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Cash rich lenders bankroll Japan Inc's shopping spree

Flush with cash from the Bank of Japan (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 8301.T-JP)‘s (BOJ) stimulus effort, lenders won’t be put off from financing Japan Inc’s habit of paying too much for overseas acquisitions, even as a weaker yen makes those deals more expensive, analysts say.

“The banks need someone to lend to and M&A (merger and acquisition) financing is one of the few growth areas for them,” said Barclays (London Stock Exchange: BARC-GB) bank analyst Shinichi Tamura. As long as a company “looks creditworthy enough to pay back the loan, the banks will be happy to back the deal.”

Deal volumes sank to a twelve-year low in 2014, but a recent flurry of M&A deals suggests Japanese companies are ready to shop overseas again.

Last week, Japan Post made a $5.12 billion bid for Australia’s Toll Holdings (ASX: TOL-AU). On Monday, chemicals company Asahi Kasei (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 3407.T-JP) announced it would buy U.S.-based Polypore (NYSE: PPO)‘s energy storage business for $2.2 billion. On Tuesday, Hitachi (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 6501.T-JP) announced it would buy Finmeccanica (Milan Stock Exchange: FNC-IT)‘s transportation operations for 800 million euros ($909 million).

Whether the companies pay too much for overseas acquisitions is not the banks’ problem, according to Japan Macro Advisors chief economist Takuji Okubo: “That’s the company’s problem – the banks only care about the creditworthiness of the acquirer’s parent company.”

Desperate for borrowers

Japanese banks have faced a predicament for years: despite low interest rates, they can’t find enough borrowers.

The situation took a turn for the worse after the BOJ launched an unprecedented asset purchase program in April 2013. The program involves buying government bonds – the main source of yield income in the past for banks. Yields have trended ever lower but failed to stimulate any new demand for loans.

As a result, margins on bank loans in Japan continue to skim record lows. For example, the lending rate on domestic loans at Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 8306.T-JP), one of the country’s biggest banks, slipped to 1.10 percent in the last three months of 2014, from around 1.3 percent in early 2013, before the BOJ started its massive asset purchase program.

Read More Is Japan Post overpaying for Toll?

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Flush with cash from the Bank of Japan’s stimulus effort, lenders will keep on financing Japan I …

That makes shorter M&A financing package loans that carry higher risk premiums and yields more attractive for banks, said Barclays’ Tamura. A typical loan will be rolled over into a three- to five-year syndicated loan, he said.

“The banks are desperate and are willing to take on the risks,” said Japan Macro Advisors’ Okubo.

But banks aren’t overly concerned about the risk factor.

“Private sector banks believe the loans carry implicit government guarantees” because public sector banks like Japan Bank for International Cooperation lead the M&A financing consortiums, Okubo said.

Race against time

Japanese companies may not need to worry about financing their overseas shopping sprees, but they should worry about the potential for further yen weakness, analysts said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policies, dubbed Abenomics, and the BOJ’s quantitative easing efforts have weakened the yen by over 40 percent since Abe returned to power in December 2012. Many analysts expect the yen to weaken further.

“It makes sense for companies to be pre-emptive and do deals before the yen weakens anymore,” said BNP Paribas chief credit analyst Mana Nakazora.

Given strong cash balance sheets and a shrinking domestic market, that appears likely, according to PwC Corporate Finance director Gregory Bournet. He expects the number of outbound M&A deals to rise to 20 percent of all deals in fiscal 2015 from 10 percent in 2014.

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Stewart Information Services to Increase Annual Cash Dividend to $1.00

HOUSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–

Stewart Information Services Corp. (STC) (“Stewart”), a leading provider of real estate services, including global residential and commercial title insurance, escrow and settlement services, lender services, underwriting, specialty insurance and other solutions that facilitate successful real estate transactions, today announced that its Board of Directors has approved an increase in the Company’s cash dividend payable to common shareholders from $0.10 per share annually to $1.00 per share to be paid quarterly at a rate of $0.25 per share beginning in the second quarter of this year. The Company’s existing share repurchase authorization will remain in effect and be used opportunistically based on various factors such as the Company’s stock price, operational performance and other relevant criteria.

“Today’s dividend increase highlights the solid progress we have made toward transforming Stewart and reflects our confidence in the Company’s ability to deliver solid cash flow in 2015 and beyond,” said Matthew W. Morris, Chief Executive Officer. “We continue to engage our shareholders regarding our capital return strategy. Given the continued progress in our business, we are pleased to be in a position to advance a competitive and sustainable dividend policy alongside our share repurchase program. Going forward, we will remain committed to returning meaningful amounts of capital to shareholders on a regular basis while also maintaining our ratings and a capital base that supports the growth in our business.”

The continuation of the quarterly cash dividend is subject to certain factors, including, among others, the ability to obtain excess capital from Stewart’s regulated insurance subsidiary, the performance of the Company’s business, the Company’s ratings and the capital surplus position of the Company.

About Stewart

Stewart Information Services Corp. (NYSE:STC) is a customer-focused, global title insurance and real estate services company offering products and services through our direct operations, network of approved agencies and other companies within the Stewart family. Stewart provides these services to homebuyers and sellers; residential and commercial real estate professionals; mortgage lenders and servicers; title agencies and real estate attorneys; home builders; and United States and county governments. Stewart also provides loan origination and servicing support; loan review services; loss mitigation; REO asset management; collateral valuations; due diligence for capital markets; home and personal insurance services; tax-deferred exchanges; and technology to streamline the real estate process. Stewart offers personalized service, industry expertise and customized solutions for virtually any type of real estate transaction, and is the preferred real estate services provider. More information can be found at http://www.stewart.com/news, subscribe to the Stewart blog at http://blog.stewart.com or follow Stewart on Twitter @stewarttitleco.

Forward-looking statements

Certain statements in this news release are “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Such forward-looking statements relate to future, not past, events and often address our expected future business and financial performance. These statements often contain words such as “expect,” “anticipate,” “intend,” “plan,” “believe,” “seek,” “will,” “foresee” or other similar words. Forward-looking statements by their nature are subject to various risks and uncertainties that could cause our actual results to be materially different than those expressed in the forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include, among other things, the tenuous economic conditions; adverse changes in the level of real estate activity; changes in mortgage interest rates, existing and new home sales, and availability of mortgage financing; our ability to respond to and implement technology changes, including the completion of the implementation of our enterprise systems; the impact of unanticipated title losses or the need to strengthen our policy loss reserves; any effect of title losses on our cash flows and financial condition; the impact of vetting our agency operations for quality and profitability; changes to the participants in the secondary mortgage market and the rate of refinancing that affects the demand for title insurance products; regulatory non-compliance, fraud or defalcations by our title insurance agencies or employees; our ability to timely and cost-effectively respond to significant industry changes and introduce new products and services; the outcome of pending litigation; the impact of changes in governmental and insurance regulations, including any future reductions in the pricing of title insurance products and services; our dependence on our operating subsidiaries as a source of cash flow; the continued realization of expense savings from our cost management program; our ability to successfully integrate acquired businesses; our ability to access the equity and debt financing markets when and if needed; our ability to grow our international operations; and our ability to respond to the actions of our competitors. These risks and uncertainties, as well as others, are discussed in more detail in our documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including the Form 10-K, our quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, and our Current Reports on Form 8-K. We expressly disclaim any obligation to update any forward-looking statements contained in this news release to reflect events or circumstances that may arise after the date hereof, except as may be required by applicable law.

Trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

FinanceInvestment & Company Informationreal estate Contact:

Stewart Information Services Corp.

John Arcidiacono, 713-625-8019

Chief Marketing Officer

jarcidia@stewart.com

Nat Otis, 713-625-8360

Director-Investor Relations

nat.otis@stewart.com […]

Wonga to cut third of staff following new clampdown on payday …

Wonga is slashing about a third of its workforce to cut costs as it responds to a wider clampdown on unfair practices in the payday lending market.

The controversial lender said 325 jobs would go, mainly in the UK and Ireland. Wonga’s Dublin office will close as part of the plans, as will its office in Tel Aviv.

Related: Payday lending will shrink but only a complete ban will do

Andy Haste, the lender’s chairman, said: “Wonga can no longer sustain its high cost base, which must be significantly reduced to reflect our evolving business and market.

“Regrettably, this means we’ve had to take tough but necessary decisions about the size of our workforce. We appreciate how difficult this period will be for all of our colleagues and we’ll support them throughout the consultation process.”

Wonga’s decision to cut jobs came on the same day that the Competition and Markets Authority announced new rules to force payday lenders into being more transparent about their charges. The CMA is hoping that it will create more competition in the market, lowering costs for millions of consumers who rely on the loans.

Wonga employs a total of 950 people worldwide, but all the job losses relate to its UK payday loans business, which employs 650 people – about 280 in the UK, 175 in Ireland, 185 in South Africa and 10 in Israel.

It is understood about 100 jobs will go in the UK alone. All jobs will go in Ireland and Israel.

The group is aiming to achieve overall cost savings of at least £25m over the next two years, following a period of rapid expansion that saw costs treble between 2012 and 2014.

When Haste was appointed chairman last July, he said Wonga would become smaller and less profitable as it scaled back the number of customers it extended loans to, imposing stricter lending criteria.

In October the company was forced by the City watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority, to write off £220m of loans to 375,000 borrowers, who it admitted should never have been given loans.

Wonga also announced on Tuesday that its former chairman Robin Klein was stepping down from the board after eight years.

The payday loans industry is undergoing a major shakeup as regulators seek to make the market fairer for cash-strapped consumers.

Under the new rules announced on Tuesday, lenders will have to list their deals on price-comparison websites and make it easier for customers to compare the total cost of different loans offered by various lenders.

Payday lenders will also have to provide customers with a summary of the total cost of their loans, as well as how additional fees such as late repayment affect the cost.

The recommendations were made after a 20-month inquiry into the payday loans industry by the CMA.

The watchdog concluded that a lack of price competition between lenders had driven costs higher for borrowers, with most people failing to shop around partly owing to a lack of clear information on charges.

Simon Polito, who ran the inquiry, said: “We expect that millions of customers will continue to rely on payday loans. Most customers take out several loans a year and the total cost of paying too much for payday loans can build up over time.”

The CMA’s decision follows an earlier clampdown by the UK financial regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

The authority introduced a price cap on 2 January to ensure that borrowers are never forced to repay more than double the amount of their original loan.

Interest and fees were capped at 0.8% a day, lowering the cost for most borrowers, while the total cost of a loan was limited to 100% of the original sum. Default fees were to be capped at £15 to protect people struggling to repay their debts.

Polito said: “The FCA’s price cap will reduce the overall level of prices and the scale of the price differentials but we want to ensure more competition so that the cap does not simply become the benchmark price set by lenders for payday loans.

“We think costs can be driven lower and want to ensure that customers are able to take advantage of price competition to further reduce the cost of their loans. Only price competition will incentivise lenders to reduce the cost borrowers pay for their loans.”

Joanna Elson, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust charity, welcomed the action from the CMA and FCA but added a note of caution: “This is good news for the consumer. More competition and transparency in the payday loan market will ensure that the FCA’s cap on the cost of credit remains precisely that– a cap, not the norm.

“This is a good example of regulators working together to bring about meaningful change in this sector. However, these improvements in the way that payday loans are regulated must not dilute the core message that payday lending remains an extremely expensive way to borrow,” she said.

Payday lenders will be forced to publish the details of their products on at least one price comparison website, authorised by the FCA. The CMA said on Tuesday it would work closely with the FCA to implement the new recommendations.

[…]

Bipartisan bill puts payday loan industry before people | The Stand

Image moneytree-payday-loans.jpg

By JOHN BURBANK


(Feb. 12, 2015) — If your friend told you that she could get a payday loan of $700, and that the interest would be 36%, plus a small loan origination fee of 15%, plus a monthly maintenance fee of 7.5%, you might advise her to get out her calculator. Here’s why: That $700 loan could cost her $1,687, even if she makes all her payments on time. Right now, under state law, she can get the same loan and it will cost her $795 in all.

Which loan would you choose? That seems like an easy question to answer. But a lot of legislators have failed this test in Olympia. They are sponsoring a bill, HB 1922, to enable MoneyTree to sell “small consumer installment loans,” with high interest, maintenance fees, and origination fees.

Why would these legislators — 36 in the House and 12 in the Senate, both Democrats and Republicans — want to enhance the revenue of the payday loan industry? State Rep. Larry Springer (D-Kirkland) is the prime sponsor of this legislation. He says that “(o)ur current payday lending system is broken. Too often it leaves consumers in a never-ending cycle of debt.”

Unfortunately, HB 1922 makes matters worse, not better, for borrowers.

Rep. Springer may not know how well the law that he helped pass in 2009 reformed payday loan practices. That law leashed in the payday loan industry, with new standards that helped to make sure that people with loans did not get pushed deeper and deeper into debt. The industry didn’t like it, as the total amount of loans fell by more than $1 billion, from $1.3 billion in 2009 to $300 million in 2013. The amount of fees that the industry collected dropped by $136 million annually. The number of payday loan storefronts has fallen from over 600 in 2009 to less than 200 now. The total number of loans has fallen from 3.2 million in 2009 to 870,000 in 2013. That’s a lot of money for people to keep in their communities, rather than giving it to MoneyTree.

But very quietly last year, the owners and executive staff of MoneyTree, principally the Bassford family, dropped $81,700 in campaign contributions to both Democrats and Republicans. Many of the beneficiaries of this largesse are sponsoring the MoneyTree bill, HB 1922. In fact, the chief sponsor in the Senate, Sen. Marko Liias (D-Edmonds) received $3,800 from the Bassfords.

What would be the result of the bill that Rep. Springer and Sen. Liias are pushing? For a $700 loan, what now costs a total of $795 could cost $1,687. The poor person (literally) who gets this loan would end up paying $252 in interest, $105 in origination fees, and $630 in monthly maintenance fees, as well as, of course, the original one-year loan of $700. From 2017 on, the fees on these loans will be automatically raised through the consumer price index.

MoneyTree’s investment of $81,700 in campaigns could result in literally hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. That’s quite a cost-benefit equation for the Bassfords. How about the working people who take out these loans? Their average monthly income is $2,934, or about $35,000 a year. With this bill, legislators punish the already poor for being poor, while enhancing the wealth of the payday loan perpetrators.

The legislation pretends to be helpful to borrowers by requiring this notice to be included in loan documents: “A SMALL CONSUMER INSTALLMENT LOAN SHOULD BE USED ONLY TO MEET SHORT-TERM CASH NEEDS.” Now isn’t that helpful! What is not helpful is that this bill was scheduled to be voted out of committee Thursday, even before the committee heard the bill on Wednesday, and even before any bill analysis was developed by legislative staff.

Our current payday loan system may be broken from MoneyTree’s perspective. But, while it is not perfect for low-income borrowers, it works, and it is a lot better than the previous system. Perhaps some responsible legislators will slow down the fast-track on the MoneyTree bill, and put people ahead of MoneyTree profits.


John Burbank is the executive director and founder of the Economic Opportunity Institute in Seattle. John can be reached at john@eoionline.org.

[…]

Rules are coming on payday loans

WASHINGTON — Troubled by consumer complaints and loopholes in state laws, federal regulators are putting together the first rules on payday loans aimed at helping cash-strapped borrowers avoid falling into a cycle of high-rate debt.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says state laws governing the $46 billion payday lending industry often fall short, and that fuller disclosures of the interest and fees — often an annual percentage rate of 300 percent or more — may be needed.

Full details of the proposed rules, expected early this year, would mark the first time the agency has used the authority it was given under the 2010 Dodd-Frank law to regulate payday loans. In recent months, it has tried to step up enforcement, including a $10 million settlement with ACE Cash Express after accusing the payday lender of harassing borrowers to collect debts and take out multiple loans.

A payday loan, or a cash advance, is generally $500 or less. Borrowers provide a personal check dated on their next payday for the full balance or give the lender permission to debit their bank accounts. The total includes charges often ranging from $15 to $30 per $100 borrowed. Interest-only payments, sometimes referred to as “rollovers,” are common.

Legislators in Ohio, Louisiana and South Dakota unsuccessfully tried to broadly restrict the high-cost loans in recent months. According to the Consumer Federation of America, 32 states now permit payday loans at triple-digit interest rates, or with no rate cap at all.

The CFPB isn’t allowed under the law to cap interest rates, but it can deem industry practices unfair, deceptive or abusive to consumers.

“Our research has found that what is supposed to be a short-term emergency loan can turn into a long-term and expensive debt trap,” said David Silberman, the bureau’s associate director for research, markets and regulation.

The bureau found more than 80 percent of payday loans are rolled over or followed by another loan within 14 days; half of all payday loans are in a sequence at least 10 loans long.

The agency is considering options that include establishing tighter rules to ensure a consumer has the ability to repay. That could mean requiring credit checks, placing caps on the number of times a borrower can draw credit or finding ways to encourage states or lenders to lower rates.

Payday lenders say they fill a vital need for people who hit a rough financial patch. They want a more equal playing field of rules for both nonbanks and banks, including the way the annual percentage rate is figured.

“We offer a service that, if managed correctly, can be very helpful to a diminished middle class,” said Dennis Shaul, chief executive of the Community Financial Services Association of America, which represents payday lenders.

Maranda Brooks, 40, a records coordinator at a Cleveland college, says she took out a $500 loan through her bank to help pay an electricity bill. With “no threat of loan sharks coming to my house, breaking kneecaps,” she joked, Brooks agreed to the $50 fee.

Two weeks later, Brooks says she was surprised to see the full $550 deducted from her usual $800 paycheck. To cover expenses for herself and four children, she took out another loan, in a debt cycle that lasted nearly a year.

“It was a nightmare of going around and around,” said Brooks, who believes that lenders could do more to help borrowers understand the fees or offer lower-cost installment payments.

Last June, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld a legal maneuver used by payday lenders to skirt a 2008 law that capped the payday loan interest rate at 28 percent annually. By comparison, annual percentage rates on credit cards can range from about 12 percent to 30 percent.

Members of Congress also are looking at payday loans.

Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the top Democrat on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, plans legislation that would allow Americans to receive an early refund of a portion of their earned income tax credit as an alternative to a payday loan.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., wants the U.S. Postal Service to offer check-cashing and low-cost small loans. The idea is opposed by many banks and seems unlikely to advance in a Republican-controlled Congress.

[…]

Tighter payday loan rules intended to shield debtors | TribLIVE

WASHINGTON — Troubled by consumer complaints and loopholes in state laws, federal regulators are putting together the first rules on payday loans aimed at helping cash-strapped borrowers avoid falling into a cycle of high-rate debt.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said state laws governing the $46 billion payday lending industry often fall short and that fuller disclosures of the interest and fees — often an annual percentage rate of 300 percent or more — may be needed.

Details of the proposed rules, expected early this year, would mark the first time the agency has used the authority it was given under the 2010 Dodd-Frank law to regulate payday loans. In recent months, it has tried to step up enforcement, including a $10 million settlement with ACE Cash Express, accusing the payday lender of harassing borrowers to collect debts and take out multiple loans.

A payday loan, or a cash advance, is generally $500 or less. Borrowers provide a personal check dated on their next payday for the full balance or give the lender permission to debit their bank accounts. The total includes charges often ranging from $15 to $30 per $100 borrowed. Interest-only payments, sometimes referred to as “rollovers,” are common.

Legislators in Ohio, Louisiana and South Dakota unsuccessfully tried to broadly restrict the high-cost loans in recent months. According to the Consumer Federation of America, 32 states now permit payday loans at triple-digit interest rates, or with no rate cap.

“Our research has found that what is supposed to be a short-term emergency loan can turn into a long-term and expensive debt trap,” said David Silberman, the bureau’s associate director for research, markets and regulation.

The agency is considering options that include establishing tighter rules to ensure a consumer has the ability to repay. That could mean requiring credit checks, placing caps on the number of times a borrower can draw credit or finding ways to encourage states or lenders to lower rates.

Payday lenders say they fill a vital need for people who hit a rough financial patch. They want a more equal playing field of rules for both nonbanks and banks, including the way the annual percentage rate is figured.

“We offer a service that, if managed correctly, can be very helpful to a diminished middle class,” said Dennis Shaul, chief executive of the Community Financial Services Association of America, which represents payday lenders.

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[…]

Federal regulators plan payday loan rules to protect borrowers

Thumbnail

A payday loans sign in the window of Speedy Cash, London, December 25, 2013. For the first time, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau plans to regulate payday loans using authority it was given under the Dodd-Frank law. Photo by Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters.

WASHINGTON — Troubled by consumer complaints and loopholes in state laws, federal regulators are putting together the first-ever rules on payday loans aimed at helping cash-strapped borrowers avoid falling into a cycle of high-rate debt.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says state laws governing the $46 billion payday lending industry often fall short, and that fuller disclosures of the interest and fees – often an annual percentage rate of 300 percent or more – may be needed.

Full details of the proposed rules, expected early this year, would mark the first time the agency has used the authority it was given under the 2010 Dodd-Frank law to regulate payday loans. In recent months, it has tried to step up enforcement, including a $10 million settlement with ACE Cash Express after accusing the payday lender of harassing borrowers to collect debts and take out multiple loans.

A payday loan, or a cash advance, is generally $500 or less. Borrowers provide a personal check dated on their next payday for the full balance or give the lender permission to debit their bank accounts. The total includes charges often ranging from $15 to $30 per $100 borrowed. Interest-only payments, sometimes referred to as “rollovers,” are common.

Legislators in Ohio, Louisiana and South Dakota unsuccessfully tried to broadly restrict the high-cost loans in recent months. According to the Consumer Federation of America, 32 states now permit payday loans at triple-digit interest rates, or with no rate cap at all.

The CFPB isn’t allowed under the law to cap interest rates, but it can deem industry practices unfair, deceptive or abusive to consumers.

“Our research has found that what is supposed to be a short-term emergency loan can turn into a long-term and expensive debt trap,” said David Silberman, the bureau’s associate director for research, markets and regulation. The bureau found more than 80 percent of payday loans are rolled over or followed by another loan within 14 days; half of all payday loans are in a sequence at least 10 loans long.

The agency is considering options that include establishing tighter rules to ensure a consumer has the ability to repay. That could mean requiring credit checks, placing caps on the number of times a borrower can draw credit or finding ways to encourage states or lenders to lower rates.

Payday lenders say they fill a vital need for people who hit a rough financial patch. They want a more equal playing field of rules for both nonbanks and banks, including the way the annual percentage rate is figured.

“We offer a service that, if managed correctly, can be very helpful to a diminished middle class,” said Dennis Shaul, chief executive of the Community Financial Services Association of America, which represents payday lenders.

Maranda Brooks, 40, a records coordinator at a Cleveland college, says she took out a $500 loan through her bank to help pay an electricity bill. With “no threat of loan sharks coming to my house, breaking kneecaps,” she joked, Brooks agreed to the $50 fee.

Two weeks later, Brooks says she was surprised to see the full $550 deducted from her usual $800 paycheck. To cover expenses for herself and four children, she took out another loan, in a debt cycle that lasted nearly a year.

“It was a nightmare of going around and around,” said Brooks, who believes that lenders could do more to help borrowers understand the fees or offer lower-cost installment payments.

Last June, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld a legal maneuver used by payday lenders to skirt a 2008 law that capped the payday loan interest rate at 28 percent annually. By comparison, annual percentage rates on credit cards can range from about 12 percent to 30 percent.

Members of Congress also are looking at payday loans.

Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the top Democrat on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, plans legislation that would allow Americans to receive an early refund of a portion of their earned income tax credit as an alternative to a payday loan.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., wants the U.S. Postal Service to offer check-cashing and low-cost small loans. The idea is opposed by many banks and seems unlikely to advance in a Republican-controlled Congress.

[…]

Regulators prepare rules on payday loans to shield borrowers

WASHINGTON (AP) — Troubled by consumer complaints and loopholes in state laws, federal regulators are putting together the first-ever rules on payday loans aimed at helping cash-strapped borrowers avoid falling into a cycle of high-rate debt.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says state laws governing the $46 billion payday lending industry often fall short, and that fuller disclosures of the interest and fees — often an annual percentage rate of 300 percent or more — may be needed.

Full details of the proposed rules, expected early this year, would mark the first time the agency has used the authority it was given under the 2010 Dodd-Frank law to regulate payday loans. In recent months, it has tried to step up enforcement, including a $10 million settlement with ACE Cash Express after accusing the payday lender of harassing borrowers to collect debts and take out multiple loans.

A payday loan, or a cash advance, is generally $500 or less. Borrowers provide a personal check dated on their next payday for the full balance or give the lender permission to debit their bank accounts. The total includes charges often ranging from $15 to $30 per $100 borrowed. Interest-only payments, sometimes referred to as “rollovers,” are common.

Legislators in Ohio, Louisiana and South Dakota unsuccessfully tried to broadly restrict the high-cost loans in recent months. According to the Consumer Federation of America, 32 states now permit payday loans at triple-digit interest rates, or with no rate cap at all.

The CFPB isn’t allowed under the law to cap interest rates, but it can deem industry practices unfair, deceptive or abusive to consumers.

“Our research has found that what is supposed to be a short-term emergency loan can turn into a long-term and expensive debt trap,” said David Silberman, the bureau’s associate director for research, markets and regulation. The bureau found more than 80 percent of payday loans are rolled over or followed by another loan within 14 days; half of all payday loans are in a sequence at least 10 loans long.

The agency is considering options that include establishing tighter rules to ensure a consumer has the ability to repay. That could mean requiring credit checks, placing caps on the number of times a borrower can draw credit or finding ways to encourage states or lenders to lower rates.

Payday lenders say they fill a vital need for people who hit a rough financial patch. They want a more equal playing field of rules for both nonbanks and banks, including the way the annual percentage rate is figured.

“We offer a service that, if managed correctly, can be very helpful to a diminished middle class,” said Dennis Shaul, chief executive of the Community Financial Services Association of America, which represents payday lenders.

Maranda Brooks, 40, a records coordinator at a Cleveland college, says she took out a $500 loan through her bank to help pay an electricity bill. With “no threat of loan sharks coming to my house, breaking kneecaps,” she joked, Brooks agreed to the $50 fee.

Two weeks later, Brooks says she was surprised to see the full $550 deducted from her usual $800 paycheck. To cover expenses for herself and four children, she took out another loan, in a debt cycle that lasted nearly a year.

“It was a nightmare of going around and around,” said Brooks, who believes that lenders could do more to help borrowers understand the fees or offer lower-cost installment payments.

Last June, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld a legal maneuver used by payday lenders to skirt a 2008 law that capped the payday loan interest rate at 28 percent annually. By comparison, annual percentage rates on credit cards can range from about 12 percent to 30 percent.

Members of Congress also are looking at payday loans.

Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the top Democrat on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, plans legislation that would allow Americans to receive an early refund of a portion of their earned income tax credit as an alternative to a payday loan.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., wants the U.S. Postal Service to offer check-cashing and low-cost small loans. The idea is opposed by many banks and seems unlikely to advance in a Republican-controlled Congress.

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Rangers agree to £10m Sports Direct loan

The cash-strapped Rangers board has agreed a £10m emergency loan deal with Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct firm, the Scottish soccer club told the London Stock Exchange today.

Without the injection of fresh funding, the Ibrox outfit would not have been able to cover pay checks due to be delivered on Thursday.

The loan will be secured against Murray Park, Edmiston House, Albion Car Park, and the club’s registered trademarks – but not Ibrox.

The move spells the end of attempts by the Three Bears – wealthy fans Douglas Park, George Letham and George Taylor – to have their own loan offer accepted.

It was their promise to match Ashley’s deal while demanding Ibrox remained unsecured that forced the Newcastle United owner to drop the stadium from the terms of his agreement.

In return for the money – which will be paid to Rangers in two £5m tranches – Ashley will be able to nominate two more directors to the board.

His associates Derek Llambias and Barry Leach are already serving as chief executive and financial director.

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Rangers considering using Ibrox as security against new loan

LONDON (Reuters) – Scotland’s Rangers football club, battling to raise cash to stay afloat, said on Monday it was in talks to agree new funding which could use the club’s Ibrox stadium as security.

Rangers, the 54-times Scottish champions who had to reform as a fourth-tier club in 2012 after being wound up, said it was in talks with two of its stakeholders about raising funds to bolster the team, and that part of a deal could include using Ibrox as protection.

“Such a decision would not be taken lightly,” said the club.

According to media reports, two stakeholders – Sports Direct founder and Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, and a wealthy consortium called the Three Bears – are separately ready to provide 10 million pound loans, with Ashley reported to want Ibrox as protection.

Rangers, which have also recently rejected two takeover deals, said it continued to need further, urgent short-term funding but that at the current time its assets, cash flow and business did not support a significant financing, leaving the stadium deal as an increasingly viable option.

It said it could also not issue shares in the club in the timeframe required.

In a separate statement, former Rangers director Dave King, whose New Oasis Asset Management vehicle owns almost 15 percent of the club, called for a general meeting to put forward resolutions for the removal of several directors.

King wants Chairman David Somers, CEO Derek Llambias, Finance Chief Barry Leach and James Easdale to be removed and himself and two others to be appointed directors. Rangers said it intended to have the notice withdrawn to avoid extra costs.

“In the meantime the directors will not be distracted from the more important matter of securing the future of the business,” it said.

(Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Neil Maidment)

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