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Hey Facebookers, RSVP for Financial Reform

June 17, 2010

Next week is likely our LAST chance to strengthen the financial reform bill.  On June 22 – 24, the Congressional Conference Committee will finish its debate about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and reforms to rein in wall Street.  We’re letting the Committee know that we’re watching them, and that we want the strongest bill with the best possible protections for consumers, investors, and taxpayers.

That’s why we need you to donate your Facebook status (or a Twitter tweet) to Financial Reform!  RSVP now, and we’ll send you a reminder on June 22, the day it goes down.

Don't just wait for the final bill – watch it being made!

June 14, 2010

House vote: check.
Senate vote: check.
Final bill: still working on it.

Before President Obama can sign financial reform legislation, it has to go through a conference committee, which will take the House and Senate bills and create a final condensed version that irons out the differences between the two.  The Conference started last week and Obama has said that he hopes to sign the bill before Independence Day, which means the Senators and Representatives on the committee have two and a half more weeks to come up with a final product.  Click here to see who is on the committee and find out what you can do to help make sure the final bill is as strong as possible.

David Dayen at Firedoglake has a comprehensive post about how conference works and what to expect from these sessions.  Click here to check it out.

One of the special things about this conference committee is its transparency; our allies, including the Campaign for America’s Future (CAF), CREDO, and MoveOn, fought hard to make sure that these conversations were open to the public, and their campaign was successful.  The entire thing is being covered on CSPAN.

If you want to see how the conference committee is unfolding while you’re at your computer, we recommend the live video coverage and real-time reporting at the Sunlight Foundation.  They have their website all set up to give you the play-by-play and let you know what other people think of the negotiations via their twitter feed and other interactive tools.

(Photo: DailyInvention)

Action Alert: Don't Let Lobbyists Sink Financial Reform

June 9, 2010
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College, Inc.

June 4, 2010

PBS recently aired a Frontline special called College, Inc. which explores the dark side of higher education known as for-profit colleges and universities. Through this program, we get a look at the inner workings of a couple of big-name for-profit colleges like the University of Phoenix. College, Inc. uncovers a few underhanded practices, including excessive marketing, pressure tactics, and—to a certain extent—fraudulent claims used to lure students into enrolling.

Once students are enrolled, they get an education, but at a high price: thousands of dollars in student loan debt and sometimes a degree worth absolutely nothing due to inadequate accreditation. Nevertheless, these for-profits garner immense success, and their investors see millions of dollars in profits.

Click here to learn more about College, Inc. and to watch the full program online.
Read more…

AFFIL's Notes to Senators Kerry and Brown

May 28, 2010

Following up on our thank you letter to Senator Scott Brown regarding preemption, we also sent notes to both MA Senators about three more financial reform votes.  Here’s the text of the letter we sent to both: Read more…

Sneaky Senate Move Is Bad for Car Buyers

May 27, 2010

One of the key debates we tracked in the Senate was whether auto dealers would be covered by the Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA).  Since auto dealers make loans, it seems to us they should be treated like other lenders (read this previous post for more info).  But auto dealers have been fighting hard for a special exemption.  The question came down to the wire in the Senate, and in fact, Senators voted on it after the bill was passed.

Yes, this makes no sense.  But here’s what happened.  The Senate was dealing with two key amendments after “cloture” was invoked (translation:  after they agreed to stop debating the bill within thirty hours).  We supported one of these amendments (Merkley-Levin) and opposed the other (the Brownback amendment to carve out auto dealers).  So, naturally, Senators smooshed them together into one amendment, and ultimately voted on neither. Read more…

The Fight's Not Over Yet

May 27, 2010

Many AFFIL and AFR members have been contacting us to express their concerns about the bill passed by the Senate last week.  We wholeheartedly agree that the bill could be stronger, and that the fight’s not over yet.

Fortunately, while the bill is not a final victory, it is a huge step in the right direction.  Among other things, it will implement important mortgage reforms, allow for transparency in the derivatives market, and help prevent future bailouts.  It also creates a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, something we have been supporting for a long time.

But the bill could get weaker in conference.  That’s why it’s so important to write to your Senators about their votes and ask them to side with consumers as the conference process begins.

Senate Passes Financial Reform!

May 24, 2010

On Thursday, the Senate voted to overhaul our nation’s financial structure for the first time since the Great Depression.  While there are still some fixes we hope to see come out of the Conference Committee between the House and Senate, the bill is a great step forward for consumers, investors, and taxpayers.  See how your Senators voted here, and thank them or tell them you’re disappointed here.

Here’s are the bill’s key provisions, according to AFR: Read more…

AFFIL Thanks Senator Brown for His Vote Against Preemption

May 20, 2010

AFFIL is a national organization, but we do live in Massachusetts.  So, along with some other groups here in MA, we’ve been talking with Senators Kerry and Brown about financial reform.

We gave Senator Brown a particular shout out for breaking ranks with all the other Republicans and voting against preemption.  As mentioned below, the preemption situation in the current Senate bill could be improved, but it could also be worse.  And Senator Brown voted against the very bad amendment from Senator Corker.  Here’s what we said in our thank you note to him:

Thank you for standing up for consumers and voting yesterday against the Corker amendment to S. 3217.  This amendment would have given the federal government sweeping ability to preempt or override states’ capacity to protect their own residents from dangerous and deceptive practices of banks and other financial institutions.

Your vote against this amendment is a significant step forward for consumers in the Commonwealth.  We especially applaud you for taking this step to protect consumers since all the other members of the Republican caucus voted for the amendment.

Read the whole note here (PDF). Thanks to Greater Boston Legal Services, Jobs with Justice, MASSPIRG, NCLC, and Business for Shared Prosperity for joining us in sending this letter.

So Far, Banks Don't Get Everything on Their Wish List

May 19, 2010

Yesterday, the Senate voted on two amendments to S. 3217 involving
“preemption.”  These amendments determine which parts of the government will be allowed to protect consumers – state or federal level agencies, Attorneys General, current regulators, the new CFPA, etc.  More people looking out for consumers is better, especially since the existing regulators at the federal level have not traditionally shown much interest in this area.  Keeping state-level cops on the beat is particularly important.  Taking them off the beat is a sneaky way to gut consumer protection.

What ended up happening in the Senate neither great not terrible for consumers.  An amendment from Senator Carper passed by a vote of 80 – 18 — but the amendment was improved from its original version (which is discussed below).  Here’s how Lauren Saunders, from the National Consumer Law Center, puts it:

“Senator Dodd and Senator Carper have reached a deal to modify Senator Carper’s amendment #3949 on the role of states in protecting consumers under the Wall Street reform bill.  The deal compromises a bill further that is already full of concessions to the banks and the bank regulators who failed us, but it does not give in to the bank demands to remove the states entirely from their responsibility to protect their residents.

“State attorneys general will be able to take action to enforce new consumer rules against banks that violate those rules if the new Bureau or bank regulators do not. But the deal makes it harder for states to play their traditional role as first responders if banks engage in unfair or deceptive actions that are not yet covered by federal protections.”