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  • Debt Collector: I’m From the Government – As Far As You KnowGovernment, Consumer Protection, Blog, Money


    In a monumental act of hubris and deceit, an Erie, PA debt collection firm had employees pose as sheriff’s deputies and staged phony courtroom sessions where they bilked delinquent consumers out of their money. We’ve covered this story extensively (go here and here for more details). My take? Debt collection agencies are getting more brazen by the day. Consider these cases: A St. Louis woman says she received vulgar phone messages from a California debt […]

  • What the Death Penalty and Foreclosure Have in Common (You Will Be Surprised)Blog, Personal Finance, Money


    There is so much news—mostly ugly news from the consumer point of view—about the foreclosure crisis, but it seems one of the most important initiatives taken against the banks that caused the crisis has been all but overlooked. For a period of months, the federal government and most of the states’ attorneys general have been negotiating with the banking industry over appropriate sanctions and penalties that should be imposed for lender misconduct during the foreclosure […]

  • Memo to Obama: Push for Jobs, Don’t Shove EmployersGovernment, Blog, Money


    The American Jobs Act provides yet another example of President Obama potentially snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. It proposes a punitive response to a problem that now plagues the country — employers are hesitant to hire the long-term unemployed. The missed opportunity is still there to be had: How about providing incentives? At issue is the Job Act’s proposal to make it “an unlawful employment practice” to refuse employment “because of the individual’s […]

  • Freddie and Fannie — Has Everyone Gone Postal?Government, Mortgages, Politics, Blog, Money


    Between Freddie and Fannie’s latest woes and the United States Postal Service teetering on collapse, it’s been a bad week or so for quasi-governmental agencies. Late last week the United States Postal Service (USPS) announced that it was facing a shortfall of approximately $5.5 billion in terms of its obligations in the month of September, and that without Congressional action it might have to cease operations entirely during the winter of 2011. In a week […]

  • Homeowners

    Medication for Middle-Class Mortgage ManiaMortgages, Blog, Money


    Everything old is new again…. Between 1634 and 1637, tulips became all the rage in Holland. The record of exactly what happened is sketchy and perhaps apocryphal in part, but at one point a particular kind of tulip bulb could be traded in the marketplace for about 12 acres of land. This is one reason why the history of this phenomenon is often labeled the “tulip mania.” In America between 2005 and 2008, real estate […]

  • The Silver Lining in the U.S. Debt DowngradeBlog, Money


    No matter which side of the political fence or economic Continental Divide you sit on, few can deny that this was the week that was. It began with the controversial debt-ceiling deal about which I wrote in my last column. Shortly after the president signed off and the legislation became law — a remarkably silly law, even in the context of a country with so many silly laws — Moody’s issued a statement that it […]

  • Of Debt Ceiling Debates, Non-Denial Denials and Non-Default DefaultsBlog, Money


    In 1980, Republican presidential nominee Ronald Reagan asked the American people: “Are you better off than you were four years ago… Is America more respected?” Fast forward to the cyber era of 2011, where anything less than real time is considered “so two weeks ago,” and weeks seem like dog years: are you feeling better now than you did four months ago? Do you believe that America is more respected in the world after our […]

  • Un-Warrented: American Consumers Lose Their Biggest DefenderFinancial Literacy, Banking, Blog, Money


    At long last, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launches officially this week. Unfortunately, so far it seems that what happens on Thursday, July 21st could be more of a lurch than a launch. As has been rumored over the past few weeks, President Obama bypassed the chief architect and advocate of the Bureau, Elizabeth Warren, to be its first director. He nominated Richard Cordray, the former Attorney General of Ohio, who rose to national prominence […]

  • S&P Downgrades U.S. Debt… Will Repo Men Come for Air Force One?Government, Banking, Blog, Money


    By now, nearly every American should know that a “credit report” and a “credit score” represent a measure of our personal financial integrity.  Those reports and scores, for individuals, are kept and computed by a select number of large companies (like Equifax, TransUnion, FICO and Experian). Even though most of us have had little if any direct contact with these companies, the fact is that they are keeping files on us and that the reports […]

  • We Owe Them A Debit of GratitudeGovernment, Banking, Blog, Money


    And so, we begin anew. During the Great Congressional Financial Services Smackdown of 2009 and 2010, Illinois Democrat Richard Durbin inspired fellow Senators to pass an Amendment to the Dodd-Frank Act directing the Federal Reserve to study and, hopefully, reduce the relatively unknown “swipe fees” that banks collect from retailers every time a consumer uses a debit card to make a purchase. Last summer, the Federal Reserve responded with a call to cut swipe fees […]