New Michigan ballot initiative would cap payday loan rates ⋆ Michigan Advance

A ballot initiative to restrict interest rates charged by payday lenders has removed one final procedural hurdle, with supporters set to collect signatures that could put it on the ballot in November.

On Friday, the Michigan Board of State Solicitors approved petition language for the Michiganders for Fair Loans ballot initiative. As noted in the petition, the proposal would cap the annual percentage rate (APR) on payday loans at 36% and empower Michigan’s attorney general to sue lenders who exceed that rate. The group says payday lenders are currently allowed to charge “interest rates and fees equivalent to an annual percentage rate of 340% or more.”

Campaign spokesman Josh Hovey called the charging of these rates “outrageous” and said that with the canvassers’ approval, they will soon begin collecting petitions to reform this “predatory lending practice”. The group says its initiative is modeled after similar legislation in 19 other states, including Nebraska, which capped payday loan rates at 36% APR in 2020. with almost 83% support.

However, business interest groups say the measure will not provide protection against predatory payday lending, but rather penalize lenders who play by the rules.

Fred Wszolek is a Republican strategist and co-founder of Lansing-based Strategy Works. In an interview with Michigan advance On Friday, he said the initiative “effectively bans the industry under the guise of a proposal that simply caps the interest rate.”

Wszolek says the industry is already tightly regulated and called APR a “dumb statistic” to use as a metric.

“It’s a great kind of apple-to-apple comparison of this 30-year loan to this 30-year loan, but when you’re talking about a two-week loan, to translate the interest rate and the fees into a rate annual percentage, that’s a stupid math,” he said. “I mean, it’s just a meaningless number. If you think of the bad check fee as a one-week loan for you because they covered your check, then the APR on the $25 NSF check fee is about 1,200%.

Wszolek says that due to the short-term nature of payday loans, limiting the APR to 36% will not provide the profit margin needed for these lenders to operate their storefronts, meet mandatory compliance regulations and write off numbers. of loans that will inevitably go unpaid.

He also says that if the initiative is approved, it will only affect state-regulated operations, not overseas-based online lenders or tribal-owned payday lenders.

Fred Wszolek is a Republican strategist and co-founder of Lansing-based Strategy Works. In an interview with Michigan Advance on Friday, he said the initiative “effectively bans the industry under the guise of a proposal that simply caps the interest rate.”

“I mean, they’re not getting rid of the regulation of this industry, from a consumer perspective, because the consumer can’t tell the difference between all the websites. I mean, you can’t say you’re dealing with a tribe-run payday loan operation. That’s beyond the reach of Michigan law. You can’t say you’re really dealing with a company that’s in the Netherlands Antilles” or has a “PO box somewhere in the Caribbean”.

Hovey responded to those criticisms in an interview Friday with the Michigan Advance, acknowledging that while the ballot proposal only applies to state-licensed lenders, the fees charged by those lenders are equivalent to three-digit interest rates.

“I can’t imagine the average Michigander would consider a 300% interest rate ‘legitimate’ or just because legitimate lenders don’t do that stuff,” Hovey said.

As for concerns that small dollar loans won’t be available, he says there are credit unions that offer payday loan alternatives.

“The President of Isabella Community Credit Union even testified before the House Regulatory Reform Committee this week that they are able to offer small loans in as little as 15 minutes that have a maximum APR of 23 % that can be repaid over 11 months. period,” Hovey said.

Groups supporting the ballot initiative include the Michigan League for Public Policy, Habitat for Humanity of Michigan, and the Michigan Association of United Ways. Sandra Pearson, president of Habitat for Humanity Michigan, formerly told the Associated Press that even though payday lenders market short-term loans as a quick fix, they often leave borrowers in worse financial shape than before.

Michiganders for Fair Lending expects to begin collecting the 340,047 valid signatures required to place the measure on the November ballot within the next two weeks.

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Chris B. Hall