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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Center for Digital Democracy | Financial Reform

Big Data Means Big Opportunities and Big Challenges

This report examines the growing use of "Big Data" in financial decision-making, especially in a digital marketplace characterized more and more by the use of mobile phones. It explains the opportunities to use Big Data to promote financial opportunity and the threat of financial exclusion, discrimination or higher prices for some consumers if Big Data is not used properly. The report makes recommendations to advocates, industry and regulators.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Victory for Taxpayers and Consumers as Justice Dept. Denies Toyota $1.2 Billion Write-Off in Criminal Probe Settlement

Today, the Justice Department acted in the best interests of taxpayers and consumers, by denying Toyota a hidden $420 million tax benefit on its settlement for misleading consumers about dangerous car malfunctions.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

We Join FTC Event on Big Data E-Scores | Ed Mierzwinski

Companies on the Internet are tracking you with vastly powerful Big Data algorithms to determine what to sell you and for how much and what financial opportunities to offer you. Today at 10am, I join an FTC workshop on Alternative Scoring Products to debate the transparency and fairness of the system with privacy and technology experts from industry, academia and the public interest. You can attend or watch online.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Transportation

New California Data Shows Alternatives to Driving Taking Hold

California's state travel survey confirms that the driving boom is over.

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Media Hit | Financial Reform

National data-theft law still a hard sell

The data breach at Target Corp., which exposed millions of credit card numbers, has focused attention on the patchwork of state consumer notification laws and renewed a push for a single national standard. [...] ‘‘From industry’s perspective, whether you’re a bank or a merchant, you don’t want to have to notify consumers,’’ said Ed Mierzwinski, at the US Public Interest Research Group. ‘‘They want to preempt, or override, the best state laws.’’

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Health Care

U.S. PIRG Education Fund Announces “Health Insurance 101” Campus Education Campaign

U.S. PIRG Education Fund celebrated the kick-off of its new health care outreach and education effort focusing on young Americans. The outreach effort comes as the Affordable Care Act’s “health insurance marketplaces” prepare to open in states across the country.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Five Safety Breakthroughs in Five Years

On August 14, 2008, the CPSIA was signed into law after a deliberative process and overwhelming bipartisan support in both the U.S. House and Senate. The law includes strong product safety reforms that revitalized the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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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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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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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Easy Money

Congress has the opportunity this year to increase student aid funding by billions of dollars at no additional cost to taxpayers. Bipartisan legislation is pending in Congress that would increase federal student aid for those colleges and universities that utilize the more economically efficient of the two federal student loan programs. The Student Aid Reward (STAR) Act, introduced in March 2005, would increase student aid funding by redirecting the subsidies currently going to student loan companies to needy students.

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

Raising Risk

Although genetically engineered crops are still poorly understood, corporations and universities are growing them experimentally in the open environment with little oversight and public notification. Contrary to assertions made by proponents of the technology, genetic engineering is not precise. Scientists cannot control where the gene is inserted into the host’s genetic code, nor guarantee stable expression of the gene in the new genetically engineered organism.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Rip-off 101: 2nd Edition

The State PIRGs conducted a survey of the most widely purchased textbooks at 59 colleges and universities across the country. Overall, the survey uncovered evidence that textbook prices are a significant part of college costs, that textbook prices are rising at a fast pace, and that publishers use a variety of tactics to inflate the cost of textbooks. In addition, we found that textbook publishers increase textbook prices faster than the rate of inflation between editions and charge American students more for the same books than students in other countries. 

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Look Who's Not Coming to Washington

Large contributions made by a small fraction of Americans unduly influence who runs for office and who wins elections in the United States.

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Report | Research for The Rest of Us | Democracy

Making Safe Seats Safer

Large campaign contributions allow wealthy donors to unduly influence who can run for office and who wins elections in Ohio. This analysis examines the role of campaign contributions in influencing the outcome of Ohio elections.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

JP Morgan Chase: $2 Billion Debacle Shows It May Be Too Big To Manage | Ed Mierzwinski

Last week the nation's largest -- and to date least vulnerable to attack for stupid bank tricks  -- bank, JP Morgan Chase, lost two billion dollars in a very bad derivatives bet. Now Chase's until-now-Teflon-coated CEO Jamie Dimon faces increased scrutiny over his own and his firm's loud and arrogant opposition to the Volcker rule and exchange trading of derivatives -- two Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms not yet implemented due to the obstinacy of bankers like him that might have prevented the loss. The episode also raises the question: Are the big banks too big to manage?

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Blog Post | Public Health

Medical Implant Recalls Raises Questions about 510K Review Process. | Nasima Hossain

Medical devices can range from bandages and medical clamps to surgical mesh and hip replacements. The medical devices industry is a $100 billion-a-year industry and works aggressively with the FDA to push thousands of devices onto the market every year.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Overdraft bill to end $35 cup of coffee and other bank reform highlights | Ed Mierzwinski

Yesterday, U.S. PIRG joined U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY) and other leading members in front of the U.S. Capitol to introduce the Overdraft Protection Act of 2012. Also this week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau described its proposal to simplify mortgage points and fees. Click read more to find about these and other important financial stories this week.

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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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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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