Following last month’s explosions at a petrochemical plant near Beaumont, Texas on the Gulf Coast, a new report draws attention to the private equity industry’s growing control of companies in this sector through a business model that may increase health, environmental, and safety risks. This financial engineering often allows private equity firms to extract wealth from the companies they purchase, but can result in intense pressure to cut costs, resulting in layoffs or reduced spending on operations that can lead to substandard products or services.
The day before Thanksgiving, a chemical plant operated by the TPC Group exploded in Port Neches, Texas spewing contaminants, forcing over 50,000 people to evacuate, and leaving the community with the lingering aftereffects of an industrial disaster. The TPC Group is owned by two private equity (PE) firms, SK Capital Partners (SK) and First Reserve. The private equity owned chemical plants in Texas held by SK Capital have a long record of environmental violations — not just the TPC Group factories but other SK Capital portfolio firms.
“They’ve made it easier to hide patterns of discrimination by raising the threshold for reporting, which makes it harder for civil rights lawyers or state attorneys general to draw conclusions when the data is not available,” said Linda Jun, senior policy counsel at Americans for Financial Reform, a nonprofit coalition. “So in addition to not going after any bad guys in two years, they are making it a lot harder to find those patterns of discrimination.”
The proposed rules weaken a compliance system that needs to be strengthened, introduce new loopholes and add confusion and inconsistency, all while failing to address the real changes needed to modernize CRA to respond to changes in our country’s demographics and changes in the structure of the banking industry.
We strongly oppose the proposal to remove requirements to post initial margin when engaging in inter-affiliate derivatives transactions with covered swaps entities. The Agencies instituted this requirement just four years ago, concluding that these margin postings were necessary to “protect the safety and soundness of the covered swap entity in the event of an affiliated counterparty default”. Since this issue affects the key depository affiliates of the largest U.S. banks – entities at the heart of the taxpayer-supported safety net for systemically critical banks – the 2015 Final Rule also concluded that failing to require initial margin for inter-affiliate swaps would pose a threat to broader systemic stability.
Americans for Financial Reform wrote to Congress to express our support for The Student Borrower Protection Act, The Fair Student Loan Debt Collection Practices Act, and The Private Loan Disability Discharge Act. The student loan protections, transparency measures, and servicing reforms included in these bills are urgently needed so that borrowers are treated more fairly, basic standards are clearer, and borrowers facing challenging circumstances have every opportunity to succeed.
Under the rule, a borrower would have to sign a notice authorizing the lender to withdraw from the account after those two consecutive failures. “If I was smart, I would only sign that if there was money in there,” says Linda Jun, a policy counsel with Americans for Financial Reform, a regulatory and consumer protection coalition. “Aside from getting charged more for a negative balance, banks close bank accounts over this stuff, you could lose access to banking entirely.”
AFR joined 65 other organizations to write in support of S.J.Res. 56 and H.J.Res.76 to undo Education Secretary DeVos’ 2019 Borrower Defense to Repayment rule. The DeVos rule gutted the Obama Administration’s 2016 rule that added further protections to students who are entitled to debt cancellation after their schools broke the law. An analysis of the Department’s own calculations estimates that only 3 percent of the loans that result from school misconduct would be cancelled under the new rule. Schools would be held accountable for reimbursing taxpayers for just 1 percent of these loans.