Contact: Rachel Gunter-Shapard, firstname.lastname@example.org
For Immediate Release
April 18, 2018
Faith Leaders, Dr. Julianne Malveaux Protest Payday Lenders’ Conference at Trump Miami Resort
Trump Golf Resort Welcomes Lenders Who Trap People in 300% Interest Loans
MIAMI, FLA. – Even as they are suing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to try to stop a rule that would disrupt a predatory business model, payday lenders are converging on President Trump’s posh golf resort in Miami this week for their annual conference. State and faith leaders from Florida and across the country, in the company of nationally-known economist, Dr. Julianne Malveaux, showed up in front of the resort yesterday to point out the stark contrast between payday lenders playing golf at the posh resort and the people they trap in long-term debt at 300% annual interest. Payday and car title lenders strip $8 billion per year from low-income families and individuals across the nation, forcing many into greater financial straits such as bankruptcy.
Representatives of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference, Inc., PICO National Network, the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative, Disciples Justice Action Network, and others joined the protest.
“To offer a neighbor help in their time of need is right and charitable. But to deceive them and line your own pockets at their expense is immoral, unjust and wrong — no matter what man’s law now says. Morality is not determined by what the market will bear, or by the fine print of a contract signed in rushed desperation,” said Stephen Reeves of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. “The industry that perpetuates this debt-trap lending, and the meeting in Miami this week, is a picture of so much of what is wrong with our country. So-called ‘businessmen’ who see hardworking Americans not as those created in God’s image, not as neighbors, not even as fellow citizens worthy of respect, but instead as potential profit centers who, in their struggle, are ripe for the picking.”
“We ask questions today: Why 400% interest for a loan? Why $8 billion in fees from struggling Americans?,” said Rev. Dr. Reggie Williams, Pastor of First Baptist Church, Chicago. “Why are members of Congress, senators, and pastors on the payroll of the predators? Why is President Trump welcoming predators to play golf? To my brothers and sisters who have been baited, hooked, and bamboozled by bad loans we are here to fight every bad policy that is inflicting pain on your pockets. Why are we here today? Because we believe that this payday lending rule must stand as it is. We are here to make sure that predators stop preying on innocent people.”
Faith groups of many traditions representing 118 million people across the country called on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to stop payday and car title lenders from trapping people in debt they can’t afford and that causes great financial harm, including loss of bank accounts and bankruptcy. But the rule the CFPB put out last fall requiring payday and car title lenders to make sure their customers can afford the loans is under attack by President Trump’s pick for head of the CFPB. Additionally, some members of Congress, including Florida Representatives Alcee Hastings and Dennis Ross, who have received significant contributions from payday lenders, have introduced a resolution that would kill the rule and prevent federal regulators from developing a new rule on payday lending in the future.
“Financial predation comes in all forms but it is most manifested by predatory payday lenders,” said Rev. Dr. Cassandra Gould, Executive Director of Missouri Faith Voices. “A woman named Jennifer wrote a letter to the director of the CFPB asking for support of payday lending reform. She had borrowed $500 for her vehicle so her husband could get to work and she could get to a medical appointment out of the area She paid back more than $6000 for a $500 loan over a couple of years. She paid that much money back, 12 times what she borrowed, because she is a responsible citizen. But when you borrow at 455%, you can never pay it back — these loans are designed for people not to pay them back. If I could talk to these payday lenders playing golf at Trump’s resort, I would ask them if they were a person of faith, and what did their faith have to say about immoral acts such as taking excessive amounts of money from people? What does their faith say about extracting food off people’s tables, causing people to lose homes and cars when they were just trying to help themselves?”
“The Bible tells us you must not rob the poor just because they are poor, but President Trump is welcoming predatory lenders to his Miami golf resort who are doing just that.” said Rev. Sekinah Hamlin, Director of the Faith and Credit Roundtable for the Center for Responsible Lending. “Reports are now coming out about how they contributed more than half a million to his campaign, which seems to have bought them access and bought his support for undermining the payday rule that faith communities have fought for years to get into place. His pick for head of the CFPB is trying to blow up a rule that simply requires payday lenders to make sure their customers can afford the loans. This administration seems to prioritize personal financial gain over the well-being of American families and children. Does he prefer to see families caught up in debt because it helps to line his pockets? Supporting repeal of the payday rule means support of families being in debt and is contrary to the word of God.”
“It is amazing the difference a remnant can make! While we did not get to the table with Goliath, he knew David was at the door,” said Rev. Dr. Earl Mason, Sr., Senior Pastor, Bible-Based Fellowship Church of Temple Terrace and Trustee, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc. “Payday lending is a threat to the economy, city, county, church, and all. 300% is not Robin Hood, it is ‘Robbing the Hood!’”
Last month, despite extensive public opposition from faith leaders, Florida lawmakers passed an expansion of payday lending in Florida, which already loses over $300 million per year to payday lenders. Over 80% of all payday loans in Florida go to borrowers stuck in the debt trap of more than 7 loans year. The new law will let payday lenders evade the CFPB’s new rule with payday loans of $1,000 loans lasting 60 to 90 days, with rates reaching over 200% annual interest.
“The Ecumenical Poverty Initiative supports the Florida usury rate cap,” said Rev. Ebony Grisom, Director of the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative. “We participated in this action to stand in solidarity with Floridians and with consumers around the nation who are caught in the debt trap. We protest against hypocrisy that welcomes payday lenders to convene at a luxurious resort bearing the name of the nation’s Commander-in-Chief while ignoring the millions of Americans who languish in a pit of despair. Instead we are here to bear witness to the God who places people over profit.”
“The payday lenders well-financed access machine got their debt trap business model legalized here in Florida and elsewhere. This is an immoral practice and an immoral arrangement,” said Rev. James T. Golden, 11th Episcopal District of the AME Church, Florida. “While I do not begrudge any business from making a profit, I do not think that it is fair that most of the profit from this business comes from the backs of people who can least afford it. If you want to provide a service, provide it. But if you want to create a situation where people are just not able to get beyond where they are, the payday lending industry is for you.”
“You have to wonder why policymakers are standing with predatory lenders over the people,” said Rev. Rachel Gunter Shapard of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida. “As faith leaders, we are deeply concerned that lawmakers in Florida and elsewhere are voting in practices that trap people in debt. We believe that their business relies on exploiting our neighbors when they’re vulnerable. And I have seen up close and personal the damage it causes.”
“This is a matter of national importance. What happened here in Florida is likely to happen in other states because ALEC the state legislative organization that does model legislation for other states is likely to duplicate this, and ALEC is also pushing Congress to repeal the payday rule,” said economist Dr. Julianne Malveaux, who took part in the protest. “And that’s why we’re here. It’s unconscionable that people should pay 300, 400, 500%. It’s unconscionable. This is something the faith community has committed to fight, and as an economist I’m here to say this is extremely important.”