Tainted Process: CFPB Flooded with Thousands of Suspicious, Copycat Pro-Payday Loan Comments Backing Trump’s Proposal to Kill Protections From Predatory Industry Practices

Allied Progress Finds Over 27% of Public Comments Including Supposedly ‘Personal’ Stories Used Verbatim Phrases, Calls on CFPB to Address Clear Industry Interference in Rule-Making Process

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Consumer advocacy group Allied Progress examined public comments submitted concerning the Trump-CFPB’s effort to kill a key protection against the payday loan debt trap and found that more than 7,000 pro-payday comments used suspiciously duplicative language, amounting to over 27 percent of the total comments. On the eve of the May 15th deadline for public comments on the proposed rule, Allied Progress called on CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger to apply extreme skepticism to comments likely manufactured by the payday industry, including the over 200 comments from purported borrowers who all claimed verbatim that a payday loan was “needed to replace my hot water tank.”

The payday industry has a history of using deceptive tactics to push law and policy makers to support or oppose regulations, including the use of fake “personal” stories. In 2016, Allied Progress noted the alarming number of identical pro-payday comments during the CFPB’s comment period on the rule establishing the ability-to-repay standard. It appears these interests are up to shenanigans again.

“The CFPB has the responsibility of evaluating comments on its proposed rule on their merits. But based on hundreds of comments already submitted in support of the payday industry that use identical phrasing to tell supposedly ‘personal’ stories, it’s clear the rule making process has been tainted and tough scrutiny is warranted,”said Jeremy Funk, spokesman for Allied Progress. “What we don’t want to see is a situation where hundreds of copy-and-pasted phony sentiments are used to justify the Trump administration’s final payday rule that could put millions of Americans at risk of financial ruin.”

Among the report’s key findings:

  • At Least 7,128 Comments Submitted In Support Of The CFPB’s Proposed Payday Rule Contain Specific Duplicative Language—Over 27% Of Total Comments.
  • At Least 214 Comments Claim, Verbatim, That The Borrower Took Out Payday Loans Because They “Needed To Replace [Their] Hot Water Tank” And Their “Appliances Needed To Be Repaired And Eventually Replaced,” Citing Cash Connection As Their Lender Of Choice.
  • At Least 221 Comments Claim, Verbatim, “I Have A Long Commute To Work And Its Better For Me Financially To Borrow From Cash Connection So That I Can Still Make It To Work Than To Not Take Care Of My Car And Lose My Job Because Of Absences.”
  • At Least 141 Comments Claim, Verbatim, That Payday Loans Allow The Borrower To Help Pay For Their Daughter’s College So She Won’t “Grow Her Student Loan Debt To An Amount She Will Never Be Able To Pay Off,” Noting, “Shes A Good Student And Has A Job But She Still Needs Some Help.”
  • At Least 201 Comments Claim, Verbatim, “I Now Take Care Of My Parents And My Children” And “Want To Be Able To Enjoy Life And Not Feel Burdened By The Additional Expenses That Are Piling Up.”
  • At Least 991 Comments On The CFPB’s Proposed Payday Rule Mention A Specific Payday Lending Company.

Added Funk: It’s not surprising to see these kinds of underhanded tactics being used again, because there’s a lot of money be made at the expense of vulnerable communities. Even the Trump administration admits their proposal to scrap consumer protections against the payday loan debt trap would make the industry over $7 billion a year richer. Predatory lenders have already demonstrated they will do whatever it takes to be able to keep issuing loans as high as 950% APR to people they know can’t pay them back in time. The industry dumped $2.5 million on Trump’s campaign and inaugural committees and spent nearly $6.5 million lobbying since he took office. Their investment has clearly paid off. Now industry may be behind an effort to rig the game by creating the illusion of public support for payday loans, which flies in the face of the polling.”

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