CEOs and lobbyists for Florida’s largest payday loan companies have approved changes to a controversial industry bill As he has made his way through the Legislature this year, the emails show it.
Emails between a Florida House employee show she repeatedly asked the industry to make changes to the bill, which would allow payday loan companies to offer larger loans with higher fees.
“Please let me know by 5pm today if you have any questions, comments, concerns, adjustments, etc.,” analyst Meredith Hinshelwood wrote in January, after sending them an “updated version. ” Bill. “If I don’t have an answer by then, I’ll assume you’re ok with the proposed changes.”
“These changes are fine with us,” responded Jessica Rustin, legal director and chief compliance officer for Advance America.
“The changes are all good for me too,” wrote Ian MacKechnie, founder and CEO of Tampa-based payday lender Amscot.
The payday loan bill passed the Senate and has yet to go through the House this week, but its passage is virtually guaranteed. He received almost no opposition from Republicans or Democrats in the Legislature.
The emails were obtained in an application for registration by Karl Frisch, executive director of Washington-based Allied Progress, a liberal group that has targeted the industry.
The conversations included industry lobbyists and employees of the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, which regulates payday loans.
Notably absent from the e-mail channels: opponents of the bill, including Alice Vickers, director of the Florida Alliance for Consumer Protection.
“It’s disappointing, there’s no question about it,” Vickers said. “Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s that unusual.”
Although Vickers said she would have liked to have been involved in the creation of the bill, she praised Hinshelwood, the analyst, who she said spent a lot of time with her reviewing the legislation. Rather, Vickers blamed the law-making process in Florida.
“These laws are created so quickly,” she said. “It is not a good process to create well thought out legislation.”
Frisch said, “That’s the problem.
“It’s a problem when it’s accepted as part of the process that payday loan companies, which contribute millions of dollars in Florida, are allowed to write legislation in Florida,” he said.
The industry is a big donor to state politicians, giving at least $ 3 million since it was licensed to operate in Florida in the early 2000s. Amscot has donated at least $ 1.3 million.
The emails do not explicitly show that the industry is drafting the bill, and Vickers said the changes mentioned in the emails were relatively trivial or were things requested by the Bureau of Financial Regulation.
But they give the impression of an uncomfortably close relationship between those who make the laws and those who benefit from them.
In an email, Hinshelwood makes it clear that the industry has been kept apprised of the changes to the bill.
“The committee’s next stop is a credit subcommittee, and it’s time to discuss the language before that next stop,” she wrote.
In another, she sought approval from OFR employees and industry insiders before adding wording to the bill.
“The highlighted part is what I propose to add to the [amended bill]”she wrote.” I know Jessica Rustin [of Advance America] that’s fine with that. For others on this email, please let me know before 10am tomorrow (Tuesday January 16) if you agree to this proposal. If I don’t have an answer by then, I assume you’re ok with the proposed changes. “
“Meredith, that makes sense, okay with me!” MacKechnie responded.
Analysts are appointed by and work for House and Senate leaders – in this case, Republicans. They help write invoices and write accompanying analyzes that typically summarize complicated topics into easy-to-read summaries. Both lawmakers and journalists rely on analysis to understand bills.
Hinshelwood, a lawyer and former OFR employee, declined to comment, referring the comments to House spokesman Fred Piccolo. Piccolo did not offer an answer.
MacKechnie said in a statement that lawmakers, not industry, were behind the legislation.
“We were one of many parties contacted for comment and were pleased to participate in the opportunity to respond, to help legislators and staff understand the complexities of the massive federal mandate and develop effective solutions for it. Florida, ”he said. “We participated by working with the sponsor and technical staff to help develop an approach that would protect Floridians’ access to short-term credit.”
This year’s payday loan bill has been praised by politicians and industry alike, who fear that a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rule will make it virtually impossible to do business in Florida.
One way to get around the rule, which they proposed in their bill, is to increase the maximum loan they can offer from $ 500 to $ 1,000. It would also mean that they could charge more in fees than they could by offering two loans of $ 500.
Opponents say the bill is unnecessary. The CFPB rule, which would require the industry to screen people who take out a high number of loans, does not come into effect until August 2019, and it may never come into effect under President Donald Trump’s watch. The current CFPB chief is already reconsidering the rule.
Vickers said the Office of Financial Regulation, not the analyst, should have been in charge of drafting the legislation.
But OFR spokeswoman Jamie Mongiovi said the agency was mostly on the fringes of drafting the bill.
Mongiovi, who is included in the email channels, said payday loan companies visited their office in November to meet over the legislation. Agency employees agreed to meet, as any changes in the law could affect how the agency regulates the industry.
But the bill was led by lawmakers, not government, she said.
“It was an industry-proposed bill, it was an industry-managed bill,” Mongiovi said. “We weren’t doing the show here.”