Google announced Wednesday that it will ban all payday loan ads from its site, bowing to concerns by advocates who say the lending practice exploits the poor and vulnerable by offering them immediate cash that must be paid back under sky-high interest rates.
This is huge. I used to run Google AdSense ads on this site, but stopped because it just felt wrong to be writing about the evils of payday lending while giving them a platform to reach consumers.
Google isn’t erasing payday lenders from the Internet. You will still be able to search for a payday loan. This just means payday lenders won’t be able to feature their ads on unrelated search terms.
Payday lenders are already complaining that this is unfair, of course.
That database was created to ensure payday lenders can comply with a law that limits a person to $500 in payday loans at any one time. The payday loan industry sued to stop the creation of the database, of course. [Montgomery Advertiser/AP]
From the Star Tribune:
Brad Rixmann, chief executive of Burnsville-based Payday America, is a giant on the payday lending scene, operating the largest such business in the state. He also is a major player in Minnesota politics, having doled out nearly $550,000 in state campaign donations over the last decade.
As Rixmann’s contributions have grown, so has his business, aided by state law that allows him to charge triple-digit interest rates on loans that can go up to $1,000. His customers pay an average of 277 percent interest, sometimes borrowing repeatedly against their next paycheck.
15 states have banned payday lending, which more often traps borrowers in a cycle of debt than helps them deal with emergencies as intended.
“Basically, payday loans are the Lay’s potato chips of finance. You can’t have just one and they’re terrible for you.”
Refund anticipation loans are very similar to payday loans; they are short-term, high-interest loans made in anticipation of future income — your tax refund, in this case. And they are a bad deal.
The best interest rate you can expect from a refund anticipation loan is around 36% APR. That is two or three times the rate someone with decent credit can expect to get from a credit card. But APRs of 100% or more are still common. That means if you paid the loan back in one year, you would actually pay back twice the amount you borrowed.
In other words, the math doesn’t make sense. It is much better to just wait for the check from the IRS.
“If someone makes you a loan that’s illegal, either because they don’t have a license or they violate usury laws, you’re not under any obligation to pay it back,” said Norman Googel, an assistant attorney general in West Virginia.
Payday lending traditionally happens in seedy storefronts, often in low-income neighborhoods and around military bases. Not any more! Eager to get in on the next big subprime lending bubble before it bursts, big banks are brushing up on their loan shark chops and opening payday lending divisions.
So what’s the problem, here? Well, payday loans from banks typically carry annual interest rates as high as 365%. That means if you took out a $10 loan, it would cost $46.50 to pay it back. It doesn’t feel so bad because payday loans are supposed to be short-terms loans, but the typical payday loan customer uses payday loans often enough that he or she is actually paying that kind of interest.
Banks are especially interested because they tend to hold the payday loan customer’s deposits, as well. Payday loan customers wind up paying more in overdraft fees, and are more likely to lose their bank accounts. In short, it’s bad news for consumers.
The Center for Responsible Lending is watching this trend, and has more information about big bank payday lending.
The same banks that used to make—or finance—the subprime loans that sent the world economy into a nosedive are now making and financing payday loans. Now they just use TARP funds and cheap loans from the Fed.
Payday loans are still subprime loans, but the risk is built into the enormous interest rates, which average 455%. The mafia offers better interest rates. Actually, the mafia is probably just operating payday loan storefronts now. Wells Fargo in particular is knee-deep in payday loans. It directly finances a third of payday loan branches in the U.S.
In order to make those 455% loans, banks like Wells Fargo and US Bank are able to borrow money from the Federal Reserve at .5% or less. (Wait, does that mean they can really average a 454.5% profit, not counting defaults? Holy shit.)
(Video from Showdown in America.)
The still-new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is doing a lot of listening, trying to figure out where to focus its energy. Here are the main areas of concern according to Gail Hillebrand (formerly of Consumer Reports, now the CFPB’s Associate Director of Consumer Education and Engagement):
- Debt settlement issues. Consumers who pay for debt settlement services are too often not getting the help they were promised.
- Foreclosures, credit scores, credit reports, and their effect on employment. Advocates in Ohio are worried about the impact foreclosure can have on a homeowner’s credit report and credit score, and how the credit report, in turn, can affect future employment prospects.
- Disputing a credit report error. A Montana attorney reported that his clients frequently have difficulty figuring out how to dispute a credit report error, and they often end up purchasing unnecessary and costly credit monitoring or credit repair services when searching for information online.
- Payday lending. Payday lending operations—including those that operate online and those that target people residing on reservations—continue to be a concern for both communities. One Montana speaker described a client with $1,500 in payday loans whose sole income was $1,600 a month in disability payments.
Intellectual property is the new legal battlefield, as one industry after another lawyers up to try to make money from its IP, instead of making money from, say, a product people want to buy.
Righthaven, for example, has been running around suing bloggers and website owners who use quotations of copyrighted works. This is fair use, but Righthaven doesn’t care. Which is why it just got slapped with an order to pay $34,045.50 in attorney fees. Trying to weasel out of the inevitable, Righthaven tried to argue that it shouldn’t have to pay attorney fees because its claims were frivolous in the first place. Right. Props to the Randazza Legal Group and J. Malcolm DeVoy for a well-deserved check.
Porn producer Mick Haig Productions has another approach. Keep Reading »