Commercial Appeal – Editorial: Taking aim at predators

From the article:

Mayor A C Wharton says Memphis’ high poverty rate and low level of financial literacy make the city a target for scams aimed at homeowners faced with foreclosure.

Perhaps he was too polite to mention the Tennessee General Assembly, which has resisted efforts to curb predatory lending practices at almost every opportunity.

Just last April, for example, the House subcommittee on utilities and banking buried a package of bills sponsored by Memphis Democrats Johnnie Turner and Jeanne Richardson aimed at abuses by the title pledge, payday and mortgage loan industries.

With little help coming from the legislature, Memphis has had to take action on its own to protect vulnerable consumers from underhanded tactics.

A federal lawsuit filed by the city alleges that Wells Fargo Bank has targeted debt-ridden African-Americans with refinancing deals that too often trigger foreclosures.

Last week Wharton announced a new program in which citizens will become better informed about risky loan modification and foreclosure-prevention offers.

The effort is being spearheaded by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Neighborworks America and Fannie Mae. Its website,, has tips on how to avoid being scammed and other information on the topic.

And the Memphis Housing Counseling Network is taking calls about scam operators at 725-8361.

As encouraging as these developments are, it is still disappointing to see so little action being taken on the state and federal level.

That’s where real teeth could be put into anti-predatory lending schemes if industry lobbyists didn’t have pit-bull grips on so many legislators.


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