City, community, labor leaders unite in statewide bid to maximize restitution to borrowers victimized by fraudulent lending practices
SAN FRANCISCO (July 26, 2012)—City Attorney Dennis Herrera was joined at a news conference today by City Treasurer José Cisneros, San Francisco Labor Council Executive Director Tim Paulson, and S.F. Interfaith Council Executive Director Michael Pappas to highlight the upcoming final 60-day mark of the City’s statewide push to locate consumers who may be eligible for restitution from Money Mart and Loan Mart in amounts ranging from between $20 to $1,800. Victims of the payday lenders’ predatory lending schemes were also on hand to speak to the news media about their own experiences.
The restitution outreach program is among the terms of an agreement Herrera’s office negotiated to settle his office’s 2007 consumer protection lawsuit against payday lenders Money Mart and Loan Mart and an affiliated out-of-state bank for unfair and fraudulent business practices. The alleged wrongdoing stemmed from the lenders’ marketing of short-term installment loans and oversized payday loans, usually targeted to low-income borrowers, at exorbitant and illegal interest rates. While the settlement requires the lenders to engage an independent administrator to make “reasonable efforts” to contact all eligible claimants, Herrera’s office is authorized to undertake additional outreach efforts in advance of the Oct. 1, 2012 deadline to reach all potential claimants who may have moved, or who may have dismissed or misunderstood letters from the restitution administrator.
California consumers who obtained short-term installment loans from Money Mart and Loan Mart from 2005 through 2007, and oversized payday loans from Money Mart and Loan Mart in 2005, may be eligible for restitution of most of interest, fees and finance charges they paid. The three-month push was launched earlier this month, and will include additional news conferences with community leaders and consumer advocates across the state in advance of the Oct. 1, 2012 deadline.
“Bringing justice to victims of predatory payday lending means working aggressively to maximize restitution to all the low-income and moderate-income Californians who deserve it,” said Herrera. “As we approach the final 60-days of our outreach effort, I’m very grateful to be joined by City Treasurer José Cisneros, whose leadership established more affordable alternatives to predatory storefront lenders. I’m also very thankful to labor and community leaders like Tim Paulson, Mike Casey and Michael Pappas who have also agreed to take part in our important task.”
Herrera’s office is asking for assistance from all reporters, editors and broadcasters who cover consumer affairs issues in California to assist in identifying all potential claimants statewide to learn more:
• By visiting http://www.sfcityattorney.org, to complete a claim form.
• By calling the City Attorney’s Money Mart Settlement Hotline at (866) 497-5497
• By emailing further inquiries to: MoneyMartSettlement@sfgov.org
Also under terms of the settlement agreement, Money Mart and Loan Mart are required to forgive $8 million in other debt owed by California consumers. In addition, the company will pay the City and County of San Francisco $875,000.
Treasurer José Cisneros’s leadership on financial empowerment
San Francisco Treasurer José Cisneros is an acknowledged national leader in creating model programs to empower consumers who are most often targeted by predatory lending practices. Three groundbreaking programs in particular, both run by Cisneros’s Office of Financial Empowerment, have shown great success in removing institutional barriers that can trap low- and moderate-income borrowers in a cycle of debt to payday lenders: Payday Plus SF, Bank on San Francisco, and CurrenC SF.
Payday Plus SF is a City partnership with a number of San Francisco Credit Unions that offers borrowers alternative short term, small-dollar loans of between $50 and $500 at 18 percent APR or below, which are repayable over six to 12 months. Loans are available to borrowers with low or no credit, and can help build a positive credit score. Bank on San Francisco is a comprehensive partnership between the City, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the nonprofit EARN, and more than a dozen financial institutions to offer accessible, entry-level checking account products and mainstream banking services for the estimated 15 percent of San Franciscans who lack a mainstream banking relationship. CurrenC SF is a citywide initiative with the goal of achieving a fully electronic, paperless payday, helping to bring thousands of San Francisco households into the financial mainstream and reducing reliance on high-cost check cashing services. More information is available on the San Francisco Office of Financial Empowerment’s website at http://www.sfofe.org.
The litigation involving the Money Mart/Loan Mart settlement is: People of the State of California ex rel. Dennis Herrera v. Check N’ Go of California, Inc., et al. (San Francisco Superior Court Case No. CGC-07-462779).