There is no evidence that CEEL is bankrolled by the finance industry or payday lenders; Berman has said that the nonprofit is simply a pet project that "reflects the issues that I personally believe need to be addressed." Yet some of its talking points are strikingly similiar to the ones that payday lenders have been repeating for years.
In December, an AP business writer, describing CEEL as an organization that "advocates personal finance education," wrote about the results of its latest survey: "Just a quarter of adults knew that overdrawing their checking account (bouncing a check) for a quick $100 was more expensive than a payday loan, credit card advance or emergency wire transfer.
(Berman's Center for Consumer Freedom has blasted CRL as "the advocacy arm of a billion-dollar financial network," since Herb and Marion Sandler, whose World Savings Bank marketed risky subprime loans, helped to found the nonprofit.) Through the press, says King, CEEL and other Berman groups are able to influence the debate without the public ever knowing they're hearing industry spin.
A variation on CEEL's lender-friendly theme has been part of an ad blitz blanketing the Washington, DC, Metro system.
But here's the catch: Ira consumer took out a two-week loan for $400 (closer to the state-by-state average) at the rate CEEL cites, the fee would be at least $60, and some payday lenders charge as much as $30 per every $100 borrowed.
That CEEL has been advertising in the nation's capital (where payday lending has been effectively outlawed since 2007) may reflect a brewing federal fight.
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