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An $18 Million Lesson in Handling Credit Report Errors

"Even after sending more than 13 letters to Equifax over the course of two years, Julie Miller could not get the big credit bureau to remove a host of errors that it inserted into her credit report. [...] So she tried suing. That worked. [...] “Big punitive penalties may help force the bureaus to upgrade their 20th-century algorithms and incompetent dispute reinvestigation processes,” said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the United States Public Interest Research Group. “But C.F.P.B.’s authority to supervise the big credit bureaus is one of the most significant powers Congress gave it.”

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

New Study: 82 of Top 100 Companies Used Tax Havens in 2012

With Congress considering big cuts to public programs, U.S. PIRG released fresh evidence that the vast majority of large companies are dodging taxes by stashing money in offshore tax havens. In a study of the top 100 publicly traded companies, as measured by revenue, the study reveals that 82 maintain subsidiaries in offshore tax havens. Collectively, the companies report holding nearly $1.2 trillion offshore.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Offshore Shell Games

This study reveals that tax haven use is ubiquitous among the largest 100 publicly traded companies as measured by revenue. 82 of the top 100 publicly traded U.S. companies operate subsidiaries in tax haven jurisdictions, as of 2012. All told, these 82 companies maintain 2,686 tax haven subsidiaries.

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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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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Student Loan Deal Passes Senate 81-18, Will Put Students Deeper in Debt

Despite the threat that higher student debt poses to student borrowers, the Senate has twice beaten back attempts to extend the low 3.4 percent interest rate for student loans. Instead, the Senate negotiated a compromise, which passed today, 81-18.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Federal Government Makes Billions from Student Loan Borrowers Yearly

Today, a coalition of youth and student groups released an issue brief demonstrating that the federal government is making billions in revenue through the federal student loan program. The report projects that student loans will generate over $36 billion in revenue in 2013, in part because of a scheduled July 1 doubling of Stafford loan interest rates.

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Media Hit | Higher Ed

New York Times: Student Loan Rate Set to Rise, Despite Lack of Support

“Higher education loans are meant to subsidize the cost of higher education, not profit from them, especially at a time when students are facing record debt,” said Ethan Senack, the higher education advocate at the United States Public Interest Research Group.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

CFPB Ends Kickbacks by Mortgage Insurers

U.S. PIRG applauds CFPB’s enforcement action, including over $15 million in total penalties, against four mortgage insurers to end the practice of giving kickbacks to mortgage companies to get their business.

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

Offshore Tax Havens Cost Average Taxpayer $1,026 a Year, Small Businesses $3,067

With Tax Day approaching, it’s a good time to be reminded of where our tax dollars are going. U.S. PIRG released a new study which revealed that the average taxpayer in 2012 would have to shoulder an extra $1,026 in taxes to make up for the revenue lost due to the use of offshore tax havens by corporations and wealthy individuals. The report also found that the average small business would have to pay $3,067 to cover the cost of offshore tax dodging by large corporations.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Transportation

Consider ASCE Report Card in Light of Stimulus Repairs and Reduced Driving

Statement by Phineas Baxandall, U.S. PIRG Senior Analyst, explaining how reactions American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) report card for America’s infrastructure should be interpreted in light of: (1) the short-term federal assistance from stimulus funds that have since expired; and (2) a persistent trend by Americans toward driving less.

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Health Care

Diagnosing the High Cost of Health Care

California spends billions of health care dollars on unnecessary treatments and services, administrative waste, and overpriced, sometimes harmful, medications. By finding ways to cut waste in its health care system and to reform an incentive structure that encourages overspending, California can reduce the burden that health care costs impose on our economy.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Squandering the Stimulus

Nothing illustrates how the lack of transportation options hurts consumers and our economy more than the fact that, since approval of the tax rebates in February, Americans on average have already spent the amount of their stimulus checks at the pump.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Higher Ed

Cutting Interest Rates, Lowering Student Debt

In 21st century America, a college education is critical for individual success and the strength of our nation. Higher education is associated with better health, greater wealth and more vibrant civic participation, as well national economic competitiveness in today’s global environment. As the need for a college degree has grown, however, so has the cost of obtaining that education. The result is increased reliance on loans to pay for college.

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Report | CALPIRG | Health Care

Playing by Their Own Rules

Drug companies spend billions annually marketing their latest, most expensive drugs to doctors. These marketing efforts do not rely solely on scientific research and medical benefits, however; they employ a barrage of gifts, expensive meals, and wine-and-dine events to gain access to doctors. The result is that doctors looking for objective data about the efficacy and safety of pharmaceuticals are ensnared by this system, and find it increasingly easy to look to the drug companies for information.

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

The Campus Credit Card Trap 2008

This study is an in-person survey of a diverse sample of over 1500 students, primarily single undergraduates, at 40 large and small schools and universities in 14 states around the country conducted between October 2007 and February 2008. It analyzes how students pay for their education, how many use and how they use their credit cards and, finally, their attitudes toward credit card marketing on campus and whether or not they support principles to rein in credit card marketing on campus.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

You can pick your friends, and even your bank, but you're stuck with the reckless credit bureaus | Ed Mierzwinski

You can pick your friends and even your bank but you are stuck with the credit bureaus.  Over the last twenty years the power of the big credit bureaus to act as gatekeepers to consumer success in life has grown immensely. Credit reports and credit scores generated from them are used to decide whether consumers can get a job, get car insurance, qualify to open a bank account, rent an apartment, use a debit card and, of course, whether they can obtain and how much they will pay for credit. The Columbus (OH) Dispatch has an excellent four-part series explaining that the credit bureaus make mistakes, lots of them, and ruin peoples' lives. There is hope, however, since the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has new tools to rein in the bureaus.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Consumer Reports magazine issues Facebook privacy tips | Ed Mierzwinski

The cover story of the June 2012 Consumer Reports is all about protecting your privacy on Facebook. Worth a read.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Solution to Antibiotic Use in Animals- H.R. 965, Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2011 | Nasima Hossain

The research points to an increasing body of evidence that overuse of antibiotics in animals is the leading cause of drug resistance bacteria. Every year 18,000 people die from the antibiotic-resistant bug MRSA, and 80 percent of all antibiotics are used on animals, not humans.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

New York Times is running a bank fees debate, seeks comments | Ed Mierzwinski

Over at the New York Times, you can join a debate on bank fees. Meanwhile, the CFPB has extended its comment period seeking your views on overdraft fees until June 29.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB takes first step to eliminate forced arbitration and other consumer news | Ed Mierzwinski

Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau took an important first step toward protecting consumers from mandatory arbitration clauses, which are boilerplate sentences in bank account and other contracts that crush consumer legal rights. ... Meanwhile, the New York Times follows up on a lawsuit by the Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson against a medical debt collector that blocks and tackles consumers trying to get through hospital emergency room doors. But it gets better. That debt collector just happens to be owned by the same hedge fund that owned a supposedly neutral (not) forced arbitration mill known as NAF and favored by the big credit card companies.   ...  Also today, the World Privacy Forum announced updates to its helpful pages on medical identity theft.

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