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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget, Tax

New Report Ranks Transparency of Government Spending in the 50 States

Most states are improving the transparency of government spending, but some do a much better job than others.

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

Following the Money 2014

The fifth annual report card evaluating how well each of the 50 states provide public access to data about government spending shows ongoing advances in transparency across the nation but some states far ahead of others.

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

New Report Examines Promise and Potential Dangers of New Financial Marketplace

U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) released a comprehensive new report today focused on the realities of the new financial marketplace and the threats and opportunities its use poses to financial inclusion. The report examines the impact of digital technology, especially the unprecedented analytical and real-time actionable powers of “Big Data,” on consumer welfare. The groups immediately filed the report with the White House Big Data review headed by John Podesta, who serves as senior counselor to the President.

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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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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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Media Hit | Budget, Tax

The $4 Billion Question: Do We Value JPMorgan More Than Consumer Protection?

Is $4 billion in taxpayer money better spent subsidizing JPMorgan's alleged criminal activity or funding the federal agency charged with defending consumers from dangerous financial products?

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Media Hit | Tax

Settlement loophole in tax law could help BP

BP's "Commitment to the Gulf" should not have hidden, tax deductible givebacks.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

SAC Capital Shouldn’t Receive Tax Windfall for Insider Trading and Securities Fraud

SAC Capital could collect a massive tax windfall for the $1 billion it will reportedly pay to settle allegations of insider trading and securities fraud unless the SEC and other federal agencies explicitly forbid it.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

CFPB Gets Results: Orders Chase Bank to Repay Consumers Over $300 Million Over Sale of Junky Credit Card Add-On Products That Weren’t Even Delivered

Yesterday the CFPB fined Chase Bank $20 million and ordered it to refund over 2 million consumers a total of over $300 million over the sale of junky credit card and debit card add-ons that weren’t even delivered.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Tax

JPMorgan Shouldn’t Receive Tax Windfall for London Whale Penalty

Unless regulators forbid JPMorgan Chase from writing off an $800 million settlement as a tax deduction, taxpayers could end up shouldering 35 percent of the cost of the settlement.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Transportation

High-Speed Rail: Public, Private or Both?

Private sector companies are likely to play a major role in the construction of high-speed rail lines in the United States. Public-private partnerships – or “PPPs” – have come to play an important role in the construction of high-speed rail lines around the world. The experience with high-speed rail PPPs, however, has been mixed. While PPP arrangements have brought private capital and expertise to the task of building high-speed rail, PPPs have also resulted in cost overruns, government bailouts, and other serious problems for the public.

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

Building a Better Health Care Marketplace

The creation of a new health insurance exchange offers our state the chance to build a better marketplace for health care.  The exchange can help individuals and small businesses by increasing competition and improving choices in the state’s insurance market.  By providing better options and better information, and negotiating on behalf of its enrollees, the exchange can level the playing field for consumers.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Tax

Tax Shell Game: How Much Did Offshore Tax Havens Cost You In 2010?

Tax havens are countries with minimal or no taxes, to which U.S.-based multinational firms or individuals transfer their earnings to avoid paying taxes in the United States. Users of tax havens benefit from access to America’s markets, workforce, infrastructure and security, but pay little or nothing for it—violating the basic fairness of the tax system.

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

Big Banks, Bigger Fees

Over the last six months, PIRG staff conducted inquiries at 392 bank branches in 21 states and reviewed bank fees online in 12 others.

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Big Banks, Bigger Fees

Since Congress largely deregulated consumer deposit (checking and savings) accounts beginning in the early 1980s, the PIRGs have tracked bank deposit account fee changes and documented the banks’ long-term strategy to raise fees, invent new fees and make it harder to avoid fees. 

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

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

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.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Should Facebook And Google Be Regulated As Credit Bureaus? | Ed Mierzwinski

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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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Some Consumer News of the Week, In Case You Missed It | Ed Mierzwinski

It's hard to keep up, so here are some key consumer news stories I am following that you may have missed this week. We start with CALPIRG Education Fund's new "Cell Phone Guide," look at the Consumer Federation of America's report on auto insurance discrimination and take you all the way to the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign survey on what's "good, bad and ugly (rats!)" in NYC subway stations.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Watch for fake 5.0 user ratings on merchant sites; and watch out for efforts by doctors, others to block real ratings, too | Ed Mierzwinski

Some user reviews on the Internet are written by sockpuppets paid by the website; in other cases, consumers are given inducements to write good reviews (New York Times). Meanwhile, doctors, especially, are trying to use copyright law to "squelch" valid reviews from patients (Washington Post). Either way, watch out.

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Blog Post | Food

Supreme Court Puts Sick Cows Back on the Menu | Nasima Hossain

On Monday the Supreme Court overturned a California law that required the euthanization of downed livestock at federally inspected slaughterhouses to keep this meat out of the nation’s food system.

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