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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB, FTC Take Separate Actions Against Two Illegal Online Payday "Cash-Grab"Schemes | Ed Mierzwinski

Yesterday the CFPB and FTC announced separate actions against two online payday lenders running essentially the same alleged scam. Both "lenders" collected detailed consumer information from lead generation websites or data brokers, including bank account numbers, then deposited purported payday loans of $200-300 into those accounts electronically, and then collected biweekly finance charges "indefinitely,"

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Some Good, Some Bad in Obama Executive Order on Protecting Antibiotics

Today, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order – Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria. While the order takes several important steps necessary to control the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, it misses the opportunity to call for critical reforms in the agricultural sector that are essential to protect public health.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Transportation

New Study Identifies Eleven Highway Boondoggles Across the Country

A new report by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund identifies 11 examples of wasteful highway spending that are slated to cost at least $13 billion and are based on outdated assumptions of ever-increasing driving. The study calls on the federal and state governments to reprioritize scarce transportation dollars to other projects.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Taxpayers Will Bear Nearly $200 Million of Friday’s HSBC Settlement

Friday’s $550 million settlement between the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and HSBC North American Holdings Inc. can be treated as a tax write-off by the bank, shifting $192.5 million onto taxpayers. Because the FHFA did not specify that the settlement payment cannot be treated as a regular business expense, HSBC will be able to deduct the entirety of the $550 million payment.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Highway Boondoggles

Even though the Driving Boom is now over, state and federal governments continue to pour vast sums of money into the construction of new highways and expansion of old ones – at the expense of urgent needs such as road and bridge repairs, improvements in public transportation and other transportation priorities. Eleven proposed highway projects across the country – slated to cost at least $13 billion – exemplify the need for a fresh approach to transportation spending.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

New Federal Bills Would Protect Students From High-Cost Campus Bank Accounts

Yesterday, House and Senate lawmakers introduced bills that would protect college students from being needlessly steered into campus bank accounts — accounts that often drive up students’ costs and deplete their financial aid. U.S. PIRG warned that if we the Department of Education can't protect students from high campus debit card fees, then we will "pursue this strong alternative approach put forth from the Hill.”

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Credit CARD Act Saves Consumers $12.6 Billion Annually

Thursday, May 22 is the fifth anniversary of the successful Credit CARD Act, which has saved consumers billions of dollars in unfair credit card fees and interest that were collected based on tricks and traps. U.S. PIRG, and a broad coalition, urge policymakers to extend similar protections to debit and prepaid cards.

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

New Survey: Wisconsin Brain Drain Partly Because Youth Seek Alternatives to Driving?

The WISPIRG Foundation report examines whether Millennials might be leaving Wisconsin partly because the state continues to prioritize extravagant highway expansion projects while neglecting other means of travel that are so important to young people.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Taxpayers Win, as Justice Department Blocks Credit Suisse Tax Write Off

The Justice Department saved taxpayers $233 million by preventing Credit Suisse bank from writing off its settlement for tax evasion. U.S. PIRG applauds the move and calls on agencies to make this standard practic. Agencies should also be more transparent about the deals they sign with corporations to resolve charges of wrongdoing.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Tax

House Tax Writers Vote to Make Offshore Loopholes Permanent

House tax writers voted to renew and making permanent two expired offshore tax loopholes, forcing average taxpayers and small business owners to pick up the tab for tax dodging by many multinationals for years to come. For all of the talk in Washington about getting our fiscal house in order, the Committee did not consider how to pay for these expensive tax breaks.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Total Food Recall

This report is a snapshot look, from January 2011 to September 2012, at recalls that were directly linked to identified incidents of foodborne illness.  Failures in the rules and processes that protect our food supply have led to numerous high-volume recalls over the past two years that left many Americans sickened and at least 37 dead.  And the economic costs of the illnesses caused by food products recalled over the past 21 months come to over $225 million.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Demos | Democracy

Million-Dollar Megaphones

Although each major party presidential candidate will likely break previous fundraising records, the big story of the 2012 election has been the role of Super PACs, nonprofits and outside spending generally. Demos and U.S. PIRG Education Fund analyzed Federal Election Commission (FEC) data and secondary sources on outside spending and Super PAC fundraising for the first two quarters of the 2012 election cycle.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Food

Apples to Twinkies 2012

In this report, we find that in 2011, over $1.28 billion in taxpayer subsidies went to junk food ingredients, bringing the total to a staggering $18.2 billion since 1995. To put that figure in perspective, $18.2 billion is enough to buy 2.9 billion Twinkies every year - 21 for every single American taxpayer. 

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Higher Ed

The Campus Debit Card Trap

Banks and other financial firms are taking advantage of a variety of opportunities to form partnerships with colleges and universities to produce campus student ID cards and to offer student aid disbursements on debit or prepaid cards. In addition to on-campus services, such as student ID functions offered on the card, some cards offer traditional debit card services linked to bank accounts; other cards provide additional reloadable prepaid card functions. The disbursement of financial aid and university refunds is the most significant partnership identified.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

The Cost of College Will Soar if Interest Rates Allowed to Double

The loans distributed by the U.S. Department of Education currently hold an interest rate of 3.4 percent. But that rate is set to double if Congress fails to act by July 1, 2012. If that occurs, millions of students will see their interest rates soar to 6.8 percent on the new loans they take in the next year thereby causing a steep rise in their loan burden and effectively increasing the cost of attaining a college degree.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Fed Doubles Down On Bet To Raise Swipe Fees | Ed Mierzwinski

Yesterday, the Federal Reserve Board told a U.S. judge it would appeal his decision that the Fed's 2012 rule raising the swipe fees merchants pay to accept debit cards blatantly ignored Congressional intent to lower them. The Fed's rule harms small businesses, who pay the highest swipe fees in the world, as well as their customers, who pay more at the store and more at the pump, even if they pay with cash. But it helps the Fed's big bank patrons.

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Blog Post | Democracy

In the Aftermath of VRA Ruling, a Wave of Voter Suppression Laws

It has been barely a month since the Supreme Court issued its controversial Voting Rights Act (VRA) ruling — yet already, in states across the country, laws are being implemented and proposed that are designed to severely limit voting access, and that will ultimately harm American democracy.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Celebrating the mandatory toy safety standard—An important provision of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

These days, we can mostly expect that toys sold on store shelves are tested to meet adequately strict safety standards — but that hasn’t always been the case. In 2007, toys with beloved childhood icons like Thomas the Tank Engine and Elmo were recalled because they contained excessive levels of lead. Another toy, when swallowed, created a toxic drug; yet another posed serious hazards due to strong magnets that could tear a child’s stomach lining if two or more pieces were swallowed.

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Blog Post | Democracy

New Wisconsin Bill Would Let the People Decide On Citizens United

Two state legislators have introduced legislation that, when passed, will bring a question to the 2014 ballot on overturning Citizens United and eliminating big money in elections.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Weird Big Bank Trick Raises Price of Beer and Soda | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATED: August 8. Many of Enron's schemes involved sham transactions with itself that the SEC alleged had "no economic substance."  Taking a page from Enron's book, mega-bank Goldman Sachs is now moving tons of aluminum around and around its Detroit warehouses in similar transactions without apparent economic substance except to increase Goldman profits while raising costs of beer, soda and other goods relying on aluminum, delaying deliveries and disrupting aluminum markets. At a Senate hearing on the practice, Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) said: "This movie will not end well."

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Priority Action

The overuse of antibiotics on factory farms is threatening these lifesaving antibiotics. Call on the Obama administration to put an end to the worst practices. 

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