Put a Cork in Corker

If you want a good example of politics-as-usual as well as something that is not in the interest of the public, this is it. Payday lenders are loan sharks without the kneecapping thugs. Senator Bob Corker wants them exempted from regulations aimed at protecting consumers from predatory and unfair lending practices. Senator Chris Dodd is basically going along with it. This is an egregious example of crony capitalism that enriches an industry by taking advantage of the poor and uninformed.

Senator Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican who is playing a crucial role in bipartisan negotiations over financial regulation, pressed to remove a provision from draft legislation that would have empowered federal authorities to crack down on payday lenders, people involved in the talks said. The industry is politically influential in his home state and a significant contributor to his campaigns, records show.

This is really bad. If you have a congress critter sitting on Dodd’s committee, now is the time to write and scream. Here’s information on from the Center for Responsible Lending on just exactly how bad this particular brand of predators can get.

Twenty or so years ago, some finance companies figured out how to make loans of a few hundred dollars to people who were barely getting by. That may sound generous, but when you look deeper, the practice they developed amounts to nothing more than legal loan sharking.

The problem for the borrowers—and the payoff for the lenders—is that the terms of these loans are cleverly designed to be very difficult to meet. The borrower must keep coming back and renewing their loan because they aren’t allowed to pay it down and can’t afford to pay it off. They pay the lender another chunk of interest each time, about $50 for a $300 loan. How the debt trap works

These loans carry annual interest rates of 400%, and the industry relies for 90 percent of their revenue on borrowers who repeatedly renew or re-open their payday loans. The typical borrower ends up paying about $500 in interest for a $300 loan, and still owes the principal.

Corker has already damaged the bill that was designed to stop a repeat of the subprime lending crisis that triggered so much trouble back in 2007. Dodd is going along with everything like the lobbyist he surely will become in a short amount of time. We’ve already seen the take down of the new consumer agency that was originally created by the bill. The duties will now be given to the Fed. This is something that Fed Chair Ben Bernanke originally opposed but later accepted under duress from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

The Fed is a conservative organization that is more reactive than proactive. Under this new term, it is unlikely any one will activate regulation for this set of loans should they get any worse than they already are today. This basically ghettos the poorest of the poor (mostly the unbanked who rely heavily on checking cashing places and pay day loans) into the least controlled debt instruments. In other words, it’s going to take the most money and fees from those least able to pay for them. It perpetuates the loan trap. Most of the brick and mortar of the pay day loan industry is located in the poorest parts of cities where no bank will go any more. The industry says that it’s providing a much needed service. What’s really happening is that it’s ensuring there is no place else to go.

Under the proposal agreed to by Mr. Dodd and Mr. Corker, the new consumer agency could write rules for nonbank financial companies like payday lenders. It could enforce such rules against nonbank mortgage companies, mainly loan originators or servicers, but it would have to petition a body of regulators for authority over payday lenders and other nonbank financial companies.
Consumer advocates said that writing rules without the inherent power to enforce them would leave the agency toothless.

The consumer groups that seek to protect borrowers from the worst of abuses appear to have given up on Dodd and his committee. They’ve gone straight to the FED for help. The hope is that Bernanke can convince the committee to give the FED broader powers than just ensuring compliance with the Truth in Lending Act.

Consumer groups, however, say that enforcement is crucial to curbing abusive, deceptive or unfair practices.
On Tuesday, while Mr. Dodd and Mr. Corker continued negotiating other provisions of the regulatory overhaul — notably, the extent to which state attorneys general would be able to enforce consumer protection rules against banks — the Federal Reserve’s chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, met with National People’s Action, an activist group that wants the Fed to restrict the banks it oversees from financing payday lenders.
Mr. Bernanke, who had met with the group twice before, is trying to fend off proposals in the Senate to strip the Fed of much of its power to supervise banks. A recommitment to protection consumers is part of that strategy

It is just unbelievable to me that some of the very people who nearly brought the economy to the knees by taking on unbelievable risks, securitizing them and then passing the trash to the market will still be able to carry on like nothing ever happened. This is terrible news. The only hope now is that Barney Frank will stop the senate from changing the tougher language originally introduced by the White House and put through by the House. It certainly doesn’t look like the White House will stand up for its own bill.