Lawmaker Blocked Predatory Lending Rules While Wife Lobbied for Industry

Inside Subprime: September 9, 2019

By Grace Austin

A Texas congressman says there’s no conflict of interest after his personal connections to the national lending lobbying have come to light.

A Republican from Texas, was chairman of the House Armed Services Committee in 2015, when he advocated for postponing new regulations under the Military Lending Act.

Those rules, proposed by President Obama, were introduced to protect military members from predatory loans like title loans and payday loans by capping interest rates and banning them from making borrowers undergo mandatory arbitration. They ended up going into effect in July 2015.

Now, one publication is reporting that, through financial records, during the same time, the representative’s wife was working for a firm that lobbied for one of the country’s top lending trade groups. She was working for Washington-based Canfield & Associates, which lobbies for a trade association of mortgage lenders, Consumer Mortgage Coalition.

The Washington Examiner said that the Consumer Mortgage Coalition lobbied on many loan-related issues. Although the new MLA rules didn’t apply to “residential mortgage loans, the regulations applied to lending companies that provided mortgages in addition to other forms of credit, including members of the Consumer Mortgage Coalition.”

The Consumer Mortgage Coalition had come out previously against important lending legislation and other government efforts to curb predatory lending, according to the Dallas Morning News. The coalition lobbies for major banks. The representative opposed a potential lender database in the new MLA regulations and advocated for more financial literacy instead.

The Texas Tribune reported in 2015 that the representative had raised tens of thousands of dollars for an executive at one of the main groups that was lobbying to delay the new MLA rules.

The National Legal and Policy Center, a government watchdog group, said the work that the representative’s wife did raises questions about conflicts of interest.

“Sometimes things are exactly as they appear, and the appearances here are not good…” said Tom Anderson, director of NLPC’s government integrity project. “If you are sitting atop the Armed Services Committee, you should be careful about your relationships with special interests. He’s apparently made them part of his family.”

While these events may have happened four years ago, the Military Lending Act is still making headlines. In spring 2019, other outlets were talking about the standoff between some lawmakers and the new head of the CFPB.

Still, the MLA continues to act as a safeguard for military servicemembers. The Department of Defense finalized its MLA website in August 2019, which regulates what financial institutions can extend loans to servicemembers.

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