Payday Spokesman Who Once Labeled Industry Risky, Claims Borrowers Have Few Complaints

RHETORIC: Advance America’s Jamie Fulmer Wrote in Letter to The Editor that Payday Customers Have Few Complaints

“CFPB Director Richard Cordray said the bureau has “talked at length” with many stakeholders, from consumer groups and lenders to academics and faith leaders — but, surprisingly, not with payday loan customers. Payday loans account for less than 2 percent of complaints to the CFPB, and recent research conducted by Global Strategy Group and the Tarrance Group found that nearly all borrowers (96 percent) found payday loans personally useful.” [Baltimore Sun: “Letter to the Editor by Jamie Fulmer: “Payday Lenders Don’t ‘Fleece the Poor’,” 6/16/16]

REALITY: Study Shows Majority of Payday Consumers Feel Taken Advantage of by Lenders and Nearly 3/4’s of Borrowers Support More Regulation of Industry

So, who are Jamie Fulmer and Advance America?

[Special Thanks to National People’s Action for the Following Research]

This payday lending mouthpiece and prolific tweeter openly admits that payday loans are risky. He also says that consumers find themselves trapped in debt cycles because they like payday loans so much.

Jamie Fulmer Has Been Senior Vice President of Public Affairs at Advance America Since 2010

  • Fulmer has been Senior Vice President of Public Affairs at Advance America since 2010. His tenure at the company began in 2004 as Director of Public Affairs. [Fulmer LinkedIn Profile, 4/30/15]

Fulmer’s Boss (Advance America CEO Patrick O’Shaughnessy) was Appointed to the Consumer Advisory Board of the CFPB, Which Oversees Payday Lenders

  • CFPB Announced O’Shaughnessy’s Appointment to a Three-Year Term on its Consumer Advisory Board. At the time of his appointment, CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a press statement that Advisory Board members would “provide valuable input to help us better understand the consumer financial marketplace.” [CFPB Press Release, 8/24/14]
  • CFPB Oversees Payday Lenders like O’Shaughnessy’s Advance America. “The CFPB has authority to oversee the payday loan market and began its supervision of payday lenders in January 2012.” [CFPB Press Release, 11/6/13]
  • CFPB Is Considering New Rules for the Payday Lending Industry That Would Likely Protect Consumers. “During a field hearing Tuesday on payday lending, CFPB director Richard Cordray said the bureau has been working to find the right approach to protect consumers in the marketplace for payday loans. ‘As we look ahead to our next steps, I will frankly say that we are now in the late stages of our considerations about how we can formulate new rules to bring needed reforms to this market,’ he said.” [Consumerist, 3/25/14]

The Numbers Don’t Lie, Advance America Relies on the Debt Cycle to Profit

  • From 2009-11 Advance America Reported That Customers Received an Average of About Eight Cash Advances Per Year
  • In 2009, Advance America Reported Serving 1,316,000 Customers and Originating 10,860,000 Cash Advances Which Averages to 8.25 Cash Advances Per Customer. [Advance America 2011 SEC 10K]
  • In 2010, Advance America Reported Serving 1,310,000 Customers and Originating 10,027,000 Cash Advances Which Averages to 7.65 Cash Advances Per Customer. [Advance America 2011 SEC 10K]
  • In 2011, Advance America Reported Serving 1,347,000 Customers and Originating 10,561,000 Cash Advances Which Averages to 7.84 Cash Advances Per Customer. [Advance America 2011 SEC 10K]

Former Advance America Staff Paint a Picture of Hardball Tactics with Customers

  • A Former Manager of Advance America Said That “An Overwhelming Percentage” Of Customers Re-Borrow Every Two Weeks and Can’t Get Out of The “What Appears to Be a Never-Ending Cycle of Payday Loan Debt.” Stephen Martino wrote, “Since I’m a former manager for Advance America, I feel like I have to respond. Payday lenders argue that customers seek payday loans as a “responsible way” to manage their finances. What they tactfully ignore, however, is the high rate of frequency at which customers use the payday loan product. The truth is, an overwhelming percentage of customers pay their loan every two weeks and then re-borrow upon every visit. In many cases, this goes on for years because customers just can’t seem to get out of what appears to be a never-ending cycle of payday loan debt. The fact is, that’s how these companies make their money. Payday lenders make it sound as if their product is a one-time deal. They also claim their fee of $40 for a $400 loan is not only sensible, but affordable. But in my own experiences, I’ve seen customers continue borrowing for years. Time and again I’ve witnessed customers get caught-up in the so-called payday loan debt cycle, and it was my job to restrict customer repayment plan options and encourage the repetitive use of the payday loan product.” [Patch, 6/2/12]
  • Former Employee of Advance America: We Would Come in Early On The 3rd Of The Month When Disability and Social Security Benefits Arrived for Our Customers to Cash Their Checks and Wipe Out Their Checking Accounts. “One former employee of Advance America explains some tricks of the trade. Speaking on the condition of anonymity (because he and other employees were forced to sign a confidentiality agreement upon leaving the firm), this former shop employee says that many of his clients were on disability or Social Security: “They would come in for a small loan and write a check to the company dated the 3rd of the month, when their government checks would arrive. All the Advance America employees were required to come in early on that day, so we could quickly cash their checks and wipe out their checking accounts.” [PR Watch, 9/16/10]
  • Advance America Employee: A Primary Goal Was to Get Customers to Renew Their Loans and Corporate Offices Were More Concerned with Renewal Rates Than Paid Off Loans. A primary goal is to get customers to continually renew their loans. “We had to call in our numbers every night to Advance America’s corporate headquarters. They were not interested in numbers on who paid off their loans, but on who renewed their loans. They wanted folks to pay the interest rate and keep the loan going and going,” says the former employee.” [PR Watch, 9/16/10]
  • Advance America Employee: We Would Go to The Place of Employment of Our Customers Who Were Late On Payments: “The Key Was Embarrassment and Intimidation.” This employee also worked for a time in the collection department, where he was instructed not to visit people at home, but to go to people’s place of employment first. “We would not tell their bosses where we were from, but we would carry a clip board with our name on it in a prominent way. We would request that a person be pulled off the factory floor, not to collect, but to keep them on the hook. The key was embarrassment and intimidation.” [PR Watch, 9/16/10]

Advance America Admits It Needs Debt Cycle in Order to Survive

  • Advance America On Loan Cap of Five Per Person: “We Can’t Live On Five.” “On Wednesday, Del. G. Glenn Oder, R-Newport News, a foe of payday lenders, expressed frustration with the cash-store operators, who dispensed nearly $1.5 billion in loans last year. “The industry wants nothing,” Oder said in a chance encounter with Carol Stewart of Advance America, a publicly traded lender. “We can’t live on five [loans],” Stewart replied.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/29/08]

Fulmer Admitted That Payday Loans Are Risky

  • Fulmer On Payday Lending: “There Are Inherent Risks. Customers Must Be Careful.” “Advance America senior vice president Jamie Fulmer said consumers should have the choice of a payday loan when the gas bill is due, rather than face late fees, overdraft charges or utility reconnection costs. “The payday loan is not unlike other credit products out there,” Fulmer “There are inherent risks. Customers must be careful. They must carefully consider all their choices, and then they must make the decision that’s best for them.” [AP, 2/23/13]
  • Fulmer Said There Are Risks with Payday Loans and Customers “Have to Be Careful” And They “Can Get into A Situation Where They’re Used Irresponsibly.” Fulmer said the risks involved with payday loans are not unlike those involved with other types of lending. “Anytime a consumer uses any kind of credit they have to be careful,” he said. “Not unlike any other type of credit, consumers can get into a situation where they’re used irresponsibly.” [The News Virginian, 1/9/11]
  • Fulmer: “It’s Not a Predatory Loan” Though “We Do Have Concerns Over a Small Number of Customers Who Do Not Use This Product Responsibly.” “Jamie Fulmer, director of public affairs for Advance America, the largest pay day lending company in the country, said, “It’s not a predatory loan. Despite what critics say, our customers are not unsophisticated. They know they have alternatives, they have choices. They use our products to help bridge the gap, because it’s less expensive than bouncing a check. Not unlike any other credit products out there, we do have concerns over a small number of customers who do not use this product responsibly, and we have payment plans at no additional fee to help those customers.” [NBC – 2 WCBD, 7/1/08]

Fulmer: People Get into the Debt Cycle Because They like Payday Loans So Much…

  • The Leader-Telegram: “Fulmer Countered That Consumers Have Shown They Appreciate the Availability of Payday Loans by Taking Them Out So Often.” “Fulmer countered that consumers have shown they appreciate the availability of payday loans by taking them out so often. Many people find the loans are cheaper, if repaid on time, than the fees associated with such alternatives as bounced checks and late payments on high-rate credit cards, he said. “That’s why consumers have turned to this product — because it’s less expensive,” Fulmer” [The Leader-Telegram, 9/24/09]
  • Fulmer On Payday Loans: “We Believe This Is a Product That Exists Because Consumers Like It.” “Advance America, headquartered in Spartanburg, S.C., argues that the growth of the industry since the mid-1990s proves there is strong demand for the loans. “We believe this is a product that exists because consumers like it,” said Jamie Fulmer, the company’s director of public affairs. Fulmer said these short-term loan shops fill a need that is not provided by local banks and are preferable to paying for bouncing checks and forgoing credit card payments.” [Chicago Tribune, 3/23/08]
  • Fulmer: “The Product Exists Because Consumers Like It.” “The product exists because consumers like it,” Fulmer, of Advance America, said. “There’s nobody out there meeting this need with a less expensive product.” [The Virginian Pilot, 1/29/08]
  • Fulmer: By Putting a Cap On Interest Rates “You’ve Created Something Different from What Consumers Say They Like.” “If a Virginia bill passes, payday lenders would face the same decision they are now confronting in the District. Some might have to look at other products and services. By implementing a cap, “you’ve created something different from what consumers say they like,” said Jamie Fulmer, a spokesman for Advance America.” [Washington Business Journal, 3/3/08]

…So the Number of Loans a Person Can Get Shouldn’t Be Limited

  • Fulmer On the Debt Cycle: The “Mathematical Average Is Between Seven or Eight Loans” Per Customer Over the Course of the Year but “Folks Are Smart Enough to Make Those Decisions for Themselves and Their Families.” “Ferri, however, challenged Jamie Fulmer, Advance America’s vice president for public affairs, when he said “97 percent” of the company’s customers “pay us back on time.” “You may technically be right, that they’re paying off that first loan,” said Ferri, a member of the Finance Committee, “but the way they’re paying off that first loan is by making the second loan. It may be separate transactions, but that is what they’re doing.” When asked afterward how many loans a typical customer takes out, Fulmer said there are “lots of customers” who take out one and many, over the course of a year, who take out two or more. He said the “mathematical average is between seven and eight loans” over the course of a year. “We think folks are smart enough to make those decisions for themselves and their families,” he said.” [Providence Journal, 4/17/14]
  • Fulmer On Limits to Number of Payday Loans That Can Be Taken Out by A Customer: “We Don’t Believe It’s Up to Us to Dictate the Number of Times Needed.” “They also do not have a limit as to how many times someone may borrow per year. “We don’t believe it’s up to us to dictate the number of times needed,” said Fulmer.” [The Porterville Recorder, 7/24/12]
  • Fulmer: Five Loan Limit Is “Arbitrary” Particularly Since Most Customers Take Out Seven or Eight Payday Loans a Year—“You Don’t Put a Limit On the Number of Big Macs a Person Can Get at McDonalds in A Year.” “Fulmer contends the five-loan limit is “arbitrary,” particularly because Advance America customers take out an average of seven or eight payday loans a year. “There’s no reason why you’d pick five. That’s the customer’s decision,” he said. “You don’t put a limit on the number of Big Macs a person can get at McDonald’s in a year; you don’t put a limit on the number of bounced checks a person can write in a year.” [The News Journal, 4/20/12]
  • Fulmer Opposed Limits On Number of Payday Loans Saying “If A Consumer Wants to Use a Payday Loan Six Times a Year, Seven Times a Year, Ultimately That’s Their Responsibility.” “Jamie Fulmer, a spokesman for Advance America, said he is troubled by the annual limit of five loans, saying that “if a consumer wants to use a payday loan six times a year, seven times a year, ultimately that’s their responsibility.” [Daily Press (Newport News, VA), 2/5/08]
  • Fulmer: Our Customers “Are Truly Reflective of the Heart of the Working Middle Class” And “Understand the Choices They’re Making and Understand the Consequences of the Alternatives.” “Jamie Fulmer, spokesman for Advance America, a lender with seven branches in the Des Moines metro, also paints a picture of middle-income patrons. He said the company’s typical customer is high school educated, owns a home, has a credit card and has a household income of $55,000. “These are truly reflective of the heart of the working middle class,” he said. Fulmer said borrowers know what they are getting into. “Our customers understand the choices they’re making and understand the consequences and the alternatives,” he said. And for many customers, Fulmer said, the risks linked to payday loans are more manageable than the fees they might incur without one, by overdrawing a bank account or bouncing a check. Limiting locations for lenders, Fulmer said, “is misguided.” [Des Moines Register, 7/31/13]

Fulmer: Vice President of Tortured Analogies

  • Jamie Fulmer Opposed a Proposed Nashville Ordinance Limiting the Number of Payday Lenders Saying That It Would Create “A Slippery Slope” Where Down the Road Someone Could Decide “There Are Too Many Attorney’s for Example, Or Somebody Decides There Are Too Many Banks.” A new Metro Council ordinance would prohibit new cash advance, check cashing and title loan stores from locating one-quarter of a mile from where another one exists. The same distance requirement would apply to new pawn shops. The bill, which has co-sponsor commitments from 27 council members, would also restrict the physical size of such establishments to 2,500 square feet, though a push to remove that provision has emerged over concerns it might thwart the redevelopment of dormant properties… Jamie Fulmer, senior vice president for Advance America, said he believes the new bill is primarily a result of the “misunderstanding of our industry promoted by consumer advocacy groups.” He also warned of a precedent. “What happens down the road if somebody decides there are too many attorneys, for example, or somebody decides there are too many banks? I think it can create a slippery slope.” [The Tennessean, 11/4/14]
  • Fulmer On Tough Zoning Laws for Payday Lenders: “Are You Going to Start Zoning Out McDonald’s Because Its Bad for Your Health?” “Under tougher zoning rules approved Monday night, new payday lenders cannot open within 300 feet of neighborhoods, churches and schools – and within 1,000 feet of existing lenders…”Are you going to start zoning out McDonald’s because it’s bad for your health?” asked Jamie Fulmer of Spartanburg-based Advance America, the nation’s largest payday lender. “If you take away our product, all you’ve done is take away one of the tools that folks have to choose from when they find themselves in need of money.” [The State, 6/27/07]
  • Fulmer On Tough Zoning Laws for Payday Lenders: “You Don’t Make That Charge Against Pharmacies or Grocery Stores That Are Always Clustered Together.” “As the S.C. legislature debates a new bill that would cap payday lending interest rates, Rock Hill is taking steps to restrict the locations of payday lenders. Under a proposal the city’s Planning Commission will discuss May 1, loan lenders and payday lenders would have to be at least 300 feet from neighborhoods, churches and schools, and at least 1,000 feet from similar financial businesses. They also could not be stand-alone facilities. Instead, they would have to be located within retail establishments and commercial structures of at least 30,000 square feet. City Council member John Gettys, who put the proposal on the agenda, said they are steps toward restricting such “predatory lending agencies.” “These types of businesses basically target those living in poverty in manners that truly hamper someone’s ability to pay the loan back and get on with life,” he said. But Jamie Fulmer, director of investor relations for Spartanburg-based Advance America Cash Advance, chafed at that characterization of the industry. “You don’t make that charge against pharmacies or grocery stores that are always clustered together,” Fulmer said. Payday lending is the practice of making short-term, high-interest loans to people to tide them over to their next payday. It is outlawed in North Carolina.” [Charlotte Observer, 4/22/07]

Fulmer: 36% Cap on Interest Rates Would Put Us out of Business

  • Fulmer Said a Louisiana Proposal to Cap Interest Rates at 36% Was “A Backdoor Prohibition…It’s Industry Elimination.” “Louisiana organizations that represent the elderly, the poor and others on fixed incomes want stiffer regulation of payday lending businesses that offer short-term loans with high interest rates. They’re asking lawmakers in the three-month legislative session that begins Monday to cap the fees that can be charged by the storefront lenders at an interest rate of no greater than 36 percent annually. Supporters of the proposal say the loans now carry exorbitant fees that put borrowers in never-ending cycles of debt, where people continue to return to payday loan stores because they can’t afford to pay both the loan fees and their regular bills. “The goal is to get Louisianians out of a debt trap. We see payday lending as a real drain on Louisiana’s economy,” said Andrew Muhl, director of advocacy for AARP Louisiana, one of several organizations involved in the Louisiana Coalition for Responsible Lending. Payday lenders say that if lawmakers approve the measures, they could put the loan stores out of business and send their customers to more expensive, unregulated borrowing options. “It’s a backdoor prohibition,” said Jamie Fulmer, senior vice president of public affairs for Advance America, which has 113 locations in Louisiana. “It’s industry elimination.” [AP, 3/5/14]
  • Fulmer: If You Cap Interest Rates at 36% “We Can’t Pay Our Employees, We Can’t Pay Our Local Landlords…Simply Put, It Would Put Us Out of Business.” “Fulmer said a 36 percent rate cap would limit Advance America to charging $1.28 per $100 loaned on a two-week loan. “We can’t pay our employees, we can’t pay our local landlords … let alone assume the risk of a loan that’s collateralized with a personal check for seven and a half cents per day,” Fulmer “Simply put, it would put us out of business.” [Argus Leader, 10/21/13]

Fulmer: We Should Be Increasing Access to Payday Loans During Recessions

  • Fulmer: In Recessions, Payday Lending Access Should Increase. CHRIS CUOMO (ABC NEWS) (Off-camera) Given the economic climate, given how many people are living paycheck to paycheck, why shouldn’t a product like yours be looked at as price gouging? JAMIE FULMER (PUBLIC RELATIONS DIRECTOR) Well, you know, this, this is a time, an unprecedented time of, of economic concern for millions of Americans. And – so, you know, we think that, you know, calls for more access to short-term financial credit options, not fewer. And, you know, again, I point to the fact that in the competitive marketplace, we’re reasonably priced. [ABC News, Good Morning America, 5/26/09]

Fulmer: Unregulated, Open End Loans Are Needed to Keep Payday Lenders Open

  • Fulmer: Unregulated, Open-End Loans Are Necessary to Keep Payday Lending Stores Open. “A clampdown on high-cost instant loans takes effect today, but lenders already are finding ways around it–and legislators are steamed. Despite new restrictions by the 2008 General Assembly, some payday lenders have recently won approval from Virginia’s business watchdog agency, the State Corporation Commission, to offer loans with potentially unlimited fees. I no longer believe they are people of good will trying to work with the legislature, Sen. A. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico, an industry critic, said of maneuvering by lenders. It shows a great deal of bad faith on their part. McEachin said he expects legislation further restricting lenders in the General Assembly session that begins Jan. 14. The stakes this year may be higher for lenders and politicians–many of whom believed the issue had been settled in 2008–because Virginians in November choose a new governor and House of Delegates. Jamie Fulmer, spokesman for the nation’s largest payday lender, Advance America, said unregulated, open-end loans are necessary to keep fast cash stores profitable and to meet the needs of some borrowers. In these times, when credit is more difficult, we need to provide as many options as possible, Fulmer said.” [Richmond Times, 1/1/09]

Fulmer Defended Advance America for Denying Service to Muslim Women Wearing a Hijab Saying It Was for a “legitimate Security Purpose”

  • Jamie Fulmer Defended Advance America for Denying Service to Muslim Women Wearing Hijab’s Saying It Was for A “Legitimate Security Purpose.” “Two advocacy groups are suing Advance America Cash Advance Centers Inc. for denying service at one of its locations to a Muslim Arab-American woman from Wayne County who was wearing the hijab. The lawsuit, which the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Michigan and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee filed this week in U.S. District Court, challenges a policy at the financial services company that appears to prevent service for Muslim and Arab-American women who wear religious head covering. “Advance America Cash Advance’s policy of not serving Muslim and Arab-American women that wear the hijab, or religious head covering, is outrageous and should not be tolerated in a civilized society,” Lena Masri, staff attorney at CAIR Michigan, said in a statement. According to the suit, Raghdaa Ali – joined by a friend, also a Muslim Arab wearing the hijab – visited an Advance America center in Inkster on June 13 for money order services. Customers must press a button to get inside; when Ali tried, a store employee denied her, according to the suit… The lawsuit claims Ali’s constitutional rights were violated and she was discriminated against based on religion and national origin. It seeks an injunction stopping Advance America from denying access to other Muslim and Arab-American women wearing the hijab. Jamie Fulmer, senior vice president-public affairs at Advance America, said in a statement: “For the safety of our customers and employees, Advance America requires the temporary removal of hoods, hats, sunglasses and other head coverings in order to be admitted into our centers. … The company respects all religious beliefs and serves all customers with dignity and respect. … we regret that they may have misinterpreted the intent of our policy, and we intend to vigorously defend the legitimate security purpose of our practice in court.” [Detroit News, 11/15/14]



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