Gutierrez Proposes Weak Reform of Payday Lenders

By
Wednesday, April 08, 2009 at 12:01 am
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) (Associated Press)

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) (Associated Press)

As congressional Democrats work to solidify finance industry reforms, a growing push to rein in payday lenders is running smack into a formidable barrier: the rising influence of the lenders themselves.

Not only has the industry stepped up its lobbying and political contributions in recent years, but it’s convinced at least one powerful Democrat — who just two years ago supported an outright ban on payday loans — that eliminating the practice is politically impossible.

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

As a result, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who heads the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, is pushing a loophole-riddled bill that would allow payday lenders to charge annual interest rates of nearly 400 percent — a proposal widely condemned by consumer advocates and some liberal Democrats, who want to put payday lenders out of business altogether.

Gutierrez wasn’t always so kind to the industry. In 2006, he supported the successful effort that effectively banned payday loans to members of the military by capping interest rates for those borrowers at 36 percent. (The cap was requested by the Defense Department, which called the loans predatory.) A year later, Gutierrez was a lead sponsor of the Payday Loan Reform Act, which would have prohibited the loans outright.

Gutierrez’s office did not respond to requests for comment. But in an interview with The Associated Press last week, the Illinois Democrat conceded that the growing influence of the payday lending industry contributed to his change of heart.

“While they may not be JP Morgan Chase or Bank of America, they’re very powerful,” Gutierrez said. “Their influence should not be underestimated.”

Gutierrez should know. The top contributor to his 2008 campaign was payday lender QC Holdings, which donated $10,100, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Another payday powerhouse, the Online Lenders Alliance, contributed an additional $4,600.

The episode presents a familiar dilemma for Democratic leaders hoping this year to pass a wide array of consumer-friendly finance reforms, including new anti-predatory lending and credit card protections: On one hand, party leaders agree that consumers need better protections from these industries; on the other, the industries’ influence creates enormous conflicts over how to do it. Caught in the middle are the 19 million Americans estimated to take out payday loans each year, many of whom become trapped in cycles of long-term debt.

Payday loans are generally small, short-term, high-interest loans designed to cover emergency expenses until the borrower’s next payday. Supporters of the industry maintain the loans are a vital resource, particularly for low-income Americans who wouldn’t be eligible for loans through banks that examine credit histories more closely. But critics argue that the usurious rates associated with the loans, which can approach 1,000 percent in some states, ultimately do the borrower more harm than good. Many hope to see the industry disappear altogether.

The Gutierrez bill attempts to strike a compromise between those positions, capping biweekly interest rates at 15 cents on every $1 borrowed — a rate equivalent to 391 percent annually. The proposal would also create a system allowing borrowers to pay back their loans in installments, rather than in lump sums. And it aims to prevent lenders from refinancing loans at higher rates when borrowers aren’t able to pay on time.

At a hearing on the bill last Thursday, Gutierrez said his proposal, while “not a cure-all,” goes a long way to protect consumers from abusive lending practices. “The current state of affairs for these consumers is unacceptable,” he said, “and Congress would be derelict in its duties if we allowed them to remain unprotected from abusive and predatory lending.”

Yet consumer advocates, one of whom testified before the panel, maintain that Gutierrez’s bill is worse than doing nothing. Not only is it punched full of loopholes, they argue, but it effectively embraces a lending system in which triple-digit interest rates are deemed business as usual. Currently, regulation of the payday lending industry is almost exclusively up to states.

“This would essentially provide congressional approval and endorsement of payday loans,” said Jim Campen, executive director of Americans for Fairness in Lending. “It legitimizes the business and slows down states’ efforts to outlaw the practice.”

Consumer advocates also claim that the bill creates an enormous loophole around the refinancing ban, allowing lenders to close out existing loans and offer new ones in the same visit — a practice in which consumers effectively borrow the same money they just repaid, often at higher rates.

“You pay it, and then they hand it right back out in the same few minutes that you’re there,” said Carol Hammerstein, spokeswoman for the Center for Responsible Lending. “That whole business model is not helpful to borrowers.”

Hammerstein said that of the 19 million Americans who take out payday loans, CRL estimates that 12 million are caught in “a repeat cycle” in which they’re taking out at least five separate loans a year.

In yet another loophole, the Gutierrez bill applies only to loans with durations of 91 days or less. In response to similar windows adopted by states, advocates warn, payday lenders have simply extended the loans beyond the stated time frame. “They’re getting around it by offering longer-term loans,” said Tom Feltner, policy and communications director at the Woodstock Institute, a community reinvestment group. “And they’re keeping the same high interest rates.”

Consumer groups instead are rallying behind another payday loan bill that would cap annual interest rates at 36 percent. That bill — sponsored by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) in the upper chamber and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) in the House — would effectively kill the industry, which says it can’t manage the loans profitably at that level.

Indeed, that’s the point, said Speier spokesman Mike Larsen. “They will certainly cease to exist as they currently operate,” Larsen said. “[Speier] makes no bones about that.”

The industry, for its part, opposes both bills. “Predatory lending applies only to the mortgage business,” Troy McCullen, president of the Louisiana Cash Advance Association told House lawmakers last week. “It has nothing to do with rates or fees or APR.”

Gutierrez maintains that the Durbin-Speier bill is a recipe for failure. In an animated exchange with a consumer advocate testifying before his panel Thursday, he argued that an outright ban is politically impossible.

“You don’t like the payday [model]. I don’t like the payday [model],” Gutierrez said to Jean Ann Fox, director of financial services at the Consumer Federation of America. “You wish to eliminate it. You wish to ban it. That’s not possible. That’s not possible.”

But that’s not the sentiment in the upper chamber, where an aide said Tuesday that the Durbin bill “is likely to move” this year as part of a larger finance reform package being assembled by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.). Dodd’s office did not respond to a call seeking comment.

Speaking Tuesday at a street-corner press conference in Chicago — staged, not coincidentally, in front of a payday lending business — Durbin said the time is right for Congress to act on his proposal to reform the industry.

“I think the situation is totally out of hand,” Durbin said, according to local reports. “Whether you’re talking about credit card accounts, whether you’re talking about these payday loan operations, the interest rates they’re charging now are nothing short of outrageous.”

Comments

65 Comments

Gutierrez Proposes Weak Reform of Payday Lenders
Pingback posted April 8, 2009 @ 12:40 am

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[...] The Washington Independent created an interesting post today on Gutierrez Proposes Weak Reform of Payday LendersHere’s a short outlineRep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) (Associated Press) As congressional Democrats work to solidify finance industry reforms, a growing push to rein in payday lenders is running smack into a formidable barrier: the rising influence of the lenders themselves. Not only has the industry stepped up its lobbying and political contributions in recent years, but it’s convinced at least one powerful Democrat — who just two years ago supported an outright ban on payday loans — that eliminating the practi [...]


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[...] Gutierrez Proposes Weak Reform A year later, Gutierrez was a lead sponsor of the Payday Loan Reform Act, which would have prohibited the loans outright. [...]


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[...] Read the rest of this great post here [...]


Getting it from all sides
Pingback posted April 8, 2009 @ 7:28 am

[...] too tough a bill and now is attacked from the Left for not offering a tough-enough bill.   From the story:    At a hearing on the bill last Thursday, Gutierrez said his proposal, while “not a [...]


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[...] Gutierrez Proposes Weak Reform of Payday Lenders – The Washington Independent.comAs congressional Democrats work to solidify finance industry reforms, a growing push to rein in payday lenders is running smack into a formidable barrier: the rising influence of the lenders themselves. Not only has the industry stepped up its [...]


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Mike_Williams_86
Comment posted April 8, 2009 @ 8:20 am

The reason banning payday lending is impossible has nothing to do with the power of the industry. The reason it can't be banned is because consumers rely on short-term loans from payday lenders, because Congress acknowledges that it is the cheapest option, and the “triple-digit” interest rate is dramatically less than the quadruple-digit interest rate charged by banks and credit unions for overdraft and non-sufficient fund fees. It's dollars and sense.


The Washington Independent: Gutierrez Proposes Weak Reform of Payday Lenders « Americans for Fairness in Lending
Pingback posted April 8, 2009 @ 9:51 am

[...] 8, 2009) AFFIL appeared in this article by Mike Lillis.  Here’s an [...]


Options
Comment posted April 8, 2009 @ 9:01 am

Here is what is missing from your article, the Talent Amendment originally contained bank and credit unions but they were carved out at the last minute. Read the November report from the FDIC which states that APRs on overdraft fees dwarf that of payday loans. Attaching an APR to a two week loan is just stupid. Payday lenders charge a fee without compounding interest. And let's not forget that the CRL is backed by a credit union and two of their founding members are the Sandlers. The Sandlers had no problem giving mortgages to people that could not afford them when they ran World Savings. Predatory does not even begin to describe the mortgage practices of that institution.


duane
Comment posted April 8, 2009 @ 9:03 am

i wonder if gutierrez is being bought out also,, all his time is now being spent on trying to keep illegals in this country and haveing the rest of us pay for it,, as a resident of Illinois Ive personally had enough of my state being a sanctuary state for these illegals and paying for them also. Maybe gutierrez should take not of the fact that the rest of the state is not his personal checkbook and him and Durbin should really do the peoples work by sending them packing and back south. Their continual of disregard of what is really good for the state shows with the give in of 36 percent interest. Wonder how much they received for campaign contributions from this industry. You can easily ban the payday deal,, make the interest rate so low it doesnt pay,, doesnt take a genius, but then again neither are!


Thinker
Comment posted April 8, 2009 @ 11:24 am

Can anyone say “on the take?” Why would a representative of the people push a blatantly anti-consumer bill? It's not only suspicious, it's borderline criminal. Rich lending companies already stole consumer rights from people with student loans, with the help of Congressional losers, and now they want to eliminate other consumer protections. Congress needs to be stopped from helping rich companies take from the little guy (that's us, folks). Don't let this happen. Demand more consumer debt protection, not more!


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[...] Gutierrez Proposes Weak Reform of Payday Lenders – The Washington Independent.comAs congressional Democrats work to solidify finance industry reforms, a growing push to rein in payday lenders is running smack into a formidable barrier: the rising influence of the lenders themselves. Not only has the industry stepped up its [...]


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[...] Gutierrez Proposes Weak Reform of Payday Lenders – The Washington Independent.comAs congressional Democrats work to solidify finance industry reforms, a growing push to rein in payday lenders is running smack into a formidable barrier: the rising influence of the lenders themselves. Not only has the industry stepped up its [...]


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Pingback posted April 8, 2009 @ 3:08 pm

[...] in Business, Congress, Daily life, Democrats at 12:08 pm by LeisureGuy Take a look at this report by Mike Lillis in the Washington Independent: As congressional Democrats work to solidify finance [...]


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Pingback posted April 8, 2009 @ 3:09 pm

[...] in Business, Congress, Daily life, Democrats at 12:08 pm by LeisureGuy Take a look at this report by Mike Lillis in the Washington Independent: As congressional Democrats work to solidify finance [...]


jrc
Comment posted April 8, 2009 @ 3:22 pm

An interest rate of 15 cents per dollar over two weeks works out to an annual interest rate of 3,786 percent (1.15 raised to the 26th power), not 390 percent as stated in the story. An interest rate of five percent per two weeks is approximately 360 percent per year.


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[...] Gutierrez Proposes Weak Reform of Payday Lenders – The Washington Independent.comAs congressional Democrats work to solidify finance industry reforms, a growing push to rein in payday lenders is running smack into a formidable barrier: the rising influence of the lenders themselves. Not only has the industry stepped up its [...]


Mike Lillis
Comment posted April 8, 2009 @ 4:09 pm

You're referring to the effective annual rate (EAR), which compounds the interest over the year and results in something near the enormous rate you've mentioned. I'm referring to the nominal APR (15% x 26), which results in the 391 percent figure.


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Ron C.
Comment posted April 9, 2009 @ 11:58 am

The only one that will profit by outlawing payday lenaders, is the banks and credit unions. Which has been proven in the state of Georgia where they were banned. Overdraft profits have sored there since they were driven out of business. So now you need to ask yourself what/who is really driving this legislaation?
If you want to lower the rates payday lenders charge, give them the ability to collect on their no pays
and competition will drive the cost down. Currently a payday lenders has to make approximately 8 good loans to recover the losses from a bad one.


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kona
Comment posted April 9, 2009 @ 9:51 pm

If the Durbin bill is passed, banks will not make money on overdraft fees. In that case they will not
offer overdraft protection. The consumer then will get whack the NSF charge from the bank and
merchant. Poor consumer gets poorer. The bill will also wipe out all payday and pawnshop companies. The worst will be that the consumer has nowhere to go for a small loan except to the
true loan sharks.


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Payday Lending Rep
Comment posted April 10, 2009 @ 9:56 am

The real issue here is consumer choice and credit access. Sure, payday lenders lobby in support of their interest, but they do so because they know they provide a valuable service to consumers in need.

Payday advances are two week, not annual loans. For each $100 advanced, customers pay a typical fee of $15-$17. Because payday loans are two-week loans they cannot be offered at the same annual rates as annual credit products such as credit cards, auto loans and home mortgages. The only way to reach the much-hyped triple digit APR is to take out one advance and continue to renew the same advance every two weeks for an entire year. State laws and industry best practices do not allow this to happen.

At a 36% APR, the total fee charged on a $100, two-week advance would be $1.38. Payday advance lenders could not cover the cost of originating a loan, let alone meeting employee payroll and benefits and other fixed business expenses. An annual interest rate cap of 36% would result in the elimination of an affordable credit choice for consumers.


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Steve
Comment posted April 10, 2009 @ 8:21 pm

These lenders prey on the most vulnerable and that includes our service members. There are many of these lenders around every entrance to a military base.

This is legalized loan sharking. Congress should be putting them out of business not legalizing usury. People get caught in a viscious cycle – they try paying back one loan but have to take out another to meet expenses and the same thing happens again and again.

The Seattle Post Intelligencer had a story on this:

Her old solution had been to walk down the street to a payday loan shop, write a postdated check for $575 and leave with $500 to hold her until she got paid.

But that temporary fix came with a high price — a staggering annualized interest rate of 391 percent on a two-week loan. She took out one loan to cover another, and soon had six loans with fees of $800 a month.

Gutierrez is selling out to the lobbyists and as a Democrat it pains me to say that. He's giving the lobbyists what they paid for.


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All the News in Fits of Print - 4/13 | national high five day
Pingback posted April 16, 2009 @ 5:20 pm

[...] [WASH INDEPENDENT] Gutierrez proposes weak reform of payday loans. As congressional Democrats work to solidify finance industry reforms, a growing push to rein in payday lenders is running smack into a formidable barrier: the rising influence of the lenders themselves. Not only has the industry stepped up its lobbying and political contributions in recent years, but it’s convinced at least one powerful Democrat — who just two years ago supported an outright ban on payday loans — that eliminating the practice is politically impossible. As a result, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who heads the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, is pushing a loophole-riddled bill that would allow payday lenders to charge annual interest rates of nearly 400 percent — a proposal widely condemned by consumer advocates and some liberal Democrats, who want to put payday lenders out of business altogether. [...]


All the News in Fits of Print - 4/13 | cbs early show
Pingback posted April 17, 2009 @ 3:25 am

[...] [WASH INDEPENDENT] Gutierrez proposes weak reform of payday loans. As congressional Democrats work to solidify finance industry reforms, a growing push to rein in payday lenders is running smack into a formidable barrier: the rising influence of the lenders themselves. Not only has the industry stepped up its lobbying and political contributions in recent years, but it’s convinced at least one powerful Democrat — who just two years ago supported an outright ban on payday loans — that eliminating the practice is politically impossible. As a result, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who heads the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, is pushing a loophole-riddled bill that would allow payday lenders to charge annual interest rates of nearly 400 percent — a proposal widely condemned by consumer advocates and some liberal Democrats, who want to put payday lenders out of business altogether. [...]


Cara
Comment posted April 19, 2009 @ 9:26 pm

It is a good idea to consider for yourself exactly how a Payday Loan can help you. As a consumer, there are far too many people that are determined to decide what is good for you and what's not. Looking at all of the credit card fees, as well as the bank fees that could be charged if you make a small mistake, you will find that frequently a payday loan is the much cheaper option to pursue.


Cara
Comment posted April 20, 2009 @ 4:26 am

It is a good idea to consider for yourself exactly how a Payday Loan can help you. As a consumer, there are far too many people that are determined to decide what is good for you and what's not. Looking at all of the credit card fees, as well as the bank fees that could be charged if you make a small mistake, you will find that frequently a payday loan is the much cheaper option to pursue.


No More Loan Sharks, A Project of Arizonans for Responsible Lending » Congress Going Easy on Payday Loan Dealers
Pingback posted May 29, 2009 @ 2:44 pm

[...] Lillis the Washington Independent has [...]


payday lenders « loan web
Pingback posted June 19, 2010 @ 2:42 pm

[...] 13.Gutierrez Proposes Weak Reform of Payday Lenders « The Washington Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who heads the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, is pushing a loophole-riddled bill that would allow payday lenders to charge annual interest rates of nearly 400 percent — a proposal widely condemned by consumer advocates and some liberal Democrats, [...]


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Comment posted August 5, 2010 @ 12:26 pm

The Seattle Post Intelligencer had a story on this:


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Comment posted August 5, 2010 @ 12:26 pm

The Seattle Post Intelligencer had a story on this:


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Comment posted August 19, 2010 @ 8:46 am

Well one thing I can say for sure the interest is really outrageous…


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Comment posted May 23, 2011 @ 11:04 am

 “This would essentially provide congressional approval and endorsement of payday
loans,” said Jim Campen, executive director of Americans for Fairness
in Lending. “It legitimizes the business and slows down states’ efforts
to outlaw the …


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