Updates

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

BP Settlement With Government May Follow Pattern of Allowing Companies to Write Off Costs of Wrongdoing

A new white paper released today by U.S. PIRG examines a persistent pattern of companies that sign settlements with the government for their wrongdoing, then deduct the settlement costs as a normal business expense on their taxes. The white paper comes as the nation anticipates a multi-billion dollar settlement announcement between BP and the federal government for the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Bagged Lettuce Recall and Fresh Produce Inspections

The Agriculture Department’s tiny $5 million Microbiological Data Program screens high-risk fresh produce throughout the year for bacteria including Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria. Cutting this program will leave public health officials without a crucial tool used to investigate deadly foodborne illnesses in fresh produce leaving inspections in the hands of produce producers.

Report | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Picking Up the Tab

Some U.S.-based multinational firms or individuals avoid paying U.S. taxes by transferring their earnings to tax haven countries with minimal or no taxes. These tax haven users benefit from their access to America’s markets, workforce, infrastructure and security; but they pay little or nothing for it—violating the basic fairness of the tax system and forcing other taxpayers to pick up the tab.

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Taxpayers would Pay $426 to Make Up for Tax Haven Abuse, Small Businesses $2,116

With Tax Day approaching, a new U.S. PIRG report found the average tax filer in 2011 would have to pay $426 to make up for revenue lost from corporations and wealthy individuals shifting income to offshore tax havens. The report additionally found that if they were to cover the cost of the corporate abuse of tax havens in 2011, the average American small business would have to pay $2,116.

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Toxics in Nail Polish a Potential Danger to Women and Children

Nail polish manufacturers need to be completely honest in labeling their products. This practice of labeling nail polish “three-free” when it is not is grossly dishonest and knowingly misleads consumers and nail salon workers into thinking they are using a safe product when they are not.

U.S., States Sue Apple, Publishers Over E-Book Price Conspiracy

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

Today, the U.S. Attorney General and the Attorney Generals of Connecticut and Texas announced settlements with several publishers -- Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins --over an alleged conspiracy with Apple and other publishers to attack Amazon's pricing model, secretly set e-book prices and thereby harm consumers. However, Apple and the publishers Macmillan and Penguin Group USA have refused to settle and are being sued by the agencies.

(Update: phottos added.) Today, U.S. PIRG will be an invited guest as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposes new mortgage servicing rules to prevent, among other things, a recurrence of the robo-signing scandal. Among the other important news items of the week, in case you missed it, Ohio has made it harder for aggrieved consumers to obtain redress when ripped off.

While I am highly skeptical of the sentiment that "Congress is not afraid of bankers", given that banking lobbyists outnumber banking reform advocates 25-1 and that the Chairman of the Senate Financial Services Subcommittee seems to believe that "the banks own the place," the most ridiculous thing about members of the American Bankers Association's announcement of the industry's new Super PAC may be their willingness to reveal its strategy for skirting the non-coordination rules. This speaks volumes about how the industry thinks about its involvement in politics.

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

New Report Series, “American Lives at Risk”

A new report by Demos and U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) finds that Americans’ lives, health and livelihoods would be put at risk if so called “regulatory reform” proposals now being considered by the U.S. Congress were to become law.

The industry trade paper American Banker is reporting  that "Bank of America Sold Card Debts to Collectors Despite Faulty Records" in 2009 and 2010. Good to know. It confirms previous consumer group studies that had documented that big banks were forcing consumers to arbitrate and pay "debts" that may not have been owed (some were due to identity theft or sloppy records). However, in the latest fallout from a U.S. Senate Commerce committee investigation of unauthorized third-party billing on phone bills (cramming), Chairman Jay Rockefeller has announced that ATT has joined other big telcos in finally promising to drop the tawdry practice of "cramming," which is a technical term meaning "making big bucks by allowing fly-by-night firms selling useless junky products consumers don't want and didn't buy to use phone bills as cash registers."

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