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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Data Breaches | Ed Mierzwinski

Tomorrow, Saturday, 11/29, I'll discuss data breaches and card security on C-Span Washington Journal at 8:40 AM Eastern. It's the biggest shopping weekend of the year, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday bracketing 2 more shopping days. If I shop, it'll be online, with credit, not debit, cards.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Demos | Democracy

The Dominance of Big Money in the 2014 Congressional Elections

In 2014, large donors accounted for the vast majority of all individual federal election contributions this cycle, just as they have in previous elections. Seven of every 10 individual contribution dollars to the federal candidates, parties, PACs and Super PACs that were active in the 2013-2014 election cycle came from donors who gave $200 or more. Candidates alone got 84 percent of their individual contributions from large donors.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Forex settlements prevent banks from writing off multi-billion dollar payments as tax deductions

The six banks that today announced out-of-court settlements with federal agencies to atone for manipulating foreign exchange markets won't be able to write off those payments as a tax-deductible business expense. Why isn't that always the case?

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

On Veterans Day, How The CFPB Helps Veterans, and All of Us | Ed Mierzwinski

Columnist George Will recently (and not for the first time) urged Congress to “abolish the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.” His reasons may seem to come from his conservative philosophy, but merely pander to the powerful Wall Street interests that left our economy in ruins just a few years ago. As a counterbalance, let’s discuss some recent speeches and statements by CFPB Director Richard Cordray on his vision for the bureau and some of its current work, including – on this Veteran’s Day – its efforts to protect military families from financial predators.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

US regulators to strike forex settlement, but will they strike out tax deductions from the deal?

Federal agencies are preparing to settle with several big banks to resolve charges that they manipulated foreign currency exchange rates. Will those banks be allowed to write off the settlement payments as a tax deduction? If so, much of the costs of the payment will be shifted back onto taxpayers.

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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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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 | Food

Consumer Groups Launch National Push for Supermarkets to Label GMOs

Consumers and health advocates launched a national campaign calling on local and regional supermarket chains to label their store-brand products for ingredients derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), on the one year anniversary of Whole Foods’ announcement that it will adopt labeling for all products in its stores.

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Why do we hate debt collectors? Mistaken identity

You expect to hear from a debt collector when you don't pay your bills. But what do you do when you get calls or letters from a collection agency for a debt you don't owe?

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Report | Green Century Capital Management | Public Health

Seeking Safer Packaging

Seeking Safer Packaging - a project of Green Century Capital Management, Inc. (Green Century) and As You Sow - sent letters to 20 companies in the packaged food industry to identify the actions the companies are taking to address concerns regarding BPA. Fourteen companies replied. Seeking Safer Packaging grades those companies based entirely on their responses to these letters.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Health Care

Uncovered

It's commonly assumed that young Americans are disengaged from the issue, that on the whole they are a healthy group who are unlikely to be affected by health problems or lack access to care. But the reality couldn't be more different. In fact, young people, including college students, are on the front lines of the health care crisis. They make up the largest age block of the uninsured, and face a uniquely challenging set of obstacles that often prevent them from getting coverage.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Greasing the Wheels

We analyzed two data sets and new information that shine light on the influence of campaign giving on transportation funding decisions at the state and federal level. First the report examines, on a state-by-state basis, how much money was contributed to both federal and state campaigns by highway interests, defined as those from the development, automobile, transportation, and construction sectors.

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Report | CALPIRG | Higher Ed

Working Too Hard to Make the Grade

Our commitment to equity and our future economic success require that we make higher education accessible to all Californians, and that our students succeed academically and graduate. The community college system plays a key role in California’s ability to meet these goals, educating six out of every ten college students in the state and opening their doors to students of every type. It is therefore deeply concerning that, of all community college students who intend to complete an associate’s degree, or transfer to a four-year school, only 24 percent achieve their goal within six years.

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Report | OSPIRG | Consumer Protection

Tricks and Traps

As Oregonians continue to endure the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, OSPIRG set out to discover what consumers are really paying to maintain basic banking services in Oregon, and what sorts of fees and financial institution policies have the biggest effect on consumers' bottom line. OSPIRG staff and volunteers analyzed 64 checking accounts offered by ten banks and eight credit unions in Portland, Eugene and Ashland.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Senators Hold CFPB Director Hostage, Roil Markets | Ed Mierzwinski

On Friday, most Senate Republicans again sent the President a letter saying they would not confirm Richard Cordray to a full term as CFPB director unless the agency's powers and independence were first gutted. Their intransigence contributes to market uncertainty that ignores at least three things: The CFPB is here to stay; the public wants the CFPB; and, banks lose to payday lenders if the director is not confirmed.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Will Consumers Face Credit Card Surcharges? No. | Ed Mierzwinski

On behalf of the big banks, the credit card companies Visa and Mastercard charge unfair fees to merchants. Some are speculating that as a result of a court settlement over these "swipe fees" that consumers will end up paying more when they make a credit card purchase. We don't think surcharging will spread. Here's why.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Current and former Fed officials urge greater efforts against risky big bank practices | Ed Mierzwinski

In the past week, two leading Fed officials issued stark warnings against risky practices of the big banks and called for greater oversight. Both Professor Alan Blinder, a former vice-chair of the Federal Reserve, and Richard Fisher, the current Dallas Fed president, called for solutions that match U.S. PIRG's reform platform.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

FTC seeks information from data brokers | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued nine administrative orders seeking information to analyze the "Data Broker Industry’s Collection and Use of Consumer Data." The questions being asked track closely the questions posed both in a forthcoming U.S. PIRG/Center for Digital Democracy law review article and in similar information requests from the Bi-Partisan Congressional Privacy Caucus.

 

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB's #2 is leaving, replacement must meet standards to become #1 | Ed Mierzwinski

The industry trade press is all a-flutter with demands that when CFPB Deputy Director Raj Date leaves, that be replaced with what they characterize as "another" bank-friendly regulator when he leaves. Raj Date wasn't selected as CFPB special advisor and then deputy director because he had a banking background; he was selected because his additional consumer background made him qualified to become director.

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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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