Below is a transcript of the episode, modified for your reading pleasure. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, see the links at the bottom of this post. And you’ll find credits for the music in the episode noted within the transcript.
FULMER: We have to wait for the final proposal rules to come out. But where they appear to be going is down a path that would simply eliminate a product instead of reforming the industry or better regulating the industry.
A 2012 report produced by the Cato Institute found that the cost of the loans is overstated, and that payday lenders offer a product traditional lenders simply refuse to offer. However, the report is based on 40 survey responses collected at a payday storefront location. The report’s author, Victor Stango, was on the board of the Consumer Credit Research Foundation (CCRF) until 2015, an organization funded by payday lenders, and received $18,000 in payments from CCRF in 2013.
Research for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation found that a majority of Illinois payday loan borrowers earn $30,000 or less per year. Texas’ Office of the Consumer Credit Commissioner collected data on 2012 payday loan usage, and found that refinances accounted for $2.01 billion in loan volume, compared with $1.08 billion in initial loan volume. The report did not include information about annual indebtedness. A letter to the editor from an industry expert argued that other studies have found that consumers fare better when payday loans are available to them. Pew’s reports have focused on how payday lending can be improved, but have not assessed whether consumers fare better with or without access to high-interest loans. Pew’s demographic analysis was based on a random-digit-dialing (RDD) survey of 33,576 people, including 1,855 payday loan borrowers.
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Although the federal Truth in Lending Act does require payday lenders to disclose their finance charges, many borrowers overlook the costs. Most loans are for 30 days or less and help borrowers to meet short-term liabilities. Loan amounts on these loans are usually from $100 to $1,500. Oftentimes these loans can be rolled over for additional finance charges and many borrowers are often repeat customers. A number of court cases have been filed against these lenders as lending laws following the 2008 financial crisis have been enacted to create a more transparent and fair lending market for consumers.
Later on, the payday lenders gave Mann the data that showed how long it actually took those exact customers to pay off their loans. About 60 percent of them paid off the loan within 14 days of the date they’d predicted.
The problem we’ve been looking at today is pretty straightforward: there are a lot of low-income people in the U.S. who’ve come to rely on a financial instrument, the payday loan, that is, according to its detractors, exploitative, and according to its supporters, useful. President Obama is pushing for regulatory reform; payday advocates say the reform may kill off the industry, leaving borrowers in the lurch.
SEBASTIAN McKAMEY: It’s open. It’s outside. So I was just standing outside, waiting on the bus stop. And I lit me a cigarette and the officers pulled up on me and was like, “Hey, you know you can’t smoke here?” I was like, “No, I didn’t know. I don’t see no signs.” So they wrote me a ticket.
WERTH: So far, so good. But I think we should mention two things here: one, Fusaro had a co-author on the paper. Her name is Patricia Cirillo; she’s the president of a company called Cypress Research, which, by the way, is the same survey firm that produced data for the paper you mentioned earlier, about how payday borrowers are pretty good at predicting when they’ll be able to pay back their loans. And the other point, two, there was a long chain of e-mails between Marc Fusaro, the academic researcher here, and CCRF. And what they show is they certainly look like editorial interference.
Alternative Financial Services: Innovating to Meet Customer Needs in an Evolving Regulatory Framework, by John Hecht, Research Analyst, Stephens Inc. (now at Jefferies & Company Inc.) (February, 2014).
A payday loan is a short-term loan for an unexpected expense and is typically due on your next payday. Applying is fast and secure. In a few simple steps, payday loans can stretch your budget till your next payday by offering access to the cash you need now.
Payday lending works like this: In exchange for a small loan—the average amount borrowed is about $350—a customer agrees to pay a single flat fee, typically in the vicinity of $15 per $100 borrowed. For a two-week loan, that can equate to an annualized rate of almost 400 percent. The entire amount—the fee plus the sum that was borrowed—is generally due all at once, at the end of the term. (Borrowers give the lender access to their bank account when they take out the loan.) But because many borrowers can’t pay it all back at once, they roll the loan into a new one, and end up in what the industry’s many critics call a debt trap, with gargantuan fees piling up. As Mehrsa Baradaran, an associate professor at the University of Georgia’s law school, puts it in her new book, How the Other Half Banks, “One of the great ironies in modern America is that the less money you have, the more you pay to use it.”
As for credit unions, although a few have had success offering small, short-term loans, many struggle with regulators, with reputational risk, and with the cost of making such loans. “We are all cognizant that we should do it, but it is very challenging to figure out a business model that works,” says Tom Kane, the president of the Illinois Credit Union League. In any event, the credit-union industry is small—smaller altogether, Kane points out, than JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, or Wells Fargo alone. “The scale isn’t there,” he says.
Buried in a late-night court filing in Robert Mueller’s expansive probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was an explosive claim: An adviser to President Donald Trump’s campaign and transition teams had knowingly been in contact with a former Russian intelligence officer as late as September 2016, prosecutors said. The revelation is the strongest connection to date between Trump’s campaign and Russia’s intelligence services, which U.S. officials say were behind the cyberattacks on Democrats during the election.
You can obtain your credit reports and credit scores for free, so use those options whenever you can. You’re entitled to your free credit reports once a year through AnnualCreditReport.com, and there are free services and tools out there that allow you to monitor your credit scores (Credit.com’s Credit Report Card is one of them).
CashNetUSA offers payday loans online, sometimes referred to as cash advances, in a number of states, including California, Florida and Michigan. Our payday loans are unsecured short-term loans, usually for less than $500. The amounts, terms and types of loans available differ according to where you live. Check out our Rates & Terms page to see what’s available in your state and the amounts and terms. If an online payday loan is not available in your state, you still might be able to apply for a product that suits your needs — such as a longer-term installment loan or a flexible line of credit.
DeYOUNG: Borrowing money is like renting money. You get to use it two weeks and then you pay it back. You could rent a car for two weeks, right? You get to use that car. Well, if you calculate the annual percentage rate on that car rental — meaning that if you divide the amount you pay on that car by the value of that automobile — you get similarly high rates. So this isn’t about interest. This is about short-term use of a product that’s been lent to you. This is just arithmetic.
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After you have made your decision, you will need to provide your electronic signature which will enter you into a contract with your lender. Then that lender can deposit the offered funds into your bank account in as soon as the following business day.
Payday lenders will attempt to collect on the consumer’s obligation first by simply requesting payment. If internal collection fails, some payday lenders may outsource the debt collection, or sell the debt to a third party.
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The law in the United States is very clear – debtors cannot be jailed for failing to pay a debt. Our U.S. Constitution prohibits imprisonment for debt. Our bankruptcy laws are federal laws that enable debtors to file for bankruptcy protection when they are unable to repay their debts. Furthermore, debt collection is a civil law matter, not a criminal matter.. A creditor may pursue collection of a debt through the civil courts in the United States; however, debtors cannot be prosecuted in criminal court for not paying a debt.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB — the federal agency that President Obama wants to tighten payday-loan rules — 75 percent of the industry’s fees come from borrowers who take out more than ten loans a year.
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Whatever you want to call it — wage deflation, structural unemployment, the absence of good-paying jobs — isn’t that a much bigger problem? And, if so, what’s to be done about that? Next time on Freakonomics Radio, we will continue this conversation by looking at one strange, controversial proposal for making sure that everyone’s got enough money to get by.
Diane Standaert is the director of state policy at the Center for Responsible Lending, which has offices in North Carolina, California, and Washington, D.C. The CRL calls itself a “nonprofit, non-partisan organization” with a focus on “fighting predatory lending practices.” You’ve probably already figured out that the CRL is anti-payday loan. Standaert argues that payday loans are often not used how the industry markets them, as a quick solution to a short-term emergency.
Payday lenders do not compare their interest rates to those of mainstream lenders. Instead, they compare their fees to the overdraft, late payment, penalty fees and other fees that will be incurred if the customer is unable to secure any credit whatsoever.
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