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Waters Calls for Universities, Retirement Plans to Divest from Payday Lenders

Ranking Member convenes lawmakers, religious leaders to discuss payday’s impact on communities

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Washington, DC, July 16, 2015 | comments

At the conclusion of a first-of-its-kind Capitol Hill gathering of lawmakers and religious leaders to discuss the impact predatory payday and small-dollar lending practices are having in communities across America, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) announced she will be calling on some of the country’s most notable endowments and state retirement plans to begin to take steps to divest their interests in one of the country’s largest payday lenders.

The announcement came at an Interfaith Payday Lending Roundtable convened by Waters, the Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee. The event brought together leaders from Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities to highlight the moral and religious objections that faith leaders have raised in response to predatory payday and small-dollar lending practices in communities across America.

As a follow-up to the event, Waters announced she will be sending letters to some of the country’s most notable endowments, including the Harvard Management Company, the University of California’s Board of Regents, and Cornell’s Office of University Investments – as well as state retirement plans in New York, Illinois, Colorado, Virginia and Montana – calling on them to begin to take steps to divest their interests in Ace Cash Express – one of the country’s largest payday lenders.

“Absent substantial reforms in their business practices, public employee retirement assets and university endowments should not support an industry that leaves thousands of Americans trapped in cycles of debt – especially companies that have violated federal law,” Waters said at the event. “We all have a responsibility to ensure that our communities do not support private equity firms that own or invest in payday or other small-dollar lenders.”

Panelists at the roundtable discussed the impact of payday and small-dollar lending practices on the communities that these faith leaders serve, and described the advocacy efforts taking place to combat the practices. Panelists also discussed best practices, and the need for strong payday lending rules from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to better protect consumers from these practices.

“I convened this group because it is important that the debate over payday lending includes the moral objections that it raises for people of faith. The voices of industry, academia and regulators are often heard in Congress, but too often we fail to engage faith-based community leaders, who are actually working in the communities where payday and other small-dollar lenders are most pervasive,” Waters added. “I’m pleased that today’s discussion provided an opportunity for our faith leaders to share their views on the real impact of payday lending in their communities – and the role that faith has played in shaping their advocacy.”

The panel also discussed federal, state and local activities to combat payday lending, as well as faith-based alternatives to small-dollar lending practices.

Participants in the discussion included:

  • Dr. Frederick Douglass Haynes, III, Senior Pastor, Friendship-West Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas
  • Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Senior Vice President, Union for Reform Judaism
  • Reverend Shane Scott, Pastor, Macedonia Baptist Church, Los Angeles, California
  • Rachel Anderson, Director, Faith and Credit Roundtable, Center for Responsible Lending
  • Reverend Sekinah Hamlin, Ecumenical Poverty Initiative
  • Alex Mikulich, Assistant Professor, Loyola University Jesuit Social Research Institute
  • Reverend Dr. Willie Gable Jr., National Baptist Convention USA, Inc. and Faith and Credit Roundtable
  • Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, Islamic Society of North America

Text of the letter Waters can be found online here.

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