Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fox in the General Assembly Hen House

Predatory payday and car title foxes appear to have again snuck into and out of the Richmond hen house with all the eggs.
CCC has often commented (here's one) on the payday and car title lenders shameful practices that rip off consumers - usually ones who have fallen upon hard times and don't take time to understand the consequences of dealing with these predators. This year, our lawmakers, who are supposed to look out for the common good, have again helped these foxes to all the eggs they want.
This session there were bills to regulate these lenders and to end the use of open-end loans which came into use as a way to dodge last year's weak regulations. The industry responded by deploying a dozen or more lobbyists to prowl the halls and elevators of the General Assembly Building, reminding legislators of past campaign contributions and the promise of more to come. Lobbyist Jeff Smith, representing the Virginia Financial Services Association, a group representing small lenders which are not involved in payday or car title lending, warning that the bills would knock those lenders out of revolving loans and could affect employment at HSBC, a British bank with a processing center in SE Virginia.
Smith was either wrong or conveniently misrepresented the truth - HSBC would not be affected by the bills. More troubling is Smith's apparent amnesia about his also representing Consumer Loans of America, one of the nation's largest payday and car title lenders.
It is easy chop off Jeff Smith's head for his "lobbying" activities. But, it is far more appropriate to ask our legislators what the cluck they are thinking. Or, if they are thinking at all. I guess they were just too busy denying the right to vote to former felons, making sure Virginia remains a right-to-work state, and teaching elementary kids about all the benefits of marriage to enact some reasonable restrictions on these vicious predators.
More info in prior posts and here.

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