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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

As CFPB Advances Consumer Protection, Attacks on CFPB Escalate | Ed Mierzwinski

This week, the CFPB took a major step toward establishing a regulation restricting the use of forced arbitration clauses in consumer financial contracts, which give companies what the CFPB's director said was a "free pass from being held accountable by their customers." Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, powerful bank interests escalated their campaign to defund and defang the bureau, because it works for consumers, not them.

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News Release | US PIRG Education Fund and Citizens for Tax Justice | Tax

STUDY: 72% OF FORTUNE 500 COMPANIES USED TAX HAVENS IN 2014

Nearly three-quarters of Fortune 500 companies booked profits to tax havens in 2014, with just 30 companies accounting for 62 percent of earnings stashed offshore, according to “Offshore Shell Games,” released today by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Citizens For Tax Justice. Collectively, the companies reported booking $2.1 trillion offshore for tax purposes.

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News Release | US PIRG | Tax

Deepwater Horizon Settlement Comes with $5.35 Billion Tax Windfall

Today’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice of a proposed $20.8 billion out-of-court settlement with BP to resolve charges related to the Gulf Oil spill allows the corporation to write off $15.3 billion of the total payment as an ordinary cost of doing business tax deduction. The majority of the settlement is comprised of tax deductible natural resource damages payments, restoration, and reimbursement to government, with just $5.5 billion explicitly labeled a non-tax-deductible Clean Water Act penalty. This proposed settlement would allow BP to claim an estimated $5.35 billion as a tax windfall, significantly decreasing the public value of the agreement, and nearly offsetting the cost of the non-deductible penalty.

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Report | U.S. PIRG & Center for Digital Democracy | Consumer Protection

Comments to U.S. Treasury Department on Online Marketplace Lending

In response to a "Request for Information" from the U.S. Treasury Department, last week U.S. PIRG and the Center for Digital Democracy filed a detailed comment recommending that regulators take a close look at the activities of a new "Big Data" financial sector of online marketplace lenders, which includes so-called "peer-to-peer" lenders. While the sector has potential to be innovative and provide lower-cost loans to consumers, and to improve financial opportunity for underserved consumers, there are risks in "light-touch" regulation.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Statement on Experian Breach of T-Mobile Customer Data

In the wake of a massive data breach affecting Experian’s computers holding 15 million files of T-Mobile hacked customers and applicants, we question why the firms are offering credit monitoring instead of paying to place credit, or security, freezes on all three of each victim’s credit reports. Only the security or credit freeze, available in any state, stops new account identity theft. Potential victims should freeze all of their “Big 3” credit reports from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

BP Could Take $6.3 Billion Tax Deduction For Gross Negligence In Deepwater Horizon Spill

BP could claim a $6.3 billion tax windfall from settling charges of its gross negligence in the Deepwater Horizon disaster unless the EPA prevents it

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Last week’s other big bank settlement also shifts burden to taxpayers

Goldman Sachs will be able to take a $420 million tax write off on the bank's FHFA settlement for its mortgage misdeeds. A similar settlement paid in 2010 to the SEC specifically prohibited such tax deductions.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Bank of America settlement loophole creates at least $4 billion burden for taxpayers

 The Justice Department allows Bank of America to write off most of its legal settlement for mortgage abuses as a tax deduction, shifting at least $4 billion back onto taxpayers.

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Media Hit | Tax

Bank of America’s $16 Billion Mortgage Settlement Less Painful Than It Looks

“The American public is expecting the Justice Department to hold the banks accountable for its misdeeds in the mortgage meltdown,” said Phineas Baxandall, an analyst with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy organization. “But these tax write-offs shift the burden back onto taxpayers and send the wrong message by treating parts of the settlement as an ordinary business expense.”

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Taxpayers could be burdened with Bank of America’s upcoming Justice Department settlement

To understand how significant the BoA settlement really is, people need to ask how many billions the bank is allowed to write off as tax deductions, and how much of the announced figure includes ‘fake costs’ — costs the bank would have incurred anyway to protect its bottom line.

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

The Food Safety Net

Protecting the safety and integrity of the food supply is one of the oldest functions of government, one that the American people expect their government to perform and perform well. As federal agencies become increasingly under-funded and influenced by powerful corporate interests, the states’ role in maintaining the food safety net grows ever-more important.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Raising the Limits

Using Federal Election Commission data on federal candidate fundraising from individuals, parties, and political action committees, we found that BCRA’s doubling of contribution limits did not deliver the promised benefit of more competitive elections and may be, in part, responsible for several harmful emerging trends. Races did not become more competitive; in fact, incumbents continued to out-raise challengers and win re-election at high rates.

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

Empty Pockets

After 25 years of experience, the Superfund program has evolved to protect Americans from toxic chemicals released when industry collides with nature, such as hurricanes and floods. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now must use this experience to face its biggest challenge yet—cleaning up the toxic pollution left behind after Hurricane Katrina flooded the Gulf Coast. Unfortunately, funding shortfalls plague the Superfund program and may hinder its ability to respond to Hurricane Katrina and address the thousands of other polluted sites littered across the country.

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

Undisclosed Pollution

Since 1987, the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program has been the nation’s premiere pollution disclosure program. By requiring companies to disclose the pollution they release to our air, water, and land, transfer off site, or dispose in a waste dump, the TRI program has ensured the public’s right-to-know about toxic pollution in communities. The TRI program is under attack. The Bush Administration has issued a series of proposed changes over the past few years, some of which would weaken the program by reducing the amount or quality of information available to the public.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble In Toyland 2005

The 2005 Trouble in Toyland report is the 20th annual Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety. This report provides safety guidelines for parents when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards.

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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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Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Preventing the Chobani Mold Problem

The constant stream of food recalls has made one thing clear: more needs to be done to protect Americans from the risk of unsafe food. Instead we’re seeing important rules, standards, and inspections that could significantly improve food safety getting blocked, underfunded, or delayed, allowing the drumbeat of recalls to continue.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Fed Doubles Down On Bet To Raise Swipe Fees | Ed Mierzwinski

Yesterday, the Federal Reserve Board told a U.S. judge it would appeal his decision that the Fed's 2012 rule raising the swipe fees merchants pay to accept debit cards blatantly ignored Congressional intent to lower them. The Fed's rule harms small businesses, who pay the highest swipe fees in the world, as well as their customers, who pay more at the store and more at the pump, even if they pay with cash. But it helps the Fed's big bank patrons.

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Blog Post | Democracy

In the Aftermath of VRA Ruling, a Wave of Voter Suppression Laws

It has been barely a month since the Supreme Court issued its controversial Voting Rights Act (VRA) ruling — yet already, in states across the country, laws are being implemented and proposed that are designed to severely limit voting access, and that will ultimately harm American democracy.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Celebrating the mandatory toy safety standard—An important provision of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

These days, we can mostly expect that toys sold on store shelves are tested to meet adequately strict safety standards — but that hasn’t always been the case. In 2007, toys with beloved childhood icons like Thomas the Tank Engine and Elmo were recalled because they contained excessive levels of lead. Another toy, when swallowed, created a toxic drug; yet another posed serious hazards due to strong magnets that could tear a child’s stomach lining if two or more pieces were swallowed.

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Priority Action

We're teaming up with big restaurant chains to stop the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms. Call on KFC to stop selling meat raised on routine antibiotics.

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