Shark week is over, but Rep. Poliquin’s support for financial predators continues

Shark week is over, but Rep. Poliquin’s support for financial predators continues

Discovery Channel’s annual Shark Week, with wall-to-wall coverage of all things shark-related just ended, and this year consumer advocates used the programming event as inspiration to shed some light on predatory payday loan sharks and other financial predators and the politicians who enable them. They say Rep. Poliquin of Maine has been among those throwing them chum.

“While most people know about the sharks that live in ocean, many are unaware of the sharks within our own neighborhoods. From payday lenders to big banks like Wells Fargo, they are all intent on using our communities as bait for their profits,” said Liz Ryan-Murray of People’s Action, which spearheaded the campaign.

Payday lending is a billion dollar industry that relies on predatory practices to entangle millions of people into short-term, high interest loans. These lenders market payday loans as a quick financial fix for people working low-wage jobs who have nowhere else to turn for help. But with interest rates as high as 600% in some states, many borrowers have trouble repaying the loans, often taking out multiple loans and becoming trapped in a cycle of debt, owing more of each week’s paycheck to Wall Street lenders.

Poliquin, who sits on the House Financial Services Committee, has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions linked to financial service companies he’s charged with regulating, from Bank of America and Goldman Sachs to payday loan companies like Advance America. Poliquin, a former Wall Street banker himself, has opposed financial regulation and sought to restrain and dismantle the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

The CFPB has handled over a million complaints and secured nearly $12 billion in relief to more than 29 million consumers by enforcing federal regulations against fraudulent lenders and servicers since its inception in 2011. The CFPB was responsible for uncovering and prosecuting fraudulent activity by Wells Fargo, where employees were opening accounts without customers knowledge to meet sales quotas. A year ago, the CFPB released a draft rule that would regulate high-interest, small-dollar payday loans and the predatory practices that often accompany, prompting a new round of attacks from the payday industry and its allies.

In June, Poliquin voted for HR10, known as the CHOICE Act, which would repeal regulations created in the wake of the great recession in 2008 as well as strip power from the CFPB and block the bureau from finalizing a rule to prohibit credit card, bank account, and other financial contracts from having fine print forced arbitration clauses with class action bans.

“We aren’t going to stand by and let big money sharks destroy families. We demand the government stand up for families, not financial predators,” said Ryan-Murray. “We need a strong lifeguard to protect hard working consumers and our financial system. We need a strong Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to protect us.”

Photo via Truthout.

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