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Federal Consumer Agency Ponders Its Next Crusades

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has already overcome considerable political resistance, has managed to pack some punches in the last few months on behalf of the purchasing public it represents.[...] Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the United States Public Interest Research Group, said this might be the single most important issue on the agency’s agenda. “The biggest thing we are hoping for in 2014 is to finish or at least make major progress with the arbitration rule and ban forced arbitration in consumer contracts,” he said. “In many of these cases you are ripped off for $10 or $100 each. But millions of consumers are ripped off. That’s why we think it’s a very big deal.”

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Target says "Oops, 70-110 million consumers hacked." | Ed Mierzwinski

Target is now saying that "a range of 70 million to 110 million people," not the original 40 million customers, had their credit or debit card numbers hacked in December. Even worse, Target is admitting that the database stolen included email addresses and phone numbers, which leaves consumers vulnerable to phishing attacks that could lead to identity theft, as if fraud on existing accounts wasn't enough. Here are some tips.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

new CFPB mortgage rules and tools available | Ed Mierzwinski

CFPB Director Rich Cordray appears on The Daily Show tonight Wednesday to talk about CFPB's new mortgage lending and servicing rules that take effect Friday, 10 January. Read on to find out more about the rules and also about the many self-help tools the CFPB has created to help homebuyers and homeowners protect themselves.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Bipartisan Push to Make Government Settlements More Transparent

Today, a bipartisan bill was introduced by Sens. Warren (D-MA) and Coburn (R-OK) that would make government settlements with corporate wrongdoers more transparent and accountable to American taxpayers.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Regulators Disallow Tax Deduction for JPMorgan’s $1.7 Billion Settlement, Saving Taxpayers Close to $600 Million

Regulators saved taxpayers as much as $595 million by preventing JPMorgan from writing off its $1.7 billion payment for allegedly enabling Madoff Ponzi scheme

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

JPMorgan Shouldn’t Get Tax Break for “London Whale” Settlement

JPMorgan could get a $35 million tax deduction from its $100 million settlement with Commodity Futures Trading Commission unless the regulator explicitly forbids it.

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Media Hit | Transportation

Young People Driving Less, Embrace Other Transportation

U.S. PIRG is featured in USA Today, and shows how young Americans are changing the nation's transportation landscape. They drive less, want to stay connected as they travel, embrace car-sharing, bike-sharing, ride-sharing.

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Media Hit | Budget, Tax

Infrastructure Bill is Actually Giant Corporate Tax Break

Currently, many large corporations avoid taxes by booking profits to sham shell companies in offshore tax havens like the Cayman Islands. This offshore tax dodging costs Americans a whopping $90 billion each year in tax revenue.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

On Argument of McCutcheon v. FEC, Democracy Groups Call for Constitutional Amendment

As the Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC, U.S. PIRG and seven other pro-democracy groups are speaking out on the urgent need for amending the Constitution to protect the integrity of our democracy.

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Media Hit | Budget, Tax

The $4 Billion Question: Do We Value JPMorgan More Than Consumer Protection?

Is $4 billion in taxpayer money better spent subsidizing JPMorgan's alleged criminal activity or funding the federal agency charged with defending consumers from dangerous financial products?

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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Budget

Out of the Shadows

This study uses data provided to us by the quasi-public agencies in response to public records requests, as well as public audits and online searches, to examine the size and scope of quasi-public agencies in Massachusetts and the extent to which their budgets and decision-making are open to the public.

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

No Silver Lining

This report provides new data about the amount of BPA that could be consumed from eating canned food and drinks available in the U.S. and Canada. For No Silver Lining, we tested the food and beverage contents of 50 cans collected from 19 U.S. states and Ontario, Canada. The report reveals that BPA is a routine contaminant in canned foods. Our study details potential exposure to BPA from not just one can, but from meals prepared with canned food and drink that an ordinary North American person might consume over the course of a day.

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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Budget

Out of the Shadows

In Massachusetts, quasi-public agencies perform vital government functions, delivering essential services such as operating public buses and rail systems, delivering drinking water and managing public pensions. Because they are not directly accountable to the legislature and exempt from many kinds of public oversight, these agencies should make their decisions and budgets especially open to public scrutiny.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Road Work Ahead

Across the nation, drivers face more than 90,000 miles of crumbling highways and more than 70,000 structurally deficient bridges. Neglected maintenance of roads and bridges acts as a constant drain on our economy and a scourge on our quality of life. Rough and rutted roads cause accidents, damage vehicles, trigger traffic jams that lead to countless hours of delay, and waste money Americans need for other expenses.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Tax

Tax Shell Game 2010

Many corporations operating in the United States funnel money through offshore tax havens in order to avoid paying billions in U.S. taxes. Taxpaying households must pick up the tab for the missing revenue to the U.S. Treasury. Making up for this lost revenue costs each taxpayer an average of $500 per year.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

State Attorneys General Oppose Payday Lender Protection Bill In Congress | Ed Mierzwinski

Last week a bi-partisan group of 41 state Attorneys General announced their joint opposition to misguided legislation to take both the CFPB and the states off the payday lender crime beat. Nevertheless, the payday lenders continue to invest in the political process.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Consumers want "Do not track" privacy right but powerful firms fight back | Ed Mierzwinski

A new study shows that web surfers want an easy-to-use Do-Not-Track right to stop online tracking and collection of information about their web choices. But a powerful coalition of web advertisers and web publishers is fighting back, here and abroad, and it claims that such targeted advertising is what makes the Internet "free."

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

new consumer group, Consumers Count, to fight for arbitration reform | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, consumerscount.org launched as a website using "crowdsourcing" to help consumers band together to fight back when they have same complaint against the same company, but are limited by forced arbitration clauses and restrictions on class action rights from obtaining redress. At least until the CFPB bans forced arbitration, we need innovative ideas like consumerscount.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

It's the 30th anniversary of Connecticut's New Car Lemon Law | Ed Mierzwinski

Thirty years ago today, the nation's first new car lemon law took effect in Connecticut. I was ConnPIRG's director at the time, when we joined a freshman state legislator, John Woodcock, to take on both Detroit and the even-more-powerful (in Hartford, that is) Connecticut car dealers.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB, FDIC, Fed and OCC slap AmEx Credit Card for numerous violations | Ed Mierzwinski

(UPDATED) Four federal financial regulators have announced an order for at least $85 million in restitution and $27.5 million in penalties alleging a variety of violations of equal credit opportunity, debt collection and credit reporting laws by the American Express credit card. From the CFPB: "at every stage of the consumer experience, from marketing to enrollment to payment to debt collection, American Express violated consumer protection laws."

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Priority Action

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

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