeting Enablers Too: The CFPB doesn’t just target bad actors, it also targets companies that enable bad actors- like this California based lead generator (D and D Marketing, doing business as T3Leads (T3)) that sold consumer loan applications as “leads” to small-dollar lenders. The CFPB explained that “T3 failed to vet or monitor its lead generators and lead purchasers, exposing consumers to the risk of having their information purchased by actors who would use it for illegal purposes. T3 allowed its lead generators to attract consumers with misleading statements and took unreasonable advantage of consumers’ lack of understanding of the material risks, costs, or conditions of the loan products for which they apply. T3’s conduct was unfair and abusive….”

To understand why online lead generators can be so bad for customers, take a look at this NPR Story: I applied for an online payday loan: here’s what happened next.

3) Loan Modification Scam Artists: In some ways, California was ground zero for the mortgage meltdown, especially since many of the most predatory lenders (like Countrywide) were headquartered in Southern California.  Since the mortgage meltdown, more bottom-feeding vultures have emerged, preying on desperate homeowners with promises of costly loan modifications that never materialize.  In July 2014, the CFPB, FTC, and state regulators announced a sweep against these scam artists.  The Bureau filed three lawsuits against these companies and individuals who had collected more than $25 million in illegal fees for services that were never delivered.  California was also “well-represented,” with a number of these scam artists located in our state. The CDPB’s complaint alleged that one of these firms,  Clausen, Cobb, and CCMC “managed, staffed, and supported the deceptive loan modification operations of Stephen Siringoringo’s southern California law firm. The State Bar of California initially referred the misconduct to the CFPB.”

4) Predatory Mortgage Loan Servicing: The CFPB hasn’t only gone after scam artists- it’s also worked to stop companies who are cutting corners and hurting their customers in the process.  One such company is Ocwen, a mortgage loan servicer.  In 2013, the CFPB announced a $2 billion settlement against Ocwen for “systemic misconduct at every stage of the mortgage servicing process.”  The settlement also covered homeowners with loans from Litton (a servicer formerly owned by Goldman Sachs who had also received low marks for the way it treated its customers) and Homeward Residential Holdings LLC (formerly American Home Mortgage Servicing Inc.).

5) Protecting Mortgage Customers: During the “Wild West” days of mortgage lending leading which later caused the mortgage meltdown, lenders routinely rewarded their staff members for putting customers into more expensive mortgages.  Surprisingly, this practice was allegedly still in place at RPM Mortgage, according to a 2015, $19 million settlement with the CFPB.

If you’d like to learn more about the CFPB, check out these resources:

Consumers Count: Five years standing up for you

CRC Hosts CFPB Mission District Tour on Small Business Displacement

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Liana Molina discusses displacement of local small businesses at the corner of 16th and Valencia in the Mission District, San Francisco

Yesterday, CRC hosted a visit and tour by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in the Mission District in San Francisco.  CFPB Director Richard Cordray and Assistant Director Grady Hedgespeth met with local small business owners and leaders from CRC member organizations including MEDA, Opportunity Fund, and Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center who support small businesses with capital and technical assistance.

Displacement in the Mission

In the past few years, growth in the tech sector has created enormous pressure not just on housing rents in the Bay Area, but on commercial rents as well.

The displacement of neighborhood serving small businesses in the Mission is especially troubling, given the critical role they play in supporting, serving and employing longtime residents of the Mission.  Small business owners have also complained about difficulty they face in obtaining bank loans, and research by CRC confirms that small business lending by the five largest banks has dropped dramatically since the recession.

Under the Dodd-Frank financial reform, the CFPB is charged with collecting data about small business lending.  In February this year, the CFPB announced that writing these rules is considered a near term priority goal. Similar to the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, these new rules are expected to increase transparency (and accountability) about who is getting small business loans- and who isn’t.

Small business owners share their experiences and challenges

Director Cordray and Assistant Director Hedgespeth met with several of these small business owners during the CFPB’s visit.  The first stop on the tour was Venga Empanadas, where co-owner Pablo Romano shared his experience in obtaining financing to open his restaurant.  Denied financing by a bank, Mr. Romano connected with Opportunity Fund, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) who provided him with a $45,000 loan, enabling him to sustain and grow his business which now has eight employees.

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Luisa Estrada, owner of D’Maize Restaurant and Catering speaks with Director Cordray.

Next, Zenaida Merlin and Luis Estrada, owners of D’Maize Restaurant and Catering, shared how a small business loan of $80,000 from Mission Economic Development Agency’s (MEDA) new CDFI Adelante loan fund meant that D’Maize was recently able to expand their business to a full-service restaurant.  They now employ 22 people from the local community.

Elsa Valdez, the owner of El Salvador Restaurant, explained how she benefitted from working with MEDA, who helped her to get a loan from KIVA to help pay for improvements to her restaurant, which has been family owned for over 20 years.  Ms. Valdez wants to continue improvements to the restaurant and growing her business.

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Paula Tejada, owner of Chile Lindo Delicatessen and Coffee Shop

Paula Tejada, known as “The Girl from Empanada” is the owner of Chile Lindo Delicatessen and Coffee Shop, a business she first purchased in 1995.  Working with Renaissance Entrepreneur Center, she received technical assistance on running her business, including their 14 week business planning class focused on marketing, management, operations and finance.

Lunch at San Jalisco

The tour concluded with lunch at San Jalisco, owned by Dolores “Josie” Padilla-Reyes.  She took over the restaurant from her parents in the 1970s, but after rent was increased threefold, she had to close the café and reopen the eatery in its current location.  Concerned about being displaced again, she worked with the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) to secure a loan to purchase her building, preventing further displacement.

Len Rogers, the owner of the Electric Bicycle Superstore, also joined the lunch.  He launched his small business in 2008 and it has grown steadily since then.  Len was denied by multiple banks for credit, making him a perfect target for expensive merchant cash advance companies. After struggling with unsustainable payments required by multiple predatory finance companies, he connected with Opportunity Fund, who refinanced him into an affordable, responsible small business loan.  Len was also a client of Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center, who helped him get a KIVA loan and provided consulting services through their Bayview Office.

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The lunch concluded with a “Happy Birthday” cake presented to the CFPB staff, since yesterday was the Bureau’s fifth birthday. In that short time, the agency has secured over $11 billion in relief for over 27 million consumers and handled nearly 1 million complaints.

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