AG Becerra, Congressman Peters Announce New, Bipartisan Effort to Protect Military Families


okay so I want to say first good
afternoon thank you for being with us today I am thrilled to be joined by one
of San Diego’s great leaders in Congress congressman Scott Peters and we’re also
being joined by a professor a veteran someone who has served our military for
quite some time both as a law professor at UC San Diego School of Law and also
as a managing attorney at UC DS veterans legal clinic they are both here for the
same reason I am to talk about something very important for our military families
and that is protecting their rights as consumers to make sure that no one
defraud them and takes advantage of them I’m also joined by Nick Akers who is a
senior assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice here in California
and a veteran and also Eleanor bloom who is a special assistant attorney general
in the California DOJ I thank them for the work that they do on these issues to
help consumers and help our military servicemembers and veterans who are
consumers as well so it’s my priority as California’s Attorney General to look
out for those who sacrifice everything to keep all of us safe this County in
particular San Diego is home to one of the largest concentrations of millets
military service personnel in the United States of America now Americans who give
service deserve our gratitude but they deserve something more than just our
gratitude they deserve us to be there to protect them as well and just because
our servicemembers have trained to defend themselves that’s no reason why
our federal government should abandon its responsibilities to enforce the laws
that protect our servicemembers members of our military should have full
protections as consumers when they take out a loan
or open a credit line with a bank military families operate under
particular stress it’s a difficult job and frequently our military service
members have to move and move often it takes them away from family often for
great stretches of time and that can create financial stress approximately
60% of military families report experiencing stress ratite related to
their financial circumstance servicemembers and financial stress may
face having their security clearance revoked they may not be able to deploy
and they may even be compelled to leave the military protecting our military
families and helping the Department of Defense preserve military readiness used
to be a critical focus of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at the
federal government in Washington DC what we call the CFPB but the CFPB’s acting
director milk Mulvaney has consistently chosen Wall Street over Main Street it’s
the CFPB’s job to enforce an important law the military Lending Act the MLA we
are here now making it clear that what we’re hearing is very disturbing
apparently now in Washington DC the CFPB is preparing to throw away a critical
tool in enforcing the military Lending Act the authority to examine banks and
other lenders and whether they are complying with the law banks and lenders
didn’t even need to sue or even threaten to sue this Consumer Financial
Protection Bureau to get this gift mr. Mulvaney decided to abandon that power
on his own for years the CFPB had used its authority and
fulfilled its legal obligation to examine these abuses and risks consumers
posed by banks and lenders this tool is essential in stopping big banks and
payday lenders alike from making illegal loans to service members and their
families and it must be preserved today I’m proud to stand with a bipartisan
group of state attorneys general from 33 states to deliver a simple message to deliver a simple message to acting
director Mulvaney do your job our service members do their
job and it’s a hard one we must do our job to protect them in a letter sent to
Acting Director Mulvaney today the 33 attorneys general urged the CFPB to keep
investigating predatory lenders who would rip off our service members we
urge the CFPB to use all the tools we urge the CFPB to use all the tools in
its toolbox rather than abandon them but rest assured no matter what happens in
Washington DC California will continue to vigorously
enforce our laws that protect our military service members at the
California Department of Justice we’re proud at the California Department of Justice
we’re proud to have a legal team with experience and expertise on military
consumer protection some of them as I’ve mentioned our veterans themselves we
continue to crack down on predatory practices that target California service
members we’ve gone after recently a julie store owner who was cheating
service members active duty military members right here in san diego this
jewelry store was failing to comply with california laws that require accurate
financial disclosures in credit sales crescendo crescendo not long ago our office took action
against Navy privatized housing contractors that were engaged in illegal
debt collection here in San Diego as well we’re continuing to go after
unscrupulous for-profit colleges that target our servicemembers and veterans
as we speak and we have also worked to preserve our States military consumer
protection laws this past legislative session I worked to pass a new law
increasing California’s military consumers protections already the
strongest in the nation and extending to cover active-duty servicemembers in
California we’re going to keep working to defend our servicemembers but we
can’t do it alone with with Mick Mulvaney going AWOL in using his
authority to examine big banks it’s harder for us to find and prosecute
those who are violating the law because of the CFPB’s decision to stop these
reviews we need the help of the public if you see violations of the military
Lending Act against our servicemembers we need you to report them to our office
you can go to a website and I’ll repeat it right now Oh a G dot ca.gov slash
report to the members of the military watching I’d encourage all of you to
learn about the special protections that there are for military families be on
the lookout for those who would try to take advantage of you through predatory
practices that violate your rights the California Department of Justice has got
your back and so do our outstanding Navy Navy and Millett Marine Corps legal
assistance offices here at San Diego use them let us be there with you by your
side you protect us we will continue to protect you with that
now turn it over to congressman Scott Peters Thank You mr. Attorney General
thank you for coming to San Diego to talk about this important issue and I’m
honored to stand with you and to stand up for our servicemembers men and women
who fought for our freedom they’ve earned their benefits they’ve earned our
support and as a region that’s home to one of the largest concentration of
service members in the country and 235 thousand veterans just here in this
County we in San Diego know more than in most regions the service and the
sacrifices that our service members make to keep us free and safe unfortunately
though service members are a prime target for abusive lending practices in
San Diego lenders were using loopholes in existing laws to trap servicemembers
in a circle of debt protecting our servicemembers from these predatory
actions has received bipartisan support in Congress but the decision by the CFPB
and acting director Mulvaney to stop supervisory exams takes us a giant step
backwards from the progress on which we’ve worked together to make and again
he has the power to review the practices of all sorts of lenders he just has
decided not to do that under the military Lending Act leaving many of our
servicemembers exposed to these abuses in 2015 Congress updated the small
business regulatory flexibility Improvements Act that passed the house
with bipartisan support and it ensured that the Department of Defense could
issue rules to protect servicemembers from predatory lending practices as a
member of the Armed Services Committee in 2016 I helped pass an amendment to
the 2002 the 2016 NDAA or the defense the defense budget that would have
allowed the administration to move forward with a rule to close loopholes
in the military Lending Act by including payday and other types of predatory
loans we need to safeguard agencies that can protect our servicemembers not
weaken them this administration and president Trump know that Americans
stand behind our servicemembers and our veterans so they talk about a lot about
their support for war fighters but actions like this one show that they
aren’t standing behind their words and we need to hold them accountable
I applaud Attorney General Becerra and the bipartisan coalition of military
leaders military support coalition organizations and attorneys general
across the country of both parties for holding them accountable to act to
protect our servicemembers and I’m committed to do whatever I can as a
member of Congress to work with both sides of the aisle to oppose the roll
backs of this critical enforcement of the military Lending Act which holds bad
actors accountable for defrauding our troops now I’d like to turn it over to
someone we’re very proud of in San Diego for his service as a Marine veteran but
also as a professor of law and the directing attorney at the veterans legal
clinic at the University of San Diego Bob booth good afternoon my name is Bob
Youth and I’m the managing attorney of u.s. DS veterans legal clinic at the
clinic we provide pro bono legal assistance to veterans service members
and their families in three core areas one of which is consumer protection
I want to thank Attorney General Becerra and congressman Scott Peters for their
leadership on this issue the military Lending Act is an important piece of
legislation that provides a number of important protections for our
servicemembers and their families including capping interest rates at 36%
stopping aweful arbitration agreements from being imposed in financial
contracts and limiting prepayment penalties among other factors the
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau the CFPB has been a long-standing important
piece of the regulatory efforts to protect servicemembers and their rights
since 2011 and the founding of the CFPB they have returned more than 130 million
dollars to servicemembers and they have filled in more than 72,000 complaints
from servicemembers and their families while those might seem like shockingly
high numbers 21 who has served on active duty prior to the enactment of the
military Lending Act and the enforcement efforts of the CFPB it’s actually not
that surprising as soon as the service member leaves the gates up a Kia
Pendleton or Miramar used to be hit by just a slew of payday
lenders and other predatory debt traps the efforts of the military Lending Act
and the CFPB were critical in trying to rein in those abuses obviously the debt
traps for an individual service member are problematic but it also impacts
their unit the command in the Department of Defense more broadly the number one
reason someone loses a security clearance that’s a member of the
military or do not get a clearance in the first place
is due to financial instability oftentimes as a result of these kinds of
predatory practices by payday lenders that not only impacts that individual
service member it also impacts their command so in addition the Department of
Defense is found that it costs nearly fifty seven thousand dollars for in in
costs for every service member who has involuntarily separated as a result of
financial instability so ultimately in addition to the service members in the
military it also impacts our taxpayers it simply makes no sense for the CFP to
abandon the field of battle here and stop proactively ensuring that financial
institutions comply with their legal obligations under the military Lending
Act instead they’re shifting the burden to individual service members who have
better things to worry about such as the defense of our nation well this is a
troubling development out of Washington I do want to spend one moment to think
that our legislators here in California for standing up for servicemembers and
for veterans under the leadership of attorney general Becerra the legislature
and the governor has signed Assembly Bill 32:12 which provides critical
protections for servicemembers here in California it closes loopholes it fills
gaps in the overall federal legislation and it also gives the attorney general’s
office tools that they’ll need to ensure that the worst predatory actors do not
prey on our servicemembers in conclusion I think this is a really important issue
for the CFPB to step back in and take accountability for its actions and
ensure that our service members are able to do their job and not worry about
predatory debt traps back here on the home front while they should be focusing
on our national defense thank you very much
want to thank professor moose congressman Peters and of course my team
here

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