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Texas Is Throwing People In Jail For Failing To Pay Back Predatory …

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At least six people have been jailed in Texas over the past two years for owing money on payday loans, according to a damning new analysis of public court records.

The economic advocacy group Texas Appleseed found that more than 1,500 debtors have been hit with criminal charges in the state — even though Texas enacted a law in 2012 explicitly prohibiting lenders from using criminal charges to collect debts.

According to Appleseed’s review, 1,576 criminal complaints were issued against debtors in eight Texas counties between 2012 and 2014. These complaints were often filed by courts with minimal review and based solely on the payday lender’s word and frequently flimsy evidence. As a result, borrowers have been forced to repay at least $166,000, the group found.

Appleseed included this analysis in a Dec. 17 letter sent to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Texas attorney general’s office and several other government entities.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Using criminal courts as debt collection agencies is against federal law, the Texas constitution and the state’s penal code. To clarify the state law, in 2012 the Texas legislature passed legislation that explicitly describes the circumstances under which lenders are prohibited from pursuing criminal charges against borrowers.

It’s quite simple: In Texas, failure to repay a loan is a civil, not a criminal, matter. Payday lenders cannot pursue criminal charges against borrowers unless fraud or another crime is clearly established.

In 2013, a devastating Texas Observer investigation documented widespread use of criminal charges against borrowers before the clarification to state law was passed.

Nevertheless, Texas Appleseed’s new analysis shows that payday lenders continue to routinely press dubious criminal charges against borrowers.

Ms. Jones, a 71-year-old who asked that her first name not be published in order to protect her privacy, was one of those 1,576 cases. (The Huffington Post reviewed and confirmed the court records associated with her case.) On March 3, 2012, Jones borrowed $250 from an Austin franchise of Cash Plus, a payday lender, after losing her job as a receptionist.

Four months later, she owed almost $1,000 and faced the possibility of jail time if she didn’t pay up.

The issue for Ms. Jones — and most other payday borrowers who face criminal charges — came down to a check. It’s standard practice at payday lenders for borrowers to leave either a check or a bank account number to obtain a loan. These checks and debit authorizations are the backbone of the payday lending system. They’re also the backbone of most criminal charges against payday borrowers.

Ms. Jones initially obtained her loan by writing Cash Plus a check for $271.91 — the full amount of the loan plus interest and fees — with the understanding that the check was not to be cashed unless she failed to make her payments. The next month, when the loan came due, Jones didn’t have the money to pay in full. She made a partial payment, rolling over the loan for another month and asking if she could create a payment plan to pay back the remainder. But Jones told HuffPost that CashPlus rejected her request and instead deposited her initial check.

Jones’ check to Cash Plus was returned with a notice that her bank account had been closed. She was then criminally charged with bad check writing. Thanks to county fines, Jones now owed $918.91 — just four months after she had borrowed $250.

In Texas, bad check writing and “theft by check” are Class B misdemeanors, punishable by up to 180 days in jail as well as potential fines and additional consequences. In the typical “hot check” case, a person writes a check that they know will bounce in order to buy something.

But Texas law is clear that checks written to secure a payday loan, like Jones’, are not “hot checks.” If the lender cashes the check when the loan is due and it bounces, the assumption isn’t that the borrower stole money by writing a hot check –- it’s just that they can’t repay their loan.

That doesn’t mean that loan transactions are exempt from Texas criminal law. However, the intent of the 2012 clarification to state law is that a bounced check written to a payday lender alone cannot justify criminal charges.

Yet in Texas, criminal charges are frequently substantiated by little more than the lender’s word and evidence that is often inadequate. For instance, the criminal complaint against Jones simply includes a photocopy of her bounced check.

Making matters worse, Texas Justice of the Peace courts, which handle claims under $10,000, appear to be rubber-stamping bad check affidavits as they receive them and indiscriminately filing criminal charges. Once the charges are filed, the borrower must enter a plea or face an arrest warrant. If the borrower pleads guilty, they must pay a fine on top of the amount owed to the lender.

Jones moved after she borrowing from Cash Plus, so she did not get notice of the charges by mail. Instead, a county constable showed up at her new address. Jones said she was terrified and embarrassed by the charges. She had to enter a plea in the case or else face an arrest warrant and possible jail time. In addition to the fines, Jones was unable to renew her driver’s license until the case was resolved.

Craig Wells, the president and CEO of Cash Plus, which is based in California but has about 100 franchises in 13 states, told HuffPost that “this was the first I’ve heard of this case.” He said that the company instructs its franchises to adhere to all state laws and regulations. On the company’s website, Wells says his goal is for Cash Plus to be “as-close-to-perfect-a-business-as-one-can-get,” adding that the company’s “top-notch customer experience keeps them coming back over and over again. ”

Emilio Herrera, the Cash Plus franchisee who submitted the affidavit against Jones, told HuffPost that he does not remember her case. But he added that he tries to work out payment plans with all his customers, and that it is common for his customers to pay back loans in very small increments.

In response to a request for comment from HuffPost about Appleseed’s letter, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau spokesman Sam Gilford said, “Consumers should not be subjected to illegal threats when they are struggling to pay their bills, and lenders should not expect to break the law without consequences.”

One reason that lenders’ predatory behavior continues is simple administrative overload. Travis County Justice of the Peace Susan Steeg, who approved the charges against Jones, told HuffPost that due to the volume of bad check affidavits her court receives, her office has been instructed by the county attorney to file charges as affidavits are submitted. The charges are then passed along to the county attorney’s office. It is up to the county attorney to review the cases and decide whether to prosecute or dismiss them.

But Travis County Attorney David Escamilla told HuffPost that his office had never instructed the Justice of the Peace courts to approve all bad check complaints, and said he did not know why or where Steeg would have gotten that understanding. “We don’t do it,” Escamilla said, referring to the usage of the criminal hot checks process to enforce the terms of lending agreements.

When cases are wrongfully filed by payday lenders, how quickly they are dismissed depends on prosecutors’ workload and judgment. Often, it is not clear that theft by check cases are payday loans, since the name of the payday lender is not immediately distinguishable from that of an ordinary merchant.

District attorneys may also receive these complaints and have the ability to file criminal charges. According to Ann Baddour, a policy analyst at Appleseed, the DAs seem to operate with more discretion than the county attorneys, but the outcomes were arguably as perverse. Baddour said one DA told her that of the hot check complaints he had received, none had led to criminal charges or prosecutions. Instead, he said, his office sent letters threatening criminal charges unless the initial loan amounts plus fees were repaid.

The DA, who seemed to think he was showing evidence of his proper conduct, was instead admitting that his office functioned as a debt collector.

With the help of free legal aid, Jones’ case was eventually dismissed, and she said the court waived her outstanding payment to Cash Plus. But not all debtors are as fortunate.

Despite being against state law, the data show that criminal complaints are an effective way for payday lenders to get borrowers to pay. Of the 1,576 criminal complaints Appleseed analyzed, 385 resulted in the borrower making a repayment on their loan. In Collin County alone, 204 of the 700 criminal complaints based on payday lenders’ affidavits ended in payments totaling $131,836.

This success in using criminal charges to coerce money from borrowers means that payday lenders have a financial incentive to file criminal charges against debtors with alarming regularity — even if those charges are eventually rightfully dismissed.

Because Appleseed’s study only covered eight of Texas’ 254 counties, there are likely more cases statewide. And Texas is not alone. In 2011, The Wall Street Journal found that more than a third of states allow borrowers to be jailed, even though federal law mandates that loan repayment be treated as a civil issue rather than a criminal one.

“There’s a lot more to learn about the practice itself, how widely it’s used, and its effect on consumers,” Mary Spector, a law professor at Southern Methodist University who specializes in debt collection issues, told HuffPost. “I think they’ve uncovered the tip of the iceberg.”

[…]

5 'Band-Aid' Fixes That Hurt Your Finances

You’re short on cash, but there is something important you need to spend money on, like your mortgage or an electric bill or groceries. So you settle on what’s often called a “Band-Aid” fix. That is, you come up with a very short-term solution that solves your financial dilemma today.

The trouble with Band-Aid fixes is that they sometimes lead to further bleeding and can make your problem much worse. You may feel it’s worth the risk, but it’s still helpful to think through the possible consequences. So in the interest of being aware of potential problems ahead, here are five common Band-Aid fixes to carefully consider before applying.

401(k) loans. It’s easy to see why some people borrow from their 401(k) if they’re facing a cash shortage or need a cash infusion for, say, a down payment on a home.

“These loans are offered by many corporate-sponsored 401(k) plans at fairly low rates,” says Pam Friedman, a certified financial planner and partner at Silicon Hills Wealth Management in Austin, Texas. She adds that you can generally borrow up to 50 percent of your vested balance or sometimes up to a maximum amount, and these loans let consumers pay themselves back over five years.

“The employee pays the interest to him or herself, which makes 401(k) loans very attractive to employees,” Friedman says.

Why this may not be a good short-term fix: There’s a lot to like about this type of loan, but before you get too excited, Friedman says, “There is a hitch. Actually, more than one.”

She says if you leave the company for another job, the loan you could have taken five years to repay typically needs to be paid back within 60 days or the remaining balance will be considered a withdrawal.

What’s so bad about that? “For most workers, that means the remaining loan balance will be taxed as ordinary income of the employee’s and assessed a 10 percent penalty,” Friedman says.

She adds that even if you repay your 401(k) loan on time, you may reduce your contributions in the meantime, which hurts your retirement savings. “That’s an expensive loan,” she says.

Deferring loan payments. In this case, you contact your lender and ask permission to stop payments for a period. It’s frequently done with student loans but can also apply to car payments and even mortgages.

Why this may not be a good short-term fix. With student loans, the interest will typically still pile up and be added to the principal, which will stretch the length of your loan.

Your auto lender will usually attach the deferred monthly payment to the end of the loan, so when you reach that point and you’re ready for the loan to be paid off, you may well regret the decision — especially if you deferred multiple payments throughout the life of the loan.

With mortgages, it’s harder to get a deferral. But if you manage to get one and you’re still making monthly private mortgage insurance payments, you will likely prolong the amount of time you’re making those PMI payments, possibly by a couple years.

Payday loans. If you have a family to feed and next to nothing in your bank account, a payday loan may seem tempting. Payday loan centers aren’t concerned with your credit — they will ask for proof of employment, residency and references. Assuming you pass muster, they’ll give you cold, hard cash.

Why this may not be a good short-term fix. If you think it’s tough getting by on no cash now, wait until you have to pay back the loan. “Unless you have a solid plan to repay this kind of loan quickly, it’s most likely only going to worsen your debt situation,” says Katie Ross, education and development manager at American Consumer Credit Counseling, a financial education nonprofit based in Auburndale, Massachusetts.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the median payday loan amount is $350. The larger your paycheck, the better your odds of paying back the loan, unless you simply have too many bills to be paid. But if your paycheck isn’t much more than what you’re borrowing, you can see where the trouble starts. You may get stuck, constantly taking out loans to pay back the payday lender.

Borrowing from friends and family. This can be a great idea for you and your creditor, who gets paid. And as Ross says, “A good friend of family member is likely to offer very favorable conditions when lending money.”

Why this may not be a good short-term fix. It’s not such a great deal for your friend or family member. If you can repay the loan in short order, it may strengthen your bonds. But what if you can’t? You may not lose money in the long run, but you may still pay a high price.

“Entering a financial agreement with a friend or family member can put a significant strain on the relationship,” Ross says.

Overdrawing your account. This often isn’t done on purpose, but some consumers likely overdraw their bank account knowing that while they’ll be hit with a fee, at least they’ve made the electric company happy by paying their bill. Other consumers may find themselves playing a cat-and-mouse game with their bank account, hoping they won’t be overdrawn but betting on the fact that transactions sometimes take days to post.

Why this isn’t a good short-term fix. This short-term fix often leads consumers to take out loans, defer payments and borrow from friends and family.

According to the CFPB, the median bank overdraft fee is $34. Rack up a few of those every month, and the amount of money you’re forking over starts to look obscene. If you’re really having trouble managing your money, the best fix is to contact your creditor and explain your situation, says Jay Sidhu, CEO of BankMobile, a division of Customers Bank, headquartered in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.

“Nine times out of 10, they will be empathetic to your issues and grant you the grace period you are looking for with no penalties or cost to you,” Sidhu says. Based on his 20-plus years in banking, he says first-time offenders generally get a break. However, “make sure you don’t make this a habit,” he cautions.

But what if relying on short-term fixes to solve your money problems is becoming a habit? The diagnosis isn’t pretty, and you may need far more than bandages. You may need the equivalent of a doctor or a hospital — a new budget, a new job and a new way of thinking about money.

FinanceLoansstudent loans […]

Payday loan policy and the art of legislative compromise | The …

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DENVER — De Jimenez is a single mother of three. She works in medical records and one of her children is in college. She recently took out a payday loan and she’s kicking herself, knowing she has paid about $70 to borrow $100.

“For rent,” she says of her last loan. “I get them to cover basic needs, really basic needs — food, water, shelter. They’re not for a car payment or anything like that, just to make ends meet because sometimes kids get sick. It goes back to not having paid sick days. I guess it’s a glass half full situation: If they weren’t there, I don’t know where I’d get the extra income, but at the same time, the interest rate is just so high.”

In 2010 the Colorado legislature passed payday loan consumer protections that lengthen the term of a payday loan to six months minimum from the typical two weeks — at which point a borrower has to pay that roughly $70 start-up fee to “roll over” the loan for two more weeks. The average borrower repeated that process for three to six months.

Jimenez feels more could still be done to lower the cost of payday loans, which are still about five times more expensive than credit card debt. Even so, she says the reforms made a crucial difference between just being able to manage the loans and getting caught by them.

“Before, it was like you could see a light at the end of the tunnel but it was so small it looked like a pinhole. Then you were taking out another payday loan just to pay off the first one. It was a vicious, vicious cycle,” she remembers. “At least now the light is a little brighter and the goal a little more easily attainable.”

In addition to setting minimum six-month terms for the loans, the laws also required borrowers be able to pay down the debt in installments, instead of one lump sum, and that they have the option to pay off the loan early in full without paying any fines. Since enacted, borrowers have been saving an estimated $40 million a year on what are still the most expensive loans available on the market.

Now Colorado’s law, considered a compromise between industry interests and consumer protections, may serve as a national model as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau weighs regulations on payday loans coast to coast.

“The key lesson from Colorado is that successful reform requires tackling the fundamental unaffordability of payday loans,” said Nick Bourke, who has researched the topic for PEW Charitable Trust. “Federal regulations should require a strong ability-to-repay standard and require lenders to make loans repayable over a period of time.”

PEW’s research shows that, of the 12 million Americans who take payday loans each year, most borrowers are asking for about $375 to cover routine expenses. The loans typically are made for a period of two weeks, at which point the lump sum is due or borrowers can re-up the loan by paying the initial fee again, usually in the region of $75. But, PEW found, borrowers can rarely afford to repay the loans after two weeks, since the loan amounts typically account for a third of their take-home pay. As a result, folks end up rolling over their loans for an average of half a year, ultimately racking up “interest” rates that exceed 300 percent. The interest on credit card debt, largely considered expensive, is more like 24 percent.

Most states’ payday loan consumer protections, if they have them, focus on capping that interest rate. This approach has received some push back, with opponents saying it effectively drives payday lenders out of the regulated state. In Oregon, for example, a 2007 law capping interest at 36 percent reduced the number of payday lenders from 346 to 82 in its first year on the books.

“The question is, are those people better off without credit? Current economics hasn’t answered that question yet. Some studies say people do better, that they go to friends and family or just scrape by, others say they do worse, that they get kicked out their apartment, etcetera,” said Jim Hawkins, a law professor at the University of Houston who focuses on banking.

That concern thwarted years of attempts to pass a rate cap in Colorado and ultimately motivated the compromise bill that has garnered so much national attention, according to the measure’s sponsor, House Speaker Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver).

“We were definitely going down,” remembered Ferrandino. “We’d tried for years to get a bill passed. It failed two years in a row and was on the cusp of failing again. So we sat down with key votes in Senate and said: ‘Our goal is to end the cycle of debt. We have no problem with payday loans continuing or with people having access to capital, but let’s not let folks get caught in this cycle. If that’s our shared goal, what are policies we can do to get that done?’”

Legislators focused on affordability, extending the terms of the loans and making them payable in installments. The law acknowledged the 45 percent interest cap the state placed on all loans but is also give payday lenders ways to charge more fees so that the de facto interest rates for payday loans in Colorado now hover around 129 percent.

“Borrowers have been pretty happy with the changes to the loans. They reported that they were more manageable, that they could actually be paid off and were ultimately much cheaper,” said Rich Jones at the Bell Policy Center, who helped draft the bill.

PEW’s national research indicates that 90 percent of borrowers want more time to repay their loans and 80 percent say regulation should require those payments to be affordable — more like 5 percent of a borrower’s monthly income than 33 percent.

Colorado’s bill did end up taking a big bite out of the payday loan industry in the state, halving the number of stores and reducing the total number of loans from 1.57 million a year before the law to 444,000 per year. Even so, supporters of the bill note that the industry fared better in Colorado than it did in other regulated states and that borrowers’ overall access to lenders went largely unchanged.

“It was not uncommon to go to parts of Denver and see a payday lending store on all four corners of a busy intersection,” said Jones. “Now maybe there’s just one or two stores in a block instead of four or five.”

“The fact that we had more payday loan stores than Starbucks didn’t make sense,” quipped Ferrandino.

“Seventy percent of the population still lives within 10 miles of a payday loan store and that figure is roughly the same as under the old law,” said Jones.

Under Dodd-Frank federal law, the CFPB does not have the authority to set the interest rate caps other states have used to regulate payday loans. They can, however, take a leaf out of Colorado statute and require that lenders give borrowers the option to pay down the loans over an extended period of time. In fact, the CFPB could go even further and require that those payments meet an affordability standard based on the borrower’s income.

Bourke says PEW wants to see the CFPB make these kinds of changes in their next round of rulemaking and notes that the agency’s own studies indicate they’re moving that direction.

“They see there’s tremendous evidence of the problems and potential harm in this market and they intend to do something about it,” said Bourke. “I think there’s a good chance they’ll put in the repayment standard.”

Bourke isn’t the only one with his eye on the CFPB. Folks in the academy are also closely watching the issue.

Hawkins noted that while Texas has very minimal regulations on how much lenders are allowed to charge for payday loans, they’ve tried alternative routes to protecting consumers based on behavioral economics. In Texas, lenders are required to tell borrowers how long it usually takes for people to repay the loans and to provide direct cost comparisons to the same loan taken on a credit card.

“To me that’s an exciting innovation that doesn’t hamper the industry, but still ensures that folks are educated,” said Hawkins, adding that initial research indicates the information does impact borrowers’ decisions.

Hawkins also noted that Colorado’s law hit the industry in fairly specific ways — namely, it vastly reduced the number of small, local lenders. PEW research backs this up. Before the law was passed, large lenders owned just over half the stores in Colorado. Today they own closer to 75 percent.

“It’s just another policy choice. Do you want to only have big companies?” asked Hawkins, noting that the CFPB has made a point of focusing on small businesses.

In all likelihood, the CFPB will be working on this issue for much of the next year, which means they’ll be making these rules while Republicans, who will take control of the Senate next session, continue to chip away at the agency’s authority.

To that end, there might be more to learn from Colorado than policy alone.

“There’s this attitude in Colorado when it comes to policy issues that you don’t have to go all the way or have nothing at all, that you can come up with meaningful compromise,” said Ferrandino. “I think what we were able to do here proves that what the CFPB is looking at is reasonable.”

[Photo by Tom Magliery]

CFPB Consumer protection elizabeth warren Mark Ferrandino Payday Loans […]

Southside Bancshares, Inc. Declares Cash Dividend

TYLER, Texas, Nov. 6, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Board of Directors of Southside Bancshares, Inc., (SBSI), parent company of Southside Bank, declared a regular quarterly cash dividend of $0.22 per common share. In a separate action the Board declared a special cash dividend for 2014 of $0.10 per common share in addition to declaring a regular quarterly cash dividend of $0.22 per common share. The cash dividend is payable to common stock shareholders of record November 20, 2014. The cash dividend is scheduled for payment on December 4, 2014.

“The special dividend is reflective of another successful year for Southside,” stated Sam Dawson, President and Chief Executive Officer. We believe the acquisition of OmniAmerican, when completed, combined with our strong loan growth and solid financial results this year, provide a strong foundation for 2015.

About Southside Bancshares, Inc.

Southside Bancshares, Inc. is a bank holding company with approximately $3.4 billion in assets that owns 100% of Southside Bank. Southside Bank currently has 50 banking centers in Texas and operates a network of 48 ATMs.

To learn more about Southside Bancshares, Inc., please visit our investor relations website at www.southside.com/investor. Our investor relations site provides a detailed overview of our activities, financial information and historical stock price data. To receive e-mail notification of company news, events and stock activity, please register on the E-mail Notification portion of the website. Questions or comments may be directed to Susan Hill at (903)531-7220, or susan.hill@southside.com.

Forward-Looking Statements

Certain statements of other than historical fact that are contained in this document and in other written material, press releases and oral statements issued by or on behalf of the Company, a bank holding company, may be considered to be “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of and subject to the protections of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance, nor should they be relied upon as representing management’s views as of any subsequent date. These statements may include words such as “expect,” “estimate,” “project,” “anticipate,” “appear,” “believe,” “could,” “should,” “may,” “likely,” “intend,” “probability,” “risk,” “target,” “objective,” “plans,” “potential,” and similar expressions. Forward-looking statements are statements with respect to the Company’s beliefs, plans, expectations, objectives, goals, anticipations, assumptions, estimates, intentions and future performance and are subject to significant known and unknown risks and uncertainties, which could cause the Company’s actual results to differ materially from the results discussed in the forward-looking statements. For example, discussions about trends in asset quality, capital, liquidity, the pace of loan growth, earnings and certain market risk disclosures, including the impact of interest rate and other economic uncertainty, are based upon information presently available to management and are dependent on choices about key model characteristics and assumptions and are subject to various limitations. By their nature, certain of the market risk disclosures are only estimates and could be materially different from what actually occurs in the future. As a result, actual income gains and losses could materially differ from those that have been estimated. In addition, with respect to the pending acquisition of OmniAmerican Bancorp, including future financial and operating results, Southside’s and OmniAmerican’s plans, objectives, expectations and intentions, the expected timing of completion of the merger and other statements are not historical facts. Among the key factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated by such forward-looking statements are the following: (i) the risk that a regulatory approval that may be required for the proposed mergers is not obtained or is obtained subject to conditions that are not anticipated; (ii) the risk that a condition to the closing of the mergers may not be satisfied; (iii) the timing to consummate the proposed merger; (iv) the risk that the businesses will not be integrated successfully; (v) the risk that the cost savings and any other synergies from the transaction may not be fully realized or may take longer to realize than expected; (vi) disruption from the transaction making it more difficult to maintain relationships with customers, employees or vendors; (vii) the diversion of management time on merger-related issues; and (viii) liquidity risk affecting Southside’s and OmniAmerican’s abilities to meet its obligations when they come due.

Additional information concerning the Company and its business, including additional factors that could materially affect the Company’s financial results, is included in the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2013 under “Forward-Looking Information” and Item 1A. “Risk Factors,” and in the Company’s other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Company disclaims any obligation to update any factors or to announce publicly the result of revisions to any of the forward-looking statements included herein to reflect future events or developments.

Additional Information About the Proposed Merger and Where to Find It

This document does not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any securities, or a solicitation of any vote or approval, nor shall there be any sale of securities in any jurisdiction in which such offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful prior to registration or qualification under the securities laws of any such jurisdiction. In connection with the proposed merger between Southside and OmniAmerican, on September 5, 2014, Southside filed with the SEC a joint proxy statement/prospectus of Southside and OmniAmerican which also constitutes a definitive prospectus for Southside. Southside and OmniAmerican delivered the definitive joint proxy statement/prospectus to their respective shareholders or stockholders on or about September 11, 2014. On September 16, 2014, each of Southside and OmniAmerican filed a Current Report on Form 8-K, which also constitutes additional definitive proxy statement materials for OmniAmerican and a definitive prospectus for Southside, that contained supplemental proxy statement materials. SOUTHSIDE AND OMNIAMERICAN URGE INVESTORS AND SECURITY HOLDERS TO READ THE DEFINITIVE JOINT PROXY STATEMENT/PROSPECTUS REGARDING THE PROPOSED MERGER, AS WELL AS ANY OTHER RELEVANT DOCUMENTS FILED WITH THE SEC, AS WELL AS ANY AMENDMENTS OR SUPPLEMENTS TO THOSE DOCUMENTS, BECAUSE THEY WILL CONTAIN IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT THE PROPOSED MERGER. Investors and security holders may obtain (when available) copies of all documents filed with the SEC regarding the merger, free of charge, at the SEC’s website (www.sec.gov). You may also obtain these documents, free of charge, from (i) Southside’s website (www.southside.com) under the tab “Investor Relations,” and then under the tab “Documents”; (ii) Southside upon written request to Corporate Secretary, P.O. Box 8444, Tyler, Texas 75711; (iii) OmniAmerican’s website (www.omniamerican.com) under the tab “Investor Relations,” and then under the tab “SEC Filings”; or (iv) OmniAmerican upon written request to Keishi High at 1320 South University Drive, Suite 900, Fort Worth, Texas 76107.

Mergers, Acquisitions & TakeoversFinance Contact:

For further information:
Lee R. Gibson
903 531-7221

[…]

TitleMax Opens Additional Car Title Loan Store in Houston, TX

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The team at our new TitleMax location is excited and ready to help the residents of Houston obtain the short-term cash loans they need.

Houston, TX (PRWEB) October 06, 2014

TitleMax, the nation’s largest and most reputable car title loan company, recently opened its 267th location in Texas making this store its 66th in the Greater Houston Area. This new store opened Wednesday, October 1, 2014. Residents can now visit this store for all of their short-term cash needs.

The new store is located 8197 Antoine Drive, Houston, TX 77088. Store hours are Monday – Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The store can be reached by calling (281) 931-4910.

“The team at our new TitleMax location is excited and ready to help the residents of Houston obtain the short-term cash loans they need,” said Otto Bielss, Senior Vice President of Operations for TMX Finance. “We pride ourselves on providing an exceptional level of customer service in our stores and our newest branch is no different.”

About Car Title Loans

A car title loan is a fast way for credit-challenged individuals to obtain the short-term cash they need. To secure a car title loan with TitleMax in the state of Texas an individual must have a clear, or lien-free, car title and a government-issued ID. With these items an individual can obtain a loan up to $5,000 while still maintaining the use of their vehicle. No insurance is required, there are no credit checks and most loans can be processed in as little as 30 minutes.

There are more than 265 TitleMax locations throughout the state of Texas. To find a TitleMax near you click Title Loan Stores.

About TitleMax

TitleMax, a subsidiary of TMX Finance, provides financial products to people without access to traditional credit alternatives. TitleMax has been a trusted consumer lender for over 16 years, helping hundreds of thousands of people in getting cash when they need it. Since its inception in 1998, TitleMax has grown to over 1,450 stores, spanning 17 states and provides car title loans to over 3,000 people each day. In some instances, TitleMax acts as a Credit Access Business and assists customers in obtaining loans through a third party.

Please visit http://www.titlemax.com for more information on car title loans and how TitleMax can be of service.


[…]

Fight to restrict payday loan businesses continues – WAFB 9 News …

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Payday loans (Source:WAFB)

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Officials: All lanes open after 100 gallons of fuel spilled during vehicle fire

Officials: All lanes open after 100 gallons of fuel spilled during vehicle fire

Updated: Thursday, September 11 2014 5:37 PM EDT2014-09-11 21:37:12 GMT

All lanes are now open on I-10 East at the I-10/I-110 merge after a vehicle fire shut down the left and center lanes. The traffic backup has reached Grosse Tete on I-10 East and Chocktaw Drive on I-110 South.More >>All lanes are now open on I-10 East at the I-10/I-110 merge after a vehicle fire shut down the left and center lanes. The traffic backup has reached Grosse Tete on I-10 East and Chocktaw Drive on I-110 South.More >>

Tropical Depression #6 forms in the Atlantic, disturbance develops in Bahamas

Tropical Depression #6 forms in the Atlantic, disturbance develops in Bahamas

Updated: Thursday, September 11 2014 12:16 PM EDT2014-09-11 16:16:46 GMT

Tropical Depression #6 formed Thursday morning in the deep tropical Atlantic. First Alert Storm Team Meteorologist Steve Caparotta says T.D. #6 is likely to become Tropical Storm Edouard in the next day or so. More >>Tropical Depression #6 formed Thursday morning in the deep tropical Atlantic. First Alert Storm Team Meteorologist Steve Caparotta says T.D. #6 is likely to become Tropical Storm Edouard in the next day or so. More >>

Texas man arrested in Baton Rouge after picking up 15-year-old at bar

Texas man arrested in Baton Rouge after picking up 15-year-old at bar

Updated: Wednesday, September 10 2014 4:46 PM EDT2014-09-10 20:46:22 GMT

A 21-year-old man from East Texas has been arrested in Baton Rouge after being accused of inappropriate behavior with a 15-year-old girl.More >>A 21-year-old man from East Texas has been arrested in Baton Rouge after being accused of inappropriate behavior with a 15-year-old girl.More >>

Woman growing fingernails in follicles through skin desperate for help

Woman growing fingernails in follicles through skin desperate for help

Updated: Thursday, September 11 2014 5:21 AM EDT2014-09-11 09:21:40 GMT

(WMC) – A Mid-South woman with a mystery illness is desperate for help that can keep her alive. WMC Action News 5 shared the story of Shanyna Isom in a special report in 2012; she grows fingernails throughMore >>WMC Action News 5 shared the story of Shanyna Isom in a special report in 2012; she grows fingernails through the hair follicles in her skin. Two years later and the cost of a mystery illness continues to threaten her life.More >>

Parents make ‘bucket list’ for unborn, terminally ill son

Parents make ‘bucket list’ for unborn, terminally ill son

Updated: Thursday, September 11 2014 2:21 PM EDT2014-09-11 18:21:38 GMT

Dan and Jenna Haley, of Philadelphia, PA, found out in April that their child, Shane, had anencephaly – a birth defect that causes the baby to not have a fully formed brain and skull. Almost all children with it die shortly after birth.

More >>

Dan and Jenna Haley, of Philadelphia, PA, found out in April that their child, Shane, had anencephaly – a birth defect that causes the baby to not have a fully formed brain and skull. Almost all children with it die shortly after birth.

More >> BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) –

More than 950 payday loan businesses operate throughout Louisiana. Within Baton Rouge’s city limits, it seems like one is on every corner. It’s that frequency that has many city officials worried.

“It does have a negative impact on the economic vitality of an urban community,” said Baton Rouge councilwoman Tara Wicker.

The Metro Council considered a new ordinance that would set a minimum distance between lenders and restrict business hours. The measure, proposed by Councilwomen Ronnie Edwards and Donna Collins-Lewis follows failed attempts from state lawmakers to cap interest rates. The issue remains heated.

“They’re concentrated in poor communities. They cater to customers who can’t afford the sky-high fees and interest rates,” said Jan Moller, director of the Louisiana Budget Project.

“We are the only industry that has put an extended payment plan together for ourselves,” said Danny Ford with the Louisiana Payday Loan Association in defense of the industry.

The Council was also split during Wednesday’s meeting. The ordinance failed to gain a majority vote and was deferred for two weeks.

Copyright 2014 WAFB. All rights reserved.

[…]

Europe fears banks lack cash cushion to cover bad loans

As slogs through its latest round of bank stress tests, a growing number of analysts have already reached their own conclusion: need additional cash.

To buttress their case, some analysts have dusted off an obscure American bank metric that highlights the extent to which Europe’s increasing number of nonperforming loans is threatening to overwhelm existing bank cushions.

The measure, called the Texas ratio, was developed by an analyst who covered troubled United States banks during the late 1980s and early 1990s. During that period, numerous Texas-based financial institutions collapsed under the weight of faulty real estate loans.

Part of what has made the attractive to analysts and regulators is its simplicity. When the ratio of to equity and cash set aside exceeds 100 per cent, it suggests that the bank is either ready to fail or is in desperate need of new capital – as was the case with Texas banks in the 1980s.

“We found it to be a very good guide telling you which banks would fail,” said Gerard S Cassidy, the bank analyst who introduced the formula and coined the name. “It’s a ratio that everyone can understand.”

Now as the prepares to become the primary bank regulator in the Euro zone, the extent to which lenders in troubled economies like Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece have sufficient cash to protect against ever-rising bad loans has emerged as a crucial question for investors, banks and regulators.

The will publish the results of its half-year investigation into Europe’s 128 largest banks on October 17. But until then, with worries mounting that the central bank will come down hard on banks with particularly weak loan books, investors and analysts have been scrambling to determine which of these lenders are most at peril.

And with sharing similar characteristics with Texas banks in the late 1980s – nonperforming real estate loans and slim cash buffers – the Texas ratio has emerged as a popular analytical tool.

This spring, banking analysts for Nomura in London used the Texas ratio to highlight 11 banks in Southern Europe that were most exposed to nonperforming loans relative to cash they had on hand.

Of the 11 banks that exceeded the 100 per cent threshold, three banks stood out with ratios of 150 per cent and above: Piraeus Bank in Greece, Banco Popolare in Italy and Banco Popular Español in Spain.

Cassidy, who covers United States financial institutions for RBC Capital Markets in Portland, Maine, does not pretend to be an expert on European banks – although he still uses the measure to examine American banks. But he is not surprised that his peers covering banks in troubled Euro zone countries have started to use it.

It is a great way, Cassidy said, to ask the most important question a bank analyst or investor will ever want answered: Does the bank have enough money?

Of course, like all financial formulas, the Texas ratio is not infallible. For example, Banco Espírito Santo in Portugal, which collapsed two months after the Nomura report came out, was not listed as a bank with a ratio in the danger zone. And there is no sign yet that Piraeus or the other two banks are in dire straits, despite bad loan burdens that exceed their peers.

Moreover, Piraeus in Greece and Popular in Spain have both been subjected to particularly intense scrutiny of late by private sector stress tests undertaken to calm fears about the banks in these countries.

Still, as concerns build that weak banks will be forced to raise more cash as bad loans increase, investors – once eager to pile into these stocks, based on recovery hopes – have reversed course. Since early June, Piraeus and Popolare in Italy are down by a quarter, while Popular in Spain has lost 16 percent.

Using the Texas ratio also underscores the ever-increasing gap that separates European banks from their American counterparts, highlighting as well the contrasting approaches taken by bank regulators here and in Europe.

According to the most recent data, the average ratio for all United States banks is 15 percent, with giants like Chase and boasting very healthy metrics: 16 percent for JPMorgan and 13 percent for Citigroup.

By contrast, the largest banks in the euro zone that also pretend to have global ambitions have much higher ratios – and arguably would be considered to carry more risk. Santander and BBVA in Spain have ratios of about 70 percent; UniCredit in Italy comes in at 90 percent; BNP Paribas has a lower measure of 41 percent. Deutsche Bank in Germany has one of the lowest scores in Europe, at 14 percent, but that understates its risk because most of its assets comprise riskier traded securities like derivatives and bonds.

For more than two years, outside analysts have argued that European banks, compared with their American peers, suffer from a fundamental capital deficit. Adrian Blundell-Wignall, who oversees financial research at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris, has been one of the more vocal critics in this regard.

And last year, economists at the Danish Institute for International Studies came out with a report highlighting how low cash buffers were in European banks, especially in France and Germany.

Since 2010, European regulators have sponsored two comprehensive stress tests, both of which were discredited after banks failed soon after each was completed.

Local central banks in countries hardest hit by the crisis – Spain, Ireland, Cyprus and Greece – have hired outside financial firms to run independent stress tests.

In Cyprus and Greece, these reports have drawn criticism over their independence. The most recent of them, a comprehensive study issued in March by BlackRock, which estimated Greek banks would need only 6 billion euros in new cash, has been criticized by one of Greece’s primary creditors, the International Monetary Fund, as being too upbeat.

“The picture they have painted is too optimistic,” said Jens Bastian, an Athens-based financial analyst. “The events on the ground do not support these optimistic scenarios.”

Mr. Bastian worked recently for the so-called troika – the E.C.B., the European Commission and the I.M.F. – overseeing Greece’s finances. And he points out that in the March BlackRock report, nonperforming loans in Greece were estimated at 28 percent.

Now, he says, “we are way beyond that level and have passed above the 34 percent threshold, totaling approximately 75 to 77 billion euros.”

One senior Greek banker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that he was expecting the E.C.B. to require the top four banks in Greece to raise from 5 billion to 8 billion euros.

Greek officials have said that in such a situation, the banks could tap international markets, as Piraeus and others did successfully earlier this year.

But with nonperforming loans pushing ever higher, and with investors more cautious about investing in risky European banks, securing the needed cash may not be so easy this time around.


©2014 The New York Times News Service

[…]

John Oliver, Sarah Silverman Have Some Words For Payday …

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John Oliver took on the obviously hilarious topic of payday lending on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, and once again proved that it’s possible to do some really smart advocacy journalism in a comedy format and make it work — almost as if he thinks that comedy can do more than just give us a cheap laugh or something. And with payday loan outlets more plentiful than either Starbucks or McDonalds, it’s probably worth looking at — especially since payday loans are the financial equivalent of fast food, except you only pay for your McAnusBurger once or twice.

So watch this thing, and prepare to be amazed at the incredibly adaptive and creative ways the payday-loan biz has evolved to outsmart attempts to regulate it. For instance, in Arizona, the companies just started doing “title loans” — so they could rip people off AND take their cars — and in Ohio, they morphed into “mortgage lenders,” offering home mortgages for $400 or so. And of course in Texas, the industry has it figured out — the people who “regulate” payday lenders all work in the payday loan industry. Talk about filling an evolutionary niche!

Also, Sarah Silverman stars in a counter-ad for the best possible alternative to taking out a payday loan: Literally Anything Else.

Related […]

Sarah Silverman and John Oliver hammer payday loan industry …

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Sarah Silverman and John Oliver hammer payday loan industry ‘motherf*ckers’

By Tom Boggioni
Monday, August 11, 2014 7:34 EDT

On this week’s edition of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver was joined by Sarah Silverman to take on America’s predatory payday loan industry “motherf*ckers.”

Calling attention to the virtually unregulated industry capable of charging up to 1700 percent interest on short term loans which fall disproportionately on the poor, Silverman advised doing anything else rather than “dealing with these payday loan motherf*ckers.”

Pointing out that the payday loan businesses — which grants short term loans at exorbitant interest rates– is a $9 billion industry, Oliver noted that there are more payday loan stores in America than Starbucks and McDonalds.

“McDonalds!” Oliver exclaimed, “I didn’t know there was more of anything in the U.S. than McDonalds, including people and grains of sand.”

With more the three quarters of borrowers having take out an additional loan before they are able to pay off the original loan, Oliver explained, “Basically, payday loans are the Lay’s potato chips of finance: you can’t have just one, and they’re terrible for you.”

When it comes to regulation of the industry, Oliver points out that, for all practical purposes there is none.

Legislators own payday loan businesses themselves — disregarding the obvious conflict on interest — and governors such as Texas Governor Rick Perry appointing payday loan industry executives to head the very state boards overseeing their business.

Launching a “counter-campaign” using a celebrity spokesperson promoting “anything else,” Oliver introduced Silverman.

“Hi, I’m Sarah Silverman. If you’re considering taking out a payday loan, I’d like to tell you about a great alternative,” she advised. “It’s called ‘anything else.’ The way it works is, instead of taking out a payday loan you literally do anything else.”

Silverman suggested selling sperm or blood, or throwing yourself in front of a “rich guys’s car”: “He’ll throw money at the problem, just to make that shit go away.”

Silverman also had advice for old people, telling them to just take things because they won’t be sent to jail, “Go to the grocery store right now, fill up a cart with everything you need and walk the f*ck out of there.”

“The point is, no decision in your life will be worse than dealing with these payday loan motherf*ckers,” Silverman concluded. “They’re motherf*ckers, they’re f*ckers of mothers. So, if you’re thinking of getting a payday loan, just simply pick up the phone, and then put it down again and do literally anything else.”

Watch the video below from Last Week Tonight:

Tom Boggioni

Tom Boggioni is based in the quaint seaside community of Pacific Beach in less quaint San Diego. He writes about politics, media, culture, and other annoyances. Mostly he spends his days at the beach gazing at the horizon waiting for the end of the world, or the sun to go down. Whichever comes first.

[…]

How One State Succeeded In Proscribing Payday Loans | SQ Pixels

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