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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Court Reinstates Case Against Bank That Aided Senior Citizen Fraud | Ed Mierzwinski

This week, the 3rd Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals overturned a lower court decision that had denied class action status to victims of a scheme targeting senior citizens who were suing Zions Bank and its payment processor affiliates for aiding the fraudsters. U.S. regulators led by the Department of Justice have been fighting this and similar schemes, yet powerful special interests have managed to create a false narrative in Washington, DC that has been picked up by opponents of consumer protection laws. They falsely claim that the government's target is "legitimate" payday lenders and gun dealers. Wrong, the target is financial crimes against consumers, many consumers.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

IRS Admits Data Breach Worse Than Thought, Will Congress Do Wrong Thing Anyway? | Ed Mierzwinski

This week, the IRS has admitted that thieves accessed the personal information -- enough to allow them to take your tax refund -- of an additional 220,000 taxpayers, on top of the 114,000 reported in May. Meanwhile, we remain  concerned that Congress will use continued publicity about the Target breach and other breaches as an excuse to pass dangerous data security legislation. Dangerous? Yes, because it would only protect against limited financial identity theft harms, but eliminate stronger state protections against the harms posed by the IRS breach, the health insurance breaches and the OPM breach.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

House To Vote On Godzilla-Sized Rule Blocker, As Financial Committee Considers Smaller Rollbacks | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATED: REINS Approved, near party line vote. Today, the House Financial Services Committee takes up a package of smaller rollback bills, many of which are opposed by Americans for Financial Reform and the PIRGs. Meanwhile, the House will bring up the Godzilla of all anti-health and safety bills, the REINS Act. Fortunately, the President has promised a veto.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Over 7,000 Comments Submitted to Department of Labor

Every year, over $17 billion is lost from retirement savings to fees and charges, according to the Council of Economic Advisors. Today, we submitted over 7,000 PIRG member comments urging the U.S. Department of Labor to finalize a strong rule requiring retirement advisors to put the interests of their customers first. We also submitted a detailed expert comment of our own in the important "conflicted advice" rulemaking.

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News Release | US PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Top 10 List: How the CFPB Works for Consumers

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) turns 4 on July 21st. To celebrate and increase public awareness of the agency, U.S. PIRG Education Fund released a new webpage, “Meet the CFPB: Just Ten of the Ways It Works for You.

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News Release | PennPIRG Education Fund

Pennsylvania Receives a “B” in Annual Report on Transparency of Government Spending

March 26 – Pennsylvania received a “B” when it comes to government spending transparency, according to “Following the Money 2013: How the States Rank on Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data,” the fourth annual report of its kind by the PennPIRG Education Fund.

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News Release | PennPIRG Education Fund | Tax

Offshore Tax Dodging Blows a $2.1 Billion Hole in Pennsylvania Budget

Federal taxpayers are not the only victims of offshore tax havens. Tax havens deprive state governments of billions of dollars in badly needed revenues as well. Based how much income is federally reported in each state, and on state tax rates, it is possible to calculate how much each of the state governments lose as a result of offshore tax dodging.

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News Release | PennPIRG | Democracy

New Report Shows Impact of Big Money in the 2012 Election

32 Super PAC Mega-Donors Match Total Giving of 3.7 Million Presidential Campaign Small Donors; Nearly Half of TV Ads in Presidential Race Funded by “Dark Money”

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News Release | PennPIRG | Democracy

Philadelphia Organizations, Citizens, and Elected Officials Hold Press Conference and Rally to Overturn Citizens United

Today at a press conference and rally, a diverse coalition of more than 20 organizations, elected officials, faith groups, and citizens gathered at LOVE Park and braved the cold to mark the third anniversary of the Citizens United court decision and call for the reversal of a big money system that favors powerful special interests over the public interest.

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News Release | PennPIRG | Tax

Report Exposes How Taxpayers Bear Cost of Corporate Settlements

A report released today spotlights a common practice where corporations that commit wrongdoing and agree to financial settlements with the federal government, go on to claim such settlement payments as tax-deductible business expenses.

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Report | PennPIRG and the PFAW Foundation | Democracy

Outside Spending, Outsized Influence

The 2012 elections were by far the most expensive in history thanks primarily to the tidal wave of outside, special interest money triggered by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The federal Senate and House races in Pennsylvania, where outside groups spent nearly $12 million, were no exception.

 

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Report | PennPIRG and Demos | Democracy

Billion-Dollar Democracy

The first presidential election since Citizens United lived up to its hype, with unprecedented outside spending from new sources making headlines. Demos and the PennPIRG Education Fund's analysis of reports from campaigns, parties, and outside spenders to the Federal Election Commission found that our big money system distorts democracy and creates clear winners and losers: Wealthy Donors Over Average Citizens, Special Interests Over the Public Interest, Incumbents Over Challengers & Grassroots Candidates, Secret Spenders Over Voters Seeking Accountability.

 

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Report | PennPIRG | Tax

Subsidizing Bad Behavior

BP’s recent $4.5 billion legal settlement with the Justice Department for its misdeeds in the Gulf oil spill was historic for being the largest ever criminal settlement. But it was historic for another reason as well—none of it is allowed to be tax deductible. Unfortunately, too many settlements for wrongdoing end up as tax deductions.

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Report | PennPIRG | Tax

What America Could Do With $150 Billion Lost to Offshore Tax Havens

Many corporations and wealthy individuals use offshore tax havens—countries with minimal or no taxes—to avoid paying $150 billion in U.S. taxes each year. Americans, who must pick up the tab in the form of cuts to public services, more debt, or higher taxes.

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Report | PennPIRG | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland

The 2012 Trouble in Toyland report is the 27th annual Pensylvania Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety. In this report, PennPIRG provides safety guidelines for consumers 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 Adds Consumer Stories to Public Complaint Database | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, the CFPB took a step to make its excellent public database of consumer complaints even better, by adding complaint narratives (stories), but only with the consumer's consent. It's a step we've long urged. It will enrich our research into the marketplace, help consumers make choices and help good-actor firms avoid bad practices by others.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

As NY Brings Credit Bureaus To Heel, CFPB Arbitration Study Paves Way Toward New Protections | Ed Mierzwinski

Two big consumer stories so far this week offer hope to consumers victimized by credit bureau errors and, more generally, by an inability to take credit bureaus, credit card companies, banks or payday lenders to court when harmed. On Monday, New York's Attorney General Eric Schneiderman signed a groundbreaking agreement with the Big Three credit bureaus, Equifax, Trans Union and Experian. Then today, the CFPB released a report finding that consumer legal rights are infringed by small-print forced arbitration clauses in credit card and other contracts.  The CFPB will hold a webcast public hearing at 11am Eastern time today (Tuesday) to discuss the report's findings and next steps.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Is Anyone Protecting Your Privacy Or Wallet? Turbotax? Anthem? Apple? The Government? | Ed Mierzwinski

As if recent privacy breaches at the online tax preparer Turbotax and the health insurer Anthem weren't enough, it turns out that low-tech hacks can trick the vaunted Apple Pay system into giving up cash to thieves, too. Meanwhile, while the administration's blueprint for a Privacy Bill of Rights in 2012 was excellent, its new legislative draft from the Department of Commerce could have been written by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. There is some good news on privacy, though.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

As House Holds Oversight Hearing, 340 Groups Call For Defense of CFPB | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray will present the CFPB's sixth semi-annual report to the House Financial Services Committee, whose majority members have been harsh critics of the successful consumer agency. Americans for Financial Reform, joined by the state PIRGs and a total of 340 national, state and local groups, sent Congress a letter explaining why the idea of the CFPB needs no defense, only more defenders.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Coalition Launched To Protect Retirement Savings from Wall Street Loopholes | Ed Mierzwinski

We've joined AARP, the Consumer Federation of America, AFL-CIO, Americans for Financial Reform and other leading groups to support an imminent Department of Labor rule to require retirement advisors to put consumers first. Wall Street brokerages and insurance companies have already launched a fierce lobbying attack, since they've been using loopholes to put themselves first to the tune of an estimated $17 billion/year by pocketing what should be your retirement income.

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