Updates

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget

Facebook’s Tax Dodge Stands to Make Billions for Company and Zuckerberg

U.S. Senator Carl Levin isn’t necessarily the man you’d look to for the latest news about Facebook. The 77-year old was described by Time magazine as “pudgy, balding and occasionally rumpled, and he constantly wears his glasses at the very tip of his nose.” However, today he broke some shocking news on the Senate floor about special tax favors that Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, will enjoy at great cost to the U.S. Treasury.

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

White House Plan to Close Special Interest Tax Loopholes Is the Right Approach to Reform, But Details Matter

The President has put forward the beginnings of a tax reform plan that takes the right approach, but is still missing critical details. America needs a level playing field where businesses succeed by being more productive and innovative, not by hiding profits in the Cayman Islands or other tax havens. By ending special-interest tax preferences, the administration plan could help the economy and reduce debt, while addressing public outrage about large companies dodging their taxes.

As web giants amass more and more information about consumers for behavioral targeting and even "social discrimination" -- which can include differential pricing for the same product or the use of web tracking data and falsely-flagged websites to promote certain brandname drug use -- the White House has called for a privacy bill of rights. Companies and powerful industry lobbies seeking to keep those rights weak have rolled out their own "Do Not Track Sometimes" button. Meanwhile bi-partisan groups of Congressional privacy hawks and, now, state attorneys general have demanded information from Google about its slippery, ever-changing privacy policies and whether Googleis in compliance with settlements it has already agreed to.

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget

White House Plan to Close Special Interest Tax Loopholes Is the Right Approach to Reform, But Details Matter

Statement by Phineas Baxandall, Senior Tax and Budget Analyst for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, in response to the White House announcement today proposing to eliminate tax loopholes and preferences.

Consumer news update, some stories I've been following

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

Just a summary of some of what I think are the important consumer news stories of the last week or so, in case you missed any of them.

CFPB To Visit NYC and More Consumer News of the Week, In Case You Missed It

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

Just a few of the interesting consumer stories I am following this week: CFPB heads to New York to talk about checking accounts (Feb. 22)... Meanwhile, Citibank charged some consumers twice to pay bills only once (NYTimes)...Consumer groups call for a real recall of Bumbo baby seat (Boston Globe)...Mortgage settlement is a good first step (PIRG statement)...House opponents ratchet up attacks on new CFPB (WashPost)...Over-priced "Who will pay your credit card if you die, get sick or get laid off?" products pay out only 21 cents on the dollar (American Banker)...More on the CFPB's latest semi-annual report (St. Louis American)...PIRG, Demos document rise of the Super-PACS (MS-NBC)...And finally, "Enron" -- a musical theater production about corporate crime, re-opens in Washington State (The Olympian).

Over at the CALPIRG blog, consumer advocate Jon Fox explains why CALPIRG, U.S. PIRG, Kids In Danger and other leading groups have asked the Consumer Product Safety Commission, in a letter, to recall the Bumbo baby seat. Previous remedial actions, including labeling the seat with warnings, haven't prevented an alarming number of injuries, including over thirty skull fractures.

Encouraging news on HUD/state AG settlement with big mortgage servicers

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

Update: The terms of the settlement, which was announced this morning, are at the page http://www.nationalmortgagesettlement.com. We are reading it now. Original: If I am reading the overnight news stories correctly (NY TIMES and Politico and Boston Globe), it appears that negotiators have clarified that the well-publicized settlement between HUD and state AGs and the nation's 5 largest mortgage servicers will not release the big banks from claims related to their activities with the mysterious entity known as MERS that aided and abetted their illegal foreclosures. If so, this is a big deal in ultimately holding the big banks fully accountable.

PIRG-backed reforms designed to guarantee that passengers stranded in planes sitting on runways are not treated like cattle have been passed by the House and Senate and are expected to be signed by the president as part of FAA reauthorization (New York Times story). The reforms are largely based on the work of former stranded passenger Kate Hanni and her flyersrights.org campaign for an Airline Passenger Bill of Rights (Kate's statement).

Should Facebook And Google Be Regulated As Credit Bureaus?

By | Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

In a series of joint privacy petitions to the Federal Trade Commission beginning in 2006 and extended more recently to include behavioral targeting, as well as medical and mobile marketing, U.S. PIRG and the Center for Digital Democracy (sometimes with allies) have argued for greater scrutiny and regulation of the online digital marketing and behavioral targeting ecosystem that involves companies you do business with, social networking tools, third-party advertisers and other players. Today, in the New York Times, Professor Lori Andrews says that "Facebook is Using You."

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