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  • What America Could Do with $150 Billion Lost to Offshore Tax Havens | NJPIRG
    of America benefit from their access to America s markets workforce infrastructure and security Shirking the taxes that pay for these benefits violates the basic fairness of the tax system By shielding their income from U S taxes corporations and wealthy individuals shift the tax burden to ordinary Americans who must pick up the tab in the form of cuts to public services more debt or higher taxes The 150 billion lost annually to offshore tax havens is a lot of money especially at a time of difficult budget choices To put this sum in perspective this factsheet provides examples of how it could be used Search form Search About Issues Stop the Overuse Of Antibiotics Stop the Highway Boondoggles Democracy For The People Label GMO Foods Making Health Care Work Protecting Consumers Toxic Free Communities Reining in Wall Street Act Now Jobs Donate Newsroom Resources Reports Get our RSS feed Our Affiliates Our Sister c 3 Are you a student Energy Service Corps Our Federation Archives Blog Media Hits News Releases Reports Resources Results Take Action Donate JOIN US Priority Action We re teaming up with big restaurant chains to stop the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms Call

    Original URL path: http://njpirg.org/reports/njp/what-america-could-do-150-billion-lost-offshore-tax-havens (2016-04-29)
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  • Trouble in Toyland 2012 | NJPIRG
    parts on small balls on marbles and on balloons continues to be the major cause of toy related deaths and injuries Between 1990 and 2011 over 200 children died from choking incidents This year we found several toys that contained small parts or near small part toys The toys containing small parts contained improper labels and might be mistakenly purchased for children under 3 The toys containing near small parts support our long term principle that the small parts test should be made more protective by making the test cylinder larger We found small cars that included small parts rubber traction bands on wheels Although the toy includes a statutory choke hazard warning and is labeled 4 the tiny label may violate CPSC hazard warning rules We also found several dollar store toys such as a small bowling ball and pin toy set with missing obscured or tiny choke hazard warning labels We also found some toy foods including both near small parts and other rounded ball like foods that would fail the small ball test although they are technically subject to the less stringent small parts test Toy foods poses a special hazard because they look to small children like something that should be eaten Round toy food should be tested as if it is a ball but the CPSC interprets the law differently Noisy Toys Research has shown that a third of Americans with hearing loss can attribute it in part to noise 4 The third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed that one in five U S children will have some degree of hearing loss by the time they reach age 12 This may be in part due to many children using toys and other children s products such as music players that emit loud sounds 5 The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders advises that prolonged exposure to noise above 85 decibels will cause gradual hearing loss in any age range 6 We found two toys a car driving wheel on a console and a toy guitar on store shelves that exceeded the recommended limit for continuous exposure of 85 decibels We also found one close to the ear toy a cell phone that exceeded the 65 decibel limit when measured with a digital sound level meter Recommendations for Policy Makers Policymakers must ensure that the Consumer Product Safety Commission CPSC is given the resources it needs to effectively protect consumers Policymakers must also continue vigorous oversight of implementation and enforcement of the new law Policymakers should require manufacturers to provide all hazard and health impact information to the state and federal government so agencies can begin to assess the thousands of chemicals currently on the market for which little or inadequate data are available There is overwhelming evidence showing that the Toxic Substances Control Act is failing our most vulnerable consumers pregnant women babies and children Policymakers should take steps to ensure that the American people are better protected from toxins in

    Original URL path: http://njpirg.org/reports/njp/trouble-toyland-2012 (2016-04-29)
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  • Big Banks, Bigger Fees | NJPIRG
    if you applied for an account or told researchers to go online Another 16 only provided partial information Researchers found a wide variety of free or low cost checking options with 63 of small banks and 60 of credit unions providing totally free checking Although the biggest banks have recently tightened requirements to obtain totally free checking available at only 24 of big bank branches it is still available at more than half of big banks with a regular direct deposit 59 The survey found that small banks had lower average checking account fees overdraft fees and foreign or off us ATM fees as well as lower balance requirements to avoid checking fees than big banks In a surprising finding fully one quarter of small banks are no longer charging their regular checking account customers so called off us ATM fees through a variety of regional and national ATM networks including Plus Smartpass Presto the SUM network and others Additionally others are providing at least 2 4 off us transactions monthly at no charge These practices undercut one of the presumed major benefits of an account at a big bank access to large no cost ATM networks Some small banks are also reimbursing several or all surcharges paid monthly surcharges are the fees imposed by the off us ATM owner Conversely only two big banks 6 waived offus ATM fees on basic checking accounts and one of those only did in one of its markets While more than half of big banks 62 posted their full fee schedules on the web versus less than one third of small banks 29 finding the fees was often a scavenger hunt Many banks especially big banks placed fees in massive clunky PDF files Some banks even hid fee schedule links in footnotes or

    Original URL path: http://njpirg.org/reports/njp/big-banks-bigger-fees (2016-04-29)
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  • Distorted Democracy: Post-Election Edition | NJPIRG
    found that just 132 donors giving at least 1 million were responsible for 60 4 of all the money Super PACs raised in the 2012 cycle 71 8 million of Super PAC money came from for profit businesses This report provides evidence that the first post Citizens United election afforded corporations and large donors the opportunity to use their wealth to amplify their voices far beyond the volume of the average member of the general public threatening the basic American principle of political equality and they took full advantage We provide policy recommendations to restore the principle of one person one vote in our democracy first and foremost the need to overturn the Citizens United ruling either by Constitutional amendment or by Supreme Court revision of the decision Search form Search About Issues Stop the Overuse Of Antibiotics Stop the Highway Boondoggles Democracy For The People Label GMO Foods Making Health Care Work Protecting Consumers Toxic Free Communities Reining in Wall Street Act Now Jobs Donate Newsroom Resources Reports Get our RSS feed Our Affiliates Our Sister c 3 Are you a student Energy Service Corps Our Federation Archives Blog Media Hits News Releases Reports Resources Results Take Action Donate

    Original URL path: http://njpirg.org/reports/njp/distorted-democracy-post-election-edition (2016-04-29)
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  • As NY Brings Credit Bureaus To Heel, CFPB Arbitration Study Paves Way Toward New Protections | NJPIRG
    determined that medical debt is not a legitimate indicator of creditworthiness A recent CFPB study points out problems with medical debt reporting in detail We ve been fighting the credit bureau wars for 25 years One of our early 1990s reports part of our Nightmare On Credit Street series that helped lead to hard fought 1996 reforms was based on consumer complaints to the FTC It focused on the very issue that may finally be solved by this enforcement action the credit bureaus routinely take the word of creditors in disputes but ignore consumers As we noted in that report Consumers are outraged that the credit bureau says Item remains confirmed by source They want to to know Who is this source Our latest 2013 report Big Credit Bureaus Big Mistakes based on complaints to the CFPB confirmed that serious problems still exist We urged Congress to pass upgrades to credit reporting law in 1996 to require the credit bureaus and those sources generally creditors or debt collectors to improve accuracy but the credit bureaus ignored it so we helped pass another law in 2003 and they ignored that one too so in 2010 we fought to give the new CFPB broad authority over credit bureaus including the ability to examine them essentially to look inside their previously black box operations A 2012 CFPB study detailed endemic problems at the credit bureaus and led to a key concession the bureaus agreed to send furnishers all supporting documentation for a consumer s dispute Previously they had only sent the codes Apparently the bureaus have only just now learned that email allows file attachments CFPB bulletin explains pdf The CFPB s work has formed the foundation for this important New York enforcement action General Schneiderman s action is a big victory in the credit bureau wars but we ll remain vigilant and we ll keep pushing Expect further action by other leading state Attorneys General and both the CFPB and the FTC Big Story 2 Why the CFPB Arbitration Study Could Lead to A Fairer Marketplace Today the CFPB released a report finding that consumers are harmed by small print forced arbitration clauses in credit card and other contracts that allow firms to break the law with impunity as the clauses immunize them from legal action by harmed consumers The CFPB will hold a webcast public hearing at 11am Eastern time today Tuesday to discuss the report s findings The findings of the report allow the bureau by law to pursue new rules to protect consumers Highlights from the CFPB release accompanying the comprehensive 728 page pdf report available here html A rbitration agreements restrict consumers relief for disputes with financial service providers by limiting class actions The report found that in the consumer finance markets studied very few consumers individually seek relief through arbitration or the federal courts while millions of consumers are eligible for relief each year through class action settlements The Bureau s report also found that more than

    Original URL path: http://njpirg.org/blogs/eds-blog/usp/ny-brings-credit-bureaus-heel-cfpb-arbitration-study-paves-way-toward-new-0 (2016-04-29)
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  • Is Anyone Protecting Your Privacy Or Wallet? Turbotax? Anthem? Apple? The Government? | NJPIRG
    money Among Intuit s critics are two former employees Wapo link to KrebsOnSecurity story who said they protested Intuit s decision not to do more to halt seemingly fraudulent returns when they worked at the company One of them Shane MacDougall who was a principal security engineer at Intuit until last month recently filed a whistleblower complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission that alleges Intuit chose not to take needed security measures because executives worried those actions would cut into the company s market share Other critics seem to agree as Alabama state tax official Julie Magee told the Post Critics said that Intuit and its rivals in the self preparation software business H R Block and Blucora the maker of TaxAct do not have a financial incentive to erect the strongest possible security protections for consumers Such steps can make accessing accounts less convenient Commercial tax preparation software vendors have a much different primary objective than tax agencies They are driven by profit Julie Magee commissioner of the Alabama Department of Revenue wrote in a public letter this week The easier they make it to file a return the more customers they can get and the more profitable they will become There is no incentive for them to stop fraud Magee s letter goes on to also blame the secretive IRS Congress will be looking into tax fraud further in coming days The Washington Post offers tips to avoid online tax fraud Meanwhile we have also learned that the encouraging entry of the very high tech Apple Pay into the payment systems fraud debacle is not without fraud problems It turns out that while the device itself is highly encrypted if banks don t first verify that the cards being linked to the phone are real thieves in short pants can use stolen cards to bypass the system s vaunted safeguards But merchants have the same problems their own new payments system in beta mode was similarly hacked by low tech means last fall Consumers would benefit if companies were better required to keep personally identifiable data secure limited in how much data they could collect and how long that they keep it limited in the uses they could put it to without consumer knowledge or consent required to give consumers the right to review edit and control their files and dossiers and then held accountable when they break these rules To that end two years ago the Obama Administration issued a very promising widely praised Blueprint for a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights Unfortunately the White House then tasked the Department of Commerce not the FTC to draft the legislation Two weeks ago we joined leading consumer and privacy groups Congressional privacy champions including Rep Jan Schakowsky and Sen Ed Markey MA and even the FTC to critique both the flawed process and the proposal we got a last minute 90 minute peek but couldn t keep the copies our complaints resulted only in slight changes On

    Original URL path: http://njpirg.org/blogs/eds-blog/usp/anyone-protecting-your-privacy-or-wallet-turbotax-anthem-apple-government (2016-04-29)
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  • As House Holds Oversight Hearing, 340 Groups Call For Defense of CFPB | NJPIRG
    fill out forms or otherwise prove anything if the money was wrongly taken the CFPB simply orders banks or others to put it back in consumer accounts the CFPB has of course been active in drafting new rules of the road for the marketplace developing educational programs for everyone from servicemembers to students to homebuyers handling consumer complaints and making marketplace activities and its own activities more transparent through a regular series of reports snapshots public hearings webinars and a searchable public database of consumer complaints The CFPB s comprehensive Semi Annual Report 191 page pdf has more So does its website consumerfinance gov or cfpb gov both work which includes a newsroom a searchable database of complaints a complaint portal and innumerable other tools for consumers click the Get Assistance menu on the home page and social service providers as well as a Spanish language mirror site and help in over 180 languages Nevertheless powerful special interests including the banks and credit unions and their many trade associations as well as payday and high cost lenders financial services lawyers and lobbyists debt collectors and credit bureaus mortgage companies for profit trade schools and auto finance companies joined by generally coin operated free market think tanks and other special interests continue to try to rev up Congressional opposition to the CFPB AFR estimates they ve been spending 1 8 million per day to roll back Wall Street reform As our letter continues The rollback proposals that have been debated in the past and which we expect will be raised again in the new Congress will not protect the public or increase agency accountability Instead these proposals would hamper the agency and interfere with its ability to fulfill its mission The arguments to support them are part of a pattern of mischaracterizing the CFPB s organization and processes Unfortunately opponents of consumer protection including portions of the financial services industry that opposed the creation of the Bureau have opposed its consumer protection efforts at every step and possess a narrow self interest in preventing effective consumer regulation We strongly urge members of Congress to refrain from placing those narrow industry interests above the vital public interest in regulation of the consumer finance market place Legislative attacks on the bureau can be grouped into three categories Some bills aim to radically change its structure or eliminate the independent funding that insulates it from special interest efforts the goal to starve it to death or otherwise cut off its head Other opposition ploys use a death by a thousand cuts strategy Finally the bureau is one of many agencies that would see its effectiveness diminish if any of a package of U S Chamber of Commerce analysis paralysis proposals were enacted that are intended to prevent agencies from issuing any health safety or pocketbook protection rules in less than geologic time The CFPB is also currently carefully considering a number of very important rules to make the marketplace work better It is studying

    Original URL path: http://njpirg.org/blogs/eds-blog/usp/house-holds-oversight-hearing-340-groups-call-defense-cfpb (2016-04-29)
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  • Coalition Launched To Protect Retirement Savings from Wall Street Loopholes | NJPIRG
    Certner told Tara Siegel Bernard for her excellent New York Times explainer on the proposal last week titled Making Brokers Toe the Mark The financial services industry s resistance to the rule has been constant and it s been heavy and they have already spent a fair bit of money preventing this rule from seeing the light of day Unless the rule is completely watered down I d expect that to continue Tara s story explains how loopholes in the law allow Wall Street s brokers and agents to ignore fiduciary duties that apply currently only to a relatively small number of investment advisors She also references a recent White House memo based on academic analysis of the rule proposal The current regulatory environment creates perverse incentives that ultimately cost savers billions of dollars a year said the memo dated Jan 13 from Jason Furman chairman of the White House s Council of Economic Advisers and Betsey Stevenson a council member And many firms have organized themselves on the basis of capturing conflicted payments rather than the delivery of high quality advice they added She goes on to interview one of the professors who co authored one of the studies cited by the White House They are influenced by how much they are paid and larger payments can tilt a broker s advice towards poor performing funds said Susan Christoffersen one of the co authors of an academic study Wall Street s attack so far is following the same lines as in 2010 First they are claiming that they won t be able to provide advice to average Americans who will be priced out of the market Second Wall Street brokers are hiring Wall Street lawyers to issue studies as Debevoise and Plimpton did this week for the powerhouse Financial Services Roundtable Third they claim Labor needs to wait for the SEC they don t Finally the big firms are dangling rural agents out on the front lines of their attack rightly deciding that Congress may find these small businesses more sympathetic than they are Over at saveourretirement com you can study the Problem learn the Solution and Take Action The coalition s News and Resources pages rebut the industry s tired special interest self serving arguments for example their claim that middle class consumers will be on their own MYTH If brokers choose not to continue providing recommendations under the new rule workers and retirees with modest accounts will be stranded without affordable investment advice to guide their retirement planning FACT In fact investment advisers already exist who can and do serve middle income clients under a fiduciary standard giving the lie to the basic premise of this argument Furthermore recommendations that are not based on the best interest of the investor do not constitute advice such recommendations constitute a sales pitch misleadingly presented as advice Eliminating such misleading practices will be an important benefit of the rule not a drawback While OMB is often described as the place

    Original URL path: http://njpirg.org/blogs/eds-blog/usp/coalition-launched-protect-retirement-savings-wall-street-loopholes (2016-04-29)
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