Updates

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Romney Endorses Low Interest Rate for Student Loans

Today presidential candidate and Republican Mitt Romney endorsed an extension of the low student loan interest rate for subsidized Stafford student loan borrowers. On July 1, the low 3.4 percent rate will double to 6.8 percent, unless Congress intervenes. Close to 8 million students will be negatively impacted.

Media Hit | Higher Ed

New York Times: Student Loan Interest Rates Loom as Political Battle

Rich Williams, the higher education advocate for U.S. Public Interest Research Group, said he thought about 14 moderate Republican senators might support the effort to keep the interest rates down. “This should be a bipartisan issue,” he said. “It’s something everyone gets.”

The Food and Drug Administration announced last Wednesday that it had finalized a plan asking drug companies to voluntarily limit the use of certain antibiotics in animal feed.

Report | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Rogues Gallery of Major Corporate Legal Settlements

The following list of recent major corporate settlements displays a harrowing array of harms to the public. After government agencies sought redress for corporate wrongdoing, they negotiated with the companies for payments that were presumably less than the agency would have ordered in damages or fines if it had chosen to go through with a protracted lawsuit.

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.

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.

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.

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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