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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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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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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Food

Consumer Groups Launch National Push for Supermarkets to Label GMOs

Consumers and health advocates launched a national campaign calling on local and regional supermarket chains to label their store-brand products for ingredients derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), on the one year anniversary of Whole Foods’ announcement that it will adopt labeling for all products in its stores.

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Why do we hate debt collectors? Mistaken identity

You expect to hear from a debt collector when you don't pay your bills. But what do you do when you get calls or letters from a collection agency for a debt you don't owe?

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

New Report Analyzes Complaints About Credit Bureaus

WASHINGTON— According to new analysis from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, thousands of consumers with errors on their credit reports are getting relief through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The report also found that credit reporting agencies vary widely in how they respond to consumer complaints: Equifax responded to over half with relief, while Experian responded with relief to only 5 percent. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

160,000 Tell D.O.J. to Prevent JPMorgan Tax Deduction for Mortgage Wrongs

U.S. PIRG delivered 160,000 petitions to the Department of Justice demanding that they do not allow JPMorgan to write off their expected $9 billion settlement for mortgage lending abuses on their taxes. If the bank is allowed to deduct the settlement, over $3 billion in costs could shift to taxpayers.

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Media Hit | Tax

JPMorgan pact draws fire

The $13 billion settlement with JPMorgan Chase is drawing some bipartisan fire in Congress where lawmakers say it could leave taxpayers on the hook.

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Media Hit | Tax

Tax Breaks for Corporate Wrongdoing, Part 1: The FTC

The Federal Trade Commission should be set up to ensure that corporate wrongdoers don't get a tax break for their misdeeds.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Demos | Democracy

Distorted Democracy: Post-Election Spending Analysis

A new analysis of data through Election Day from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and other sources by U.S. PIRG and Demos shows how big outside spenders drowned out small contributions in 2012: just 61 large donors to Super PACs giving an average of $4.7 million each matched the $285.2 million in grassroots contributions from more than 1,425,500 small donors to the major party presidential candidates. 

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

Total Food Recall

This report is a snapshot look, from January 2011 to September 2012, at recalls that were directly linked to identified incidents of foodborne illness.  Failures in the rules and processes that protect our food supply have led to numerous high-volume recalls over the past two years that left many Americans sickened and at least 37 dead.  And the economic costs of the illnesses caused by food products recalled over the past 21 months come to over $225 million.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Demos | Democracy

Million-Dollar Megaphones

Although each major party presidential candidate will likely break previous fundraising records, the big story of the 2012 election has been the role of Super PACs, nonprofits and outside spending generally. Demos and U.S. PIRG Education Fund analyzed Federal Election Commission (FEC) data and secondary sources on outside spending and Super PAC fundraising for the first two quarters of the 2012 election cycle.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Food

Apples to Twinkies 2012

In this report, we find that in 2011, over $1.28 billion in taxpayer subsidies went to junk food ingredients, bringing the total to a staggering $18.2 billion since 1995. To put that figure in perspective, $18.2 billion is enough to buy 2.9 billion Twinkies every year - 21 for every single American taxpayer. 

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Higher Ed

The Campus Debit Card Trap

Banks and other financial firms are taking advantage of a variety of opportunities to form partnerships with colleges and universities to produce campus student ID cards and to offer student aid disbursements on debit or prepaid cards. In addition to on-campus services, such as student ID functions offered on the card, some cards offer traditional debit card services linked to bank accounts; other cards provide additional reloadable prepaid card functions. The disbursement of financial aid and university refunds is the most significant partnership identified.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

For its own first birthday, CFPB sends gifts to consumers | Ed Mierzwinski

Tomorrow, Saturday, July 21, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau turns one year old. To celebrate its own birthday, the CFPB sent consumers some gifts this week.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB Fines Capital One For Deceptively Marketing Junky Payment Protection, Credit Monitoring to Cardholders | Ed Mierzwinski

(UPDATED): The CFPB, which turns one on Saturday, is coming of age with the announcement of its first enforcement action, against Capital One Bank, for deceptive marketing of junky payment protection and credit monitoring products to cardholders. Capital One will pay over $200 million in direct restitution and civil penalties.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB Issues Rule Regulating Big Credit Bureaus | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, as expected, the CFPB announced its first "larger participants" rule, giving itself the authority to supervise, or look inside the mysterious "black box" operations, of the biggest credit bureaus. This is a really big deal for consumers who've suffered through the mistakes made by these gatekeepers to financial and employment opportunity.

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Blog Post | Transportation

New TIFIA Rules Will Hurt the Public | Phineas Baxandall

This commentary, cross-posted on the National Journal Transportation Expert blog, explains why the new rules for the greatly expanded federal transportation loan program will encourage private toll roads at the expense of transit and everything else because it ignores the important indirect costs and benefits of transportation investments.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Arbitration: it's not just bad for you, it's bad for fair arbitrators, too | Ed Mierzwinski

A Bloomberg columnist is reporting that the securities industry's self-regulator FINRA has fired 3 arbitrators who ruled against BofA's Merrill Lynch in favor of a presumably grievously ripped-off investor (they rarely win). It's time for both the SEC, for investors, and the CFPB, for consumers, to step up and use their Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act powers to ban forced arbitration.

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