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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB gets results for consumers, slams Chase for deceptive card add-ons | Ed Mierzwinski

Earlier this week, USPIRG Education Fund released "Big Banks, Big Complaints," a report documenting how the CFPB is helping bank customers with its public complaint database. Today, the CFPB announced it had imposed a $20 million civil penalty on JP Morgan Chase and ordered it to refund $309 million to over 2 million consumers for deceptively marketing junky credit card add-on products, some of which consumers didn't even receive. The CFPB is getting results.

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

Senator Levin Introduces Bill to Crack Down on Tax Haven Abuse

Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), joined by cosponsors Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mark Begich (D-AK), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), introduced the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act, which would save $220 billion over the next ten years. U.S. PIRG draws attention to the abuse by shipping more than 700 postcards to a Bank of American P.O. box in the Cayman Islands, a well-known tax haven. 

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

JPMorgan Shouldn’t Receive Tax Windfall for London Whale Penalty

Unless regulators forbid JPMorgan Chase from writing off an $800 million settlement as a tax deduction, taxpayers could end up shouldering 35 percent of the cost of the settlement.

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News Release | US PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

New Report Identifies Banks Consumers Complain About Most

WASHINGTON – Thousands of Americans are using the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s public Consumer Complaints Database to settle disputes with their banks, according to a new report from the US PIRG Education Fund. The report highlights banks that generated the most complaints through their various banking services in each state.

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

Groups, Lawmakers Demand Cuts to Ag Subsidies, Deliver Petitions from 278,000 Citizens, 1,000 Small Farmers

Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI) and Tom Petri (R-WI) joined groups from across the political spectrum to deliver petitions and call on Congress to end subsidies to large agribusinesses, which are a part of the Farm Bill that is set to expire at the end of this month. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Students React to President's Budget Proposal on Student Loans

While the President’s budget keeps rates low in the near term, we’re disappointed that it risks sky-high interest rates in the long term. The structure of the proposal switches student loan interest rates from a fixed rate to a rate that varies with the market, allowing students to take advantage of temporarily low rates, but offers no protection for students when rates inevitably begin to climb.

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

New Poll: Small Businesses Overwhelmingly Support Closing Offshore Tax Loopholes for Large Corporations

A new scientific poll of small businesses found that small business owners overwhelmingly support closing loopholes that let large multinationals avoid taxes by artificially shifting their profits offshore. 85% of small business owners oppose “a tax system that would allow U.S. multinational corporations to avoid taxes permanently by shifting their income to places like the Cayman Islands.”

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

Pulp Fiction

Across the country, pulp and paper mills, petroleum refineries, chemical plants and other industrial facilities use and store large amounts of hazardous chemicals that could be released in the event of an accident or terrorist attack. Releases at these chemical facilities could endanger thousands or even millions of people working and living in nearby communities.

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Report | TexPIRG | Budget, Transportation

Six Public Interest Principles for Considering Private Toll Roads in Texas

Plans for the state of Texas to sign concession deals for privately operated toll roads present a number of dangers for the public interest. Giving long-term control of our roads to a private operator and granting them future toll revenues is a huge commitment that should not be taken lightly. Regardless of whether a deal is with a public or private operator, no concession should be approved that fails to uphold any of six basic principles.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Funding Clean Elections

The spiraling cost of campaigns, high-profile scandals and voter distrust of Congress have fueled an effort for fundamental reform of the way we fund congressional campaigns. As a result, many federal decision-makers have been working on proposals to create a Clean Elections model for publicly financing congressional campaigns. As a part of the effort to build support both within the Democratic caucus and across party lines, it is important to know how much the program will cost and options to pay for that cost.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

Breaking Free With Fair Elections

Fair Elections – systems with full public financing of elections – would help improve the openness, honesty, and accountability of government. They would also free public officials to respond to the interests of voters without worrying about hurting their ability to raise money from deep-pocketed donors. If we want to protect the environment, design a better health care system or improve our energy policy, we need a political system that encourages lawmakers to listen more to voters than to oil and gas companies, pharmaceutical giants and other industries.

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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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Blog Post | Democracy

Who Owns Big Oil? We Do!

The American Petroleum Institute has a new public image campaign: http://whoownsbigoil.org. The purpose of this website, presumably, is to convince us that if we raise taxes on hugely profitable corporations we will only be hurting ourselves. Why? Because we are all shareholders of those corporations and when they are taxed we suffer.

While I am skeptical of API’s conclusions, it’s right to say we own the oil companies. In fact, shareholders across the country are demanding accountability and disclosure from the corporations that they rightfully own and the effort could be the key to slowing the flow of corporate money in the 2012 election.

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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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