USA Discounters has undergone a makeover. The Virginia-based retailer was the focus of a ProPublica investigation in July into its lending practices to service members. The company still sells high-priced furniture, electronics and appliances outside military bases across the country, but it has adopted a new name for its stores, USA Living, and says it has made reforms to its collections processes. Despite the name change, USA Living continues to make loans much the same way it did as USA Discounters.
The Department of Defense released proposed rules late last week targeting the practices of a broad range of high-cost lenders and prohibiting them from charging service members interest rates over 36 percent. The new rules would overhaul the Military Lending Act, which, when enacted in 2007, narrowly defined potentially abusive loans. But as ProPublica and Marketplace reported last year, high-cost lenders easily circumvented the law by offering longer-term loans. The new rules would have a substantial impact.
The law is clear: When far-flung members of the U.S. military are sued in civil court, judges must at least appoint lawyers for them.
But that basic layer of protection hasn't provided much help to the hundreds of service members sued in Virginia courts each year by high-cost lender USA Discounters.
The state routinely allows plaintiffs like USA Discounters to suggest which lawyers should be appointed. Moreover, the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) doesn't detail what those attorneys must do or how much they'll be paid for doing it.
World Acceptance Corp., one of the largest high-cost installment lenders in the United States, disclosed late last week that it is the target of an investigation by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Reports show that the company's loans are deceptively expensive and often trap low-income borrowers in a cycle of debt.
Alarmed by the explosion of high-cost lending in the state, cities across Texas have passed ordinances to prevent the cycle of debt that short-term, high-cost loans can create. But some big lenders are finding clever ways around the laws — like giving away cash for free. Of course, like all payday or auto-title loans, there's a gigantic hook at the end of this deal.
Bank of America employees regularly lied to homeowners seeking loan modifications, denied their applications for made-up reasons, and were rewarded for sending homeowners to foreclosure, according to sworn statements by former bank employees.
The employee statements were filed late last week in federal court in Boston as part of a multi-state class action suit brought on behalf of homeowners who sought to avoid foreclosure through the government’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) but say they had their cases botched by Bank of America.
The Independent Foreclosure Review is the government's main effort to compensate homeowners for harm they suffered at the hands of banks and, as its name indicates, it's supposed to be independent.
The idea behind the Independent Foreclosure Review seems simple. During the peak of the foreclosure crisis, the banks broke laws and made errors that hurt homeowners. In response, the government mandated they compensate the victims.
Quick, how many billions in the red are taxpayers on the bailout of GM? AIG? Fannie and Freddie? Is it true that the government has reaped a profit from bailing out the banks?
It should be easy to find answers to such questions. But while it's a snap to find rosy administration claims about the bailout, finding hard numbers is much more difficult. That's why, since the bailouts began in 2008, we've maintained a frequently updated site to provide them. Now we've retooled our database to make it even easier to find these sorts of answers.
So you can effortlessly discover that it's $27 billion for GM, $23 billion for AIG, $91 billion for Fannie, $51 billion for Freddie, and yes, the bank investments have so far returned a profit of $19 billion.