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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Following the Money 2015

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

As NY Brings Credit Bureaus To Heel, CFPB Arbitration Study Paves Way Toward New Protections | Ed Mierzwinski

Two big consumer stories so far this week offer hope to consumers victimized by credit bureau errors and, more generally, by an inability to take credit bureaus, credit card companies, banks or payday lenders to court when harmed. On Monday, New York's Attorney General Eric Schneiderman signed a groundbreaking agreement with the Big Three credit bureaus, Equifax, Trans Union and Experian. Then today, the CFPB released a report finding that consumer legal rights are infringed by small-print forced arbitration clauses in credit card and other contracts.  The CFPB will hold a webcast public hearing at 11am Eastern time today (Tuesday) to discuss the report's findings and next steps.

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Media Hit | Financial Reform

Credit Bureaus’ Deal to Improve Accuracy ‘Huge’ for Consumers

(Bloomberg) -- Buying homes, getting jobs and borrowing money will be easier after an agreement by the three biggest U.S. consumer credit reporting services with New York.[...] “It’s a sea change in the way the credit bureaus treat complaints,” said [U.S. PIRG's Ed] Mierzwinski. “The credit bureaus have been run by computers for years now. They’re going to have to hire more people and actually verify that what a creditor said is true.”

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Is Anyone Protecting Your Privacy Or Wallet? Turbotax? Anthem? Apple? The Government? | Ed Mierzwinski

As if recent privacy breaches at the online tax preparer Turbotax and the health insurer Anthem weren't enough, it turns out that low-tech hacks can trick the vaunted Apple Pay system into giving up cash to thieves, too. Meanwhile, while the administration's blueprint for a Privacy Bill of Rights in 2012 was excellent, its new legislative draft from the Department of Commerce could have been written by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. There is some good news on privacy, though.

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News Release | US PIRG | Tax

Achtung Baby! German Bank Settlement Could Include $490 Million Loophole

As the German-based Commerzbank approaches a settlement agreement to resolve allegations surrounding the bank’s role in illegal money laundering with sanctioned states, the Justice Department will need to forbid tax deductions for this corporate wrongdoing or the bank will likely deduct the payments as an ordinary cost of doing business. In that case, ordinary taxpayers would ultimately shoulder up to $490 million of the deal.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Federal Highway Administration Quietly Acknowledges the Driving Boom is Over

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has very quietly acknowledged that the Driving Boom is over, which will help avoid wasting billions of dollars for unnecessary highway expansion.

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News Release | US PIRG | Tax

New in the Huffington Post: 2014 Was the Year of Tax Write Offs for Corporate Crimes

New column in The Huffington Post from Michelle Surka, U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) Program Associate, analyzing this year’s large number of allowed tax deductions for corporate wrongdoing. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Tax

Looking Back at 2014: Year of Stocking Stuffers for Criminal Corporations

This was the year that billion-dollar settlements paid by corporations to atone for wrongdoing became normal -- and so many of those deals gave the corporations huge tax write offs at the expense of ordinary taxpayers.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

Congress considers giving megadonors an even louder voice in our elections

Proposed revisions to campaign finance rules would allow big donors to give over $200,000 to party committees.  

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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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Report | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Rogues Gallery of Major Corporate Legal Settlements

The following list of recent major corporate settlements displays a harrowing array of harms to the public. After government agencies sought redress for corporate wrongdoing, they negotiated with the companies for payments that were presumably less than the agency would have ordered in damages or fines if it had chosen to go through with a protracted lawsuit.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Consumer Groups Urge FTC Action On "Unfixed Recalled" CarMax Cars | Ed Mierzwinski

We've joined leading consumer groups to urge the Federal Trade Commission to take action against the massive car retailer CarMax for deceptive practices. The petition argues that CarMax aggressively advertises that all cars get a "rigorous 125-point" inspection but "fails to ensure that safety recalls are performed prior to selling used cars to consumers."

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Blog Post | Food

EU-US Consumers Hold Meeting on Trade Threats | Ed Mierzwinski

Updated: On Tuesday, 24 June, U.S. and European Union members of the Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD.org) hold our 15th annual meeting, in Washington, DC. The capacity crowd (but the event will be live-streamed) will hear government and consumer experts debate whether the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is good for consumers, or threatens strong health, safety and privacy laws while unwisely granting corporations some rights and powers of sovereign nations.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB Faces A "Death of a Thousand Cuts" Today | Ed Mierzwinski

(UPDATED Again on 6/11) Today, the U.S. House Financial Services Committee considers a package of over a dozen anti-consumer, anti-investor, anti-taxpayer bills. The worst of the 9 bills targeted at the CFPB eliminates its ability to compensate victims of so-called "last-dollar" financial fraudsters.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

On Memorial Day, Thank Servicemembers and Veterans and Thank the CFPB for Protecting Them | Ed Mierzwinski

On this Memorial Day, celebrate servicemembers and veterans. It's important that the CFPB has their backs, since predatory lenders are after their wallets.  As I often say, the idea of the CFPB needs no defense, only more defenders.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Credit CARD Act Turns 5, A Big Success Story | Ed Mierzwinski

The Credit CARD Act of 2009,  has its 5th birthday today on May 22. It is a government success story that cleaned up a Wild West credit card marketplace by eliminating unfair tricks and traps without destroying the market. Let's celebrate by extending it to other card markets--debit and prepaid cards.

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Priority Action

The overuse of antibiotics on factory farms is threatening these lifesaving medicines. Call on big restaurants to do their part and stop buying meat raised with critical antibiotics.

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