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News Post | Consumer Protection

Wall Street Ramps Up Attacks on Wall Street Reform | Ed Mierzwinski

On Friday, the House overwhelmingly approved a Wall Street-driven proposal to weaken oversight of private equity firms, taking a chunk out of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. But wait, there's so much more: On Tuesday the House Financial Services Committee takes up the so-called "Financial Choice Act," which eviscerates most of Dodd-Frank's key reforms, from stripping powers of the Financial Stability Oversight Council to repealing the Volcker Rule, which reins in risky betting practices that use depositors' money. As for the CFPB (which just this week issued its biggest fine to date, $100 million against Wells Fargo Bank for opening hundreds of thousands of fake and secret consumer accounts to meet sales goals), the proposal would defund and defang it and delay or stop its efforts to rein in unfair practices of payday lenders, debt collectors and banks. Many of the Financial Choice Act's provisions also pose threats as budget bill "riders."

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Congressional Money Report to Highlight Impact of Big Money in Primaries

On Wednesday, September 14, U.S. PIRG Education Fund will release a final update to its report on the success of big-money candidates in congressional primaries. The update will amend the report to include the results of House and Senate races in all states, showing how often better-funded congressional candidates win their races. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

CFPB Issues Record $100 Million Fine on Wells Fargo For "Beyond Outrageous" Sales Practices

On September 8 the CFPB announced a record $100 million civil penalty plus consumer restitution against Wells Fargo, among the  nation’s largest banks, for a series of unfair and abusive sales practices by “thousands” of employees that included opening “secret” accounts for “hundreds of thousands” of existing customers, solely to meet sales goals to receive financial incentives. The CFPB action was joined by simultaneous orders announced by the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) ($35 million civil penalty) and the City of Los Angeles ($50 million civil penalty). Our statement follows.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG & Public Citizen | Democracy

Fort Myer Construction and Associates Gave More Than $130,000 to D.C. Council in Past Five Years

Top executives and their families at Fort Myer Construction – the D.C.-based construction company involved in a contracting controversy with Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office – have donated at least $130,000 to 18 candidates since 2011. They used contributions from 11 sources, according to  by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and Public Citizen. The case highlights the need for public financing of elections.

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Media Hit | Tax

Charlotte Observer top article features settlement loophole

Feature article quotes U.S. PIRG to discuss how banking giant may leave taxpayers with part of the bill for their mortgage abuses.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

U.S. PIRG’s Christine Lindstrom Testifies before U.S. Senate Banking Committee on Campus Debit Cards

U.S. PIRG Higher Education Program Director Chris Lindstrom testified before the Senate Banking Committee today on campus banking issues, private student loans and other issues concerning financial products on campus.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Bipartisan Bill to Expose Tax Write-Offs for Corporate Wrongdoing Clears Committee

U.S. PIRG applauds the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee for approving the bipartisan Truth in Settlements Act. Thanks to a loophole in the law, companies paying out-of-court settlements to federal agencies can often deduct part of the cost from their tax bill as an ordinary business expense. This important bipartisan legislation would take the critical step of requiring the terms of these deals to be made public.

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

New Bill: No Federal Contracts for Companies that Renounce American Corporate Citizenship to Dodge Taxes

"Changing your address on a piece of paper shouldn’t change your tax bill. Unfortunately, a loophole in our tax code allows American companies to renounce their American corporate citizenship to avoid paying U.S. taxes...at the very least, lawmakers shouldn’t reward this tax dodging gimmick by granting these companies federal contracts."

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

SHAREHOLDER RESOLUTION ASKS SAFEWAY TO LABEL ITS FOOD FOR GMOs

At its annual meeting this Friday, shareholders and advocacy groups will urge Safeway to label store brand products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Green Century Capital Management filed a shareholder proposal with Safeway, citing unprecedented public demand for GMO labeling as a reason for Safeway to voluntarily provide this information. 

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News Post | Financial Reform

Senate Wants to Pass Dangerous Just Open Bucket Shops Act (so-called Jobs Act) | Ed Mierzwinski

You may not remember any pre-2008 scandals -- dot.com bubble?; ? --  since they are so yesterday's news. Don't worry. The House and Senate don't remember, either. If the Senate has its way with quick passage of the misnamed already-House-passed Jobs Act, -- better named by the New York Times columnist Gail Collins as the "" -- conflicted analysts will make stuff up again, government watchdogs like the will be chained, and small and novice investors will be looking at "crowd-funded websites" from good guys and bad guys, too, including often-fraudulent Chinese IPOs. Things are so bad that the Senate's leading investor champions to modify the proposal -- let alone block it -- even with a compromise alternative (). Only in Washington.

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News Post | Consumer Protection

50 Years Ago This Week, JFK Ushered in Modern Consumer Protection Era | Ed Mierzwinski

I've got a new column at Huffington Post, "" I discuss President Kennedy's visionary "Special Message to the Congress on Protecting the Consumer Interest" announced on March 15, 1962. He declared that consumers have rights and government should protect them. Read the full column after the jump.

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News Post | Financial Reform

FTC: Credit Bureaus Pressure ID Theft Victims To Buy Overpriced, Underperforming Credit Monitoring Packages | Ed Mierzwinski

A Federal Trade Commission (FTC) confirms what we've known all along: The big credit bureaus pressure identity theft victims into buying overpriced, underperforming credit monitoring subscription packages.

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News Post | Consumer Protection

Congress in zombie-like push to weaken investor laws and other consumer news | Ed Mierzwinski

After House passage of the mislabeled Jobs Act, action shifts to to the Senate in a misguided, PIRG-opposed bi-partisan effort to weaken investor protection laws. SF Chronicle financial columnist and the both rip the idea. While Congress appears trapped in a zombie-like fugue state, pretend zombies led by Iowa PIRG ( marched against nuclear power this weekend. All this and more consumer  news of the week, in case you missed it.

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News Post | Financial Reform

Consumer fraud summit today will be webcast | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATE: LINK TO C-SPAN WEBCAST ARCHIVE (My PANEL and entire event )

In times of financial calamity, fraudsters come out to take your . This afternoon U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will host a consumer financial fraud summit () at Georgetown Law School near Union Station bringing together enforcers from the DOJ, FTC, state agencies and consumer groups. I'll be on a panel discussing business opportunity frauds. Other panels will be on elder fraud and tax scams. The event is free and open to the public and will be .

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