The organization representing payday lenders spent roughly $1 million holding two annual conferences at Trump resorts — one of which came after the administration rolled back regulations on the payday lender industry.
That’s according to a recent ProPublica report about the payday lending industry’s closeness with the Trump administration. The outlet reported that the Community Financial Services Association of America (CFSA) — the chief lobbyist in Washington for the payday lending industry — held two annual conferences at the Trump National Doral resort outside of Miami, Florida. The most recent conference came roughly a month after the administration gutted an Obama-era regulation that payday lenders vehemently opposed.
In the summer of 2016, President Barack Obama’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) established a rule that payday lenders couldn’t charge excessive interest on a payday loan that would interfere with a borrower’s ability to pay for basic necessities like food and housing. Because the industry’s business model depends on sky-high interest rates (Investopedia estimates that average payday loan interest rates can go as high as 500% APR), the industry came out strongly against the rule.
However, in February of 2019. Trump-appointed CFPB director Kathy Kraninger proposed delaying the implementation date of the payday lender rule from August of 2019 to August of 2020, meaning that lenders can continue to gouge borrowers without fear of repercussions from the federal government.
A month later, the industry celebrated at Trump’s Doral resort.
“These events did not occur by accident, but rather are due in large part to the unity and participation of CFSA members and a commitment to fight back against regulatory overreach by the CFPB,” a message from CFSA CEO Dennis Shaul read in the program for the industry’s 2019 conference.
While the industry held its last two conferences at Trump resorts, it hadn’t held a single conference at a Trump property since at least 2010, according to ProPublica. While the CFSA held its first annual conference at that same property nearly two decades ago, President Trump did not own the resort at the time.
Americans for Financial Reform executive director Lisa Donner told ProPublica that while the group spending $1 at one of Trump’s businesses may not technically be a campaign donation or a lobbying expense, it still carries the appearance of lobbying the administration.
“It’s a way of keeping themselves on the list, reminding the president and the people close to him that they are among those who are generous to him with the profits that they earn from a business that’s in severe danger of regulation unless the Trump administration acts,” Donner said.
In addition to lessening payday lender regulations, the Trump administration’s CFPB has also significantly lowered enforcement of other CFPB regulations and substantially lowered payouts to victims of financial fraud. According to ProPublica, the amount of money paid to scam victims went from $43.6 million per week under Richard Cordray (Obama’s CFPB director) to just $6.4 million per week when then-CFPB director Mick Mulvaney (now the White House Chief of Staff) led the agency. Now, payouts to fraud victims are reportedly just $464,039 per week.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.