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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Center for Digital Democracy | Financial Reform

Big Data Means Big Opportunities and Big Challenges

This report examines the growing use of "Big Data" in financial decision-making, especially in a digital marketplace characterized more and more by the use of mobile phones. It explains the opportunities to use Big Data to promote financial opportunity and the threat of financial exclusion, discrimination or higher prices for some consumers if Big Data is not used properly. The report makes recommendations to advocates, industry and regulators.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Victory for Taxpayers and Consumers as Justice Dept. Denies Toyota $1.2 Billion Write-Off in Criminal Probe Settlement

Today, the Justice Department acted in the best interests of taxpayers and consumers, by denying Toyota a hidden $420 million tax benefit on its settlement for misleading consumers about dangerous car malfunctions.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

We Join FTC Event on Big Data E-Scores | Ed Mierzwinski

Companies on the Internet are tracking you with vastly powerful Big Data algorithms to determine what to sell you and for how much and what financial opportunities to offer you. Today at 10am, I join an FTC workshop on Alternative Scoring Products to debate the transparency and fairness of the system with privacy and technology experts from industry, academia and the public interest. You can attend or watch online.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Transportation

New California Data Shows Alternatives to Driving Taking Hold

California's state travel survey confirms that the driving boom is over.

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Media Hit | Financial Reform

National data-theft law still a hard sell

The data breach at Target Corp., which exposed millions of credit card numbers, has focused attention on the patchwork of state consumer notification laws and renewed a push for a single national standard. [...] ‘‘From industry’s perspective, whether you’re a bank or a merchant, you don’t want to have to notify consumers,’’ said Ed Mierzwinski, at the US Public Interest Research Group. ‘‘They want to preempt, or override, the best state laws.’’

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

JPMorgan’s Tax-Deductible Settlement is Just the Tip of the Iceberg

The corporate practice of taking a tax deduction for settlement payments made to federal agencies is ubiquitous

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Health Care

Tips for Bypassing Healthcare.gov Glitches and Getting Enrolled

While experts work to fix the problems with the federal health insurance marketplace website, U.S. PIRG urges consumers to take advantage of other ways to enroll.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Higher Ed

New Report Identifies Most Troublesome Private Lenders to Students

WASHINGTON – Thousands of American students are using the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) public Consumer Complaints Database to settle disputes about private student loans, according to a new report from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund.

Sallie Mae, the student lending giant, generated the most private student loan complaints nationally, and ranked first or tied for first in every single state. Student loan borrowers in the U.S. carry $24,803 on average in total student loan debt.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

JPMorgan Shouldn’t Get Tax Break for “London Whale” Settlement

JPMorgan could get a $35 million tax deduction from its $100 million settlement with Commodity Futures Trading Commission unless the regulator explicitly forbids it.

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Media Hit | Transportation

Young People Driving Less, Embrace Other Transportation

U.S. PIRG is featured in USA Today, and shows how young Americans are changing the nation's transportation landscape. They drive less, want to stay connected as they travel, embrace car-sharing, bike-sharing, ride-sharing.

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Report | OSPIRG | Consumer Protection

Consumer Tips for the Downturn

The tips and know-how included here are good advice in any economic climate, but they are especially important in this economy. Credit card debt, consumer credit scores, and identity theft are some of the most common problems facing consumers today.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Financial Reform

Failing the Bailout

This report first establishes that what is known about how the TARP recipients’ behavior before, during and after the bailout paints a dire picture of how the TARP funds were spent. It then presents a clear opportunity for lawmakers to regain some of the withering faith of the American people through widely supported execution tactics and simple communication practices with respect to TARP.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Health Care

Health Care in Crisis

Unless the new Congress and Administration act to reduce health care costs, the yearly cost of the average employer-paid family health policy in America is projected to more than double from $11,381 in 2006 to $24,291 by 2016 even after adjusting for inflation. If recent trends continue, wages and household incomes will simply not keep up with these high costs.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget, Transportation

Economic Stimulus or Simply More Misguided Spending?

President-elect Obama has declared that the next recovery plan must do more than just pump money into the economy. It will also create the infrastructure that America needs for the 21st century. This fall, Congress asked states to submit lists of “ready-to-go” transportation infrastructure projects that could be funded by the stimulus package.

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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Budget

Transparency.gov 2.0

The ability to see how government uses the pub­lic purse is fundamental to democracy. Budget transparency checks corruption, bolsters public confidence in government, and promotes fiscal responsibility. Massachusetts, consistently ranked as a top state for technology industries, should be a natural leader of the Transparency 2.0 movement. But as more and more states upgrade their trans­parency systems, Massachusetts has fallen be­hind the emerging set of best practices.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Emergency-room debt collector pays penalty but says no patient had "problematic interaction"? | Ed Mierzwinski

Last week, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson settled her case with Accretive Health, the debt collector that allegedly acts as a gatekeeper to obtaining emergency-room treatment. The AG's legal filing has  affidavits from 60 victims but in a press release, the debt collector says "the Attorney General did not and could not identify a single patient in Minnesota who experienced a problematic interaction with an Accretive Health employee." Hunh?

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Wall St. Computers Run Amok and More Friday Financial Follies | Ed Mierzwinski

Will the blowback from Wednesday's Wall Street high-speed trading crash caused by computers running amok revitalize efforts to enact a small tax on stock transactions? Meanwhile, here are the rest of the week's financial follies, finishing with a Funk #49.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Finally Buckyballs Magnets Get Their Just Desserts | Nasima Hossain

The Consumer Product Safety Commission filed suit last Wednesday to stop the company that distributes the popular Buckyballs magnets from selling the product. This is a product that consumer advocates have been concerned about for years.

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Blog Post | Public Health

HR 4078 - A Bill that will Shutdown all Public Health and Consumer Safeguards | Nasima Hossain

HR 4078 yesterday passed a floor vote in the House. If passed by Congress this bill will shut down the U.S. regulatory system as we know it. Two other equally hazardous bills are rolled into it, H.R. 4607 and H.R. 3862. Combined, these bills will halt or delay virtually ALL rulemaking and public health protections and do absolutely nothing to stimulate the economy or new job opportunities. They would shut down safeguards that Americans take for granted.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Friday's Financial and other Congressional Follies | Ed Mierzwinski

Yesterday the U.S. House passed a bill stopping all regulations designed to promote the economy, preserve the environment or protect health, safety and pocketbooks. Meanwhile,  Citibank's Sandy Weill, the man who in 1999 convinced Congress to destroy the 1932 Glass-Steagall financial protections, has changed his mind.

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Priority Action

The overuse of antibiotics on factory farms is threatening these lifesaving antibiotics. Call on the Obama administration to put an end to the worst practices. 

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