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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

U.S. PIRG PRAISES BIPARTISAN BILL REINTRODUCTION PROHIBITING TAX WRITE-OFFS FOR WRONGDOING

Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Jack Reed (D-RI) reintroduced The Government Settlement Transparency and Reform Act, which would restrict the ability for corporations to reap massive tax write-offs from payments made to settle allegations of misconduct or criminal wrongdoing.  

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Anthem Customers and Others: Some Advice On Steps To Take After Data Breach | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATED (9 Feb.) Retail store data breaches make a mess, but an easy one to clean up and the few consumers who become fraud victims are quickly made whole. The Anthem hackers, on the other hand, reportedly obtained a mother lode of information that could be used to commit a variety of serious frauds, including obtaining your tax refund. Read our tips here. Here's the first: Don't click on any emails claiming to be from Anthem; some may be malicious.

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News Release | US PIRG | Budget

U.S.PIRG advises for stronger standards to track state and local economic subsidies

The Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) called for public comment on proposed rules for reporting on tax abatements that could require states and localities to achieve new levels of checkbook level transparency around economic development programs. Across the U.S. these programs represent tens of billions of dollars in subsidies, often granted with little transparency or accountability for results. In our comment letter to GASB, US PIRG made a few suggestions for amendments that would further strengthen the proposed GASB standards.

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Blog Post | Public Health

House's New Target: All Health, Safety, Financial Protections | Ed Mierzwinski

Following their embarrassment a few weeks ago when a vote on Wall Street rollbacks using "name that post office" procedures failed, the good news is that House leaders are taking a hiatus from attacking financial reform directly this week. The bad news: instead, the House plans to move two proposals placing roadblocks in front of any agency -- from FDA and EPA to the CFPB -- seeking to establish public health, safety or financial safeguards. We're on the case.

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Media Hit | Tax

How Much of Its Record Settlement Will S&P Write Off at Tax Time?

First comes the settlement. Next comes the tax write-off?

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services on Tuesday announced a record $1.5 billion payout to resolve crisis-era lawsuits with the Justice Department, states and a pension fund over inflated residential mortgage deals. Collectively, the settlement total is 10 times larger than any other previously involving a credit-rating firm.

But how much of the unprecedented round of settlements could end up being written off?

Michelle Surka, a program associate with the nonpartisan consumer advocacy group U.S. Public Interest Research Group, said she thinks she has an answer based on an early analysis: about $290 million.

That’s about a $50 million break on state taxes but also the potential to write down $240 million of federal taxes owed in the more than dozen states involved in the settlement, Ms. Surka said.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Representatives Bass and Courtney Speak on Legislative Solutions to Student Debt Crisis

U.S. Representatives Joe Courtney (CT) and Karen Bass (CA) were joined today by student advocacy groups to highlight legislative solutions to rein in student loan debt. One year ago today, the United States' total amount of student debt crossed the $1 trillion mark.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

U.S. PIRG and 38 others Call for Support of the Shareholder Protection Act

If the Supreme Court is going to say that corporations are people, a proposition with which we completely disagree, then let's at least allow the real people who invest in the corporations to decide whether or not they can spend money on elections.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Texas Fertilizer Plant Tragedy Reminder of Need for Better Chemical Safety Rules

Wednesday night’s tragedy at the West Fertilizer plant is a catastrophic reminder of the threat posed by hazardous chemicals used in thousands of facilities across the nation, and the need for us to take every step to prevent the recurrence of such tragedies.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Consumers Need Stronger Public Health Protections to Ensure Compounded Drugs Are Safe

Our drug approval system for medicines manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry and regulated through the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act is the one of the strongest and safest in the world. However, for the last 20 years the rapidly evolving compounding pharmacies industry has been successful in thwarting regulations at every opportunity.

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Prepaid cards can be a good choice if you choose wisely

Prepaid debit cards are billed as a better way to manage your money, a smart alternative to checking accounts. [...but prepaid] debit cards are different from credit cards or even debit cards tied to a checking account. They may not provide the same level of protection again loss or fraud. Ed Mierzwinski, director of consumer programs at U.S. PIRG, doesn’t think most people understand the difference.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

B of A tests new fees, CFPB asks for your checking account complaints | Ed Mierzwinski

Reporters are calling about BofA's proposed new checking account fees, "Ed, what does it mean?" Meanwhile the CFPB says checking accounts can be "complex and confusing" and announced it is now  ready and waiting for your checking account complaints. Find out more.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Funding Cuts for Testing of Deadly Bacteria in Fresh Produce | Nasima Hossain

The USDA budget would eliminate the nation’s only program that regularly tests fruits and vegetables for deadly pathogens. Cutting this program will leave public health officials without a crucial tool used to investigate deadly foodborne illnesses and to speed up recalls of dangerous fresh produce.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

WH urges privacy rights, industry promises "Do Not Track Sometimes" while states investigate Google | Ed Mierzwinski

As web giants amass more and more information about consumers for behavioral targeting and even "social discrimination" -- which can include differential pricing for the same product or the use of web tracking data and falsely-flagged websites to promote certain brandname drug use -- the White House has called for a privacy bill of rights. Companies and powerful industry lobbies seeking to keep those rights weak have rolled out their own "Do Not Track Sometimes" button. Meanwhile bi-partisan groups of Congressional privacy hawks and, now, state attorneys general have demanded information from Google about its slippery, ever-changing privacy policies and whether Googleis in compliance with settlements it has already agreed to.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Today, CFPB to announce overdraft fee investigation, unveil "penalty box" disclosure, possibly end $39 lattes. | Ed Mierzwinski

At a news conference in NYC today, Director Richard Cordray of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will announce a major investigation of bank overdraft fee practices and propose a model "penalty box" disclosure to appear on bank statements. The investigation could end the $39 latte-- $4 bucks for the coffee, $35 for the debit card overdraft fee.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Consumer news update, some stories I've been following | Ed Mierzwinski

Just a summary of some of what I think are the important consumer news stories of the last week or so, in case you missed any of them.

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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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