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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

The CFPB at Three: A Child Prodigy | Ed Mierzwinski

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) turned just three years old Monday, July 21st, but when you look at its massive and compelling body of work, you must wonder: Are watchdog years like plain old dog years? Is the CFPB now a full-sized, 21-year-old adult? The answer is no, not yet. The CFPB is still growing and developing and adding programs and projects. The CFPB is, however, at three years old, certainly a child prodigy. Despite overwhelming public support, however, powerful special interests continue to attack it. Yet, the idea of the CFPB needs no defense, only more defenders.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Budget

Offshore Shell Games 2014

Many large U.S.-based multinational corporations avoid paying U.S. taxes by using accounting tricks to make profits made in America appear to be generated in offshore tax havens – countries with minimal or no taxes. By booking profits to subsidiaries registered in tax havens, multinational corporations are able to avoid an estimated $90 billion in federal income taxes each year. These subsidiaries are often shell companies with few, if any employees, and which engage in little to no real business activity.  

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Budget

Study: 70% of Fortune 500 Companies Used Tax Havens in 2013

Tax loopholes encouraged more than 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies – including Johnson Controls here in Wisconsin – to maintain subsidiaries in offshore tax havens as of 2013, according to “Offshore Shell Games,” released today by WISPIRG Foundation and Citizens for Tax Justice. Collectively, the companies reported booking nearly $2 trillion offshore for tax purposes, with just 30 companies accounting for 62 percent of the total, or $1.2 trillion.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Driving Wisconsin's "Brain Drain"

To better understand how the availability of non-driving modes of transportation can retain and recruit young talent for Wisconsin, the WISPIRG Foundation surveyed 530 college students across Wisconsin.  While the survey was not conducted with a scientifically selected sample, the results of our survey nonetheless illustrate that the Millennial generation is seeking a different transportation future than the spending priorities of state leaders. It underscores that transportation options may be a factor in decisions about where Millennials decide to locate in the future.

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

New Survey: Wisconsin Brain Drain Partly Because Youth Seek Alternatives to Driving?

For the last decade, Wisconsin has been experiencing a “brain drain,” with more college graduates leaving the state than staying. One factor could be our crumbling transit infrastructure and lack of driving alternatives, according to a new WISPIRG Foundation report.  The new survey revealed that most Wisconsin college students want the ability to get around without a car, and many may leave Wisconsin without that option. This demand starkly contrasts with Wisconsin transportation policies, which often favor extravagant highway expansion projects over critical transit upgrades.

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Food

Madison-Area Consumers Call on Roundy’s Supermarkets to Label GMOs, On Anniversary of Whole Foods Labeling Commitment

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

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News Release | WISPIRG | Transportation

U.S. DOT Report on Infrastructure Needs Overstates Future Increases in Driving

The US DOT seems to be stuck in a bizarre time warp.  For nine years in a row Americans have decreased their average driving miles. We haven’t seen an annual increase of even one percent in total vehicle miles since 2004. Yet, US DOT forecasts that total vehicle miles will increase between 1.36 percent to 1.85 percent each year through 2030. That doesn’t make sense.

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Financial Reform

Report: Mistaken Identity Tops Debt Collection Complaints

Debt collectors trying to collect debt from the wrong person were the top source of complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), according to a report released by the WISPIRG Foundation. The report also found that Wisconsin consumers are 40th most likely to file complaints to the CFPB about debt collection, and that debt collection is a top source of complaints.  The report is the final in a series of reports by the WISPIRG Foundation that analyze the complaints in the CFPB’s public Consumer Complaints Database. The CFPB began accepting complaints in July 2011 and now accepts complaints about most financial products and services. Although the CFPB only opened its doors to complaints about debt collection last July, complaints about debt collection have already outpaced those for common products such as credit cards and bank accounts, accounting for the second largest portion of complaints after mortgages between July and January.

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News Release | WISPIRG | Democracy

Citizens United Resolution Introduced in State Senate

State leaders in the Senate have introduced Senate Joint Resolution 68 (SJR68) that, if passed, would bring a statewide referendum to voters in November 2014 asking whether Wisconsin elected leaders should support a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United.

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News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Tax

Wisconsin could save $27.6 million with simple, proven method to curb offshore tax dodging, new study finds

Wisconsin taxpayers could save $27.6 million from a simple reform to crack down on offshore tax dodging, according to “Closing The Billion-Dollar Loophole: How States Are Reclaiming Revenue Lost to Offshore Tax Havens,” a new report released by WISPIRG. The reform, which has already been proven effective in Montana and passed in Oregon, would require companies to treat profits booked to notorious tax havens as domestic taxable income.  The Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates that this simple reform would increase state corporate income and franchise tax revenues by $28.8 million.

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Protecting Consumers from Unsafe Products

In the wake of the “Year of the Recall,” the largest overhaul in the history of the Consumer Product Safety Commission was signed into law on Aug. 14, 2008. The WISPIRG-backed Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act will help make products across the country safer — far less likely to trigger the massive recalls we saw a year ago and, more importantly, far less likely to cause harm to children.

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Pioneering Prescription Drug Reform

In 2007, the president signed a WISPIRG-backed law to rein in the makers of drugs like Vioxx, Paxil and Avandia, all of which had dangerous and deadly side effects. The bill reforms the Food and Drug Administration’s drug safety review process, makes drugs safer, and holds drug makers more accountable for the safety of consumers.

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Result | Democracy

Enforcing Wisconsin's Ethics Laws

In 2007, a WISPIRG-backed bill enforcing our state’s ethics laws was passed and signed into law. The new legislation promotes more vigorous enforcement of Wisconsin’s state ethics code and campaign finance laws.

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Result | Higher Ed

Standing Up For Students, Not Lenders

We helped pass the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007, the most meaningful higher education reform in more than 15 years. The legislation gives billions of dollars in additional aid to students through the Pell Grant program. The bill is funded by reducing wasteful lender subsidies.

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Stopping Identity Theft

A WISPIRG-backed bill to give consumers the ability to freeze their credit reports was signed into law in 2006. The law will allow consumers to lock out identity thieves, and further protect themselves from fraud.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Budget

Following the Money 2014

This report, U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s fifth annual evaluation of state transparency websites, finds that states are making progress toward comprehensive, one-stop, one-click transparency and accountability for state government spending. Over the past year, new states have opened the books on public spending and several states have adopted new practices to further expand citizens’ access to critical spending information. Many states, however, still have a long way to go to provide taxpayers with the information they need to ensure that government is spending their money effectively.

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Report | WISPIRG | Democracy

McCutcheon Money

This term, the Supreme Court is considering a challenge to aggregate contribution limits in a case called McCutcheon v. FEC. The current limit on what one person may contribute to all federal candidates, parties and PACs is $123,200.1 Absent this limit, one wealthy donor would be permitted to contribute more than $3.5 million to a single party’s candidates and party committees (plus a virtually unlimited amount to supportive PACs). 

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Financial Reform

Debt Collectors, Debt Complaints

This is the fifth in a series of reports that review complaints to the CFPB nationally and on a state-by-state level. In this report we explore consumer complaints about debt collection, with the aim of uncovering patterns in the problems consumers are experiencing with debt collectors and documenting the role of the CFPB in helping consumers successfully resolve their complaints.

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Report | WISPIRG | Tax

Closing the Billion Dollar Loophole

Every year, corporations use complicated gimmicks to shift U.S. earnings to subsidiaries in offshore tax havens – countries with minimal or no taxes – in order to reduce their state and federal income tax liability by billions of dollars. Tax haven abusers benefit from America’s markets, public infrastructure, educated workforce, security and rule of law – all supported in one way or another by tax dollars. But they use tax havens to escape supporting these public structures and benefits.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

A New Course

Across America, colleges and universities are showing that efforts aimed at reducing driving deliver powerful benefits for students, staff and surrounding communities. Policymakers at all levels of government should be looking to the innovative examples of these campuses. Universities and college towns also provide useful models for expanding the range of transportation options available to Americans while addressing the transportation challenges facing our communities.

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Blog Post | Democracy

Voters Reject Big Money in Politics, Now It’s Time for Reform

Voters sent a message last Tuesday, showing resounding support for our leaders to take steps to deal with the outsized influence of big money in our elections, including a resolution passed in Eau Claire County, WI endorsing a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizens United.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

It happened 4 years ago this weekend, and Congress has already forgotten | Ed Mierzwinski

Four years ago, on September 14-15, 2008, the Lehman Brothers investment bank declared bankruptcy while Bank of America acquired another foundering investment bank, Merrill Lynch -- major events that froze the financial markets and led in a few days to a $700 billion bailout of the financial system. Just four years later, some in the Congress have forgotten that real people and the economy are still suffering from the financial collapse, as it steps up Wall Street-backed efforts to prevent regulators from protecting the public.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

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

Today, Saturday, July 21, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau turns one year old. The CFPB already has achieved a record of significant accomplishments in its first year to protect veterans, students, seniors, military families and all consumers.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

These are 10 of many reasons we need the CFPB! | Bruce Speight

For the first time, a federal financial agency has placed consumers at the center of its work. That agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), turns one year old on July 21, 2012.  Here are 10 of many reasons we need the CFPB.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB May Announce It Has "Guns, Lots of Guns" To Regulate Credit Bureaus | Ed Mierzwinski

The CFPB travels to Detroit Monday, July 16th, for a field hearing on credit reporting. It seems like a fine opportunity to announce a final anticipated rule (read comments) giving it full authority to look inside the black box operations of Trans Union, Equifax and Experian-- the Big Three self-anointed and little-scrutinized gatekeepers to financial and employment opportunity despite their long record of mistakes and failure to give consumers a chance to fix them.

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