AFR Memo on Servicemembers, the Military Lending Act, and the CFPB

October 1st marked the 4th anniversary of implementation of the Military Lending Act (MLA). Passage of the MLA was a recognition of the serious harm abusive consumer financial products do to our service members. It was an important step. But MLA rules are narrowly focused, and the problem has persisted.

In 2006, the Department of Defense (DoD) issued a “Report on Predatory Lending Practices Directed at Members of the Armed Forces and Their Dependents,” which concluded that “predatory lending undermines military readiness, harms the morale of troops and their families, and adds to the cost of fielding an all volunteer fighting force.” In surveys conducted by DoD last year, personal finances ranked second on the list of causes of stress for servicemembers, second only to career concerns. Financial problems are now the top cause of revocation of military security clearances.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – once it is fully up and running with a Director in place – will have the mandate and the tools to take on the range of abusive lending targeting servicemembers and all consumers.  And in addition to its general consumer protection mission, it has a particular responsibility to protect servicemembers.

Unfortunately, Republican leaders in Congress have pledged to impede the CFPB’s work by blocking the nomination of any Director unless the Bureau is first dramatically weakened. Without a Director, the CFPB does not have full authority over the non banks – like payday lenders, student lenders and more – that are among the major sources of problems on and around bases. Click here for more.