Image from HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”
Corporations prey on the most economically disadvantaged people in America through payday lending. Payday lending is a “short-term, high cost loan, generally for $500 or less, that is typically due on your next payday,” according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The problem is once you miss payment, the interest payments and penalties can be impossible to meet.
A Washington Post investigative report found payday lending companies often target the poor, offering a quick fix for those who can barely keep their heads above water. One person interviewed by the Post used a $1,200 check from Mariner Finance to repair his truck, which he needed to get to work and transport his kids to school. Not long after, the company sued him for $3,221.27.
Payday lending companies clearly comprehend the ethics behind their bottom line.
“It’s basically a way of monetizing poor people,” a former employee of Mariner Finance told the Washington Post, commenting on the business practices of the payday lending industry.
So it’s alarming when an owner of payday companies is active in the Texas Legislature, voting against bills that would protect consumers from predatory practices while looking out for his own interests.
Texas Rep. Gary Elkins (R – Houston) is the owner of Power Finance Texas, a payday lending company which lists 10 locations across five cities in Texas, including Houston, Dallas and San Antonio.
As a representative, Elkins has used his legislative power to block payday lending regulations during the 2011 and 2013 legislative sessions.
Specifically, Texas Rep. Vicki Truitt (R – Keller) authored three bills aimed at protecting payday loan customers, which Elkins opposed.
“Isn’t it true that you stand to add to your personal wealth considerably by killing the bills?” Truitt asked Elkins when it came time to vote on the bills, according to the Houston Chronicle. “Mr. Elkins, do you understand the concept of conflict of interest?”
Elkins himself has admitted that he uses his position in the Capitol to protect his own interests. The lawmaker’s antics caught national attention when HBO host John Oliver highlighted Elkins as a prime example of the predatory practices of the payday lending industry.
State Rep. Gary Elkins owns a chain of predatory payday lenders across Texas and routinely uses his power in the legislature to stop regulations on the industry. Elkins’ blatant conflict of interest even caught the attention of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.
Read more: https://reformaustin.news/2018/07/23/predatory-lender-gary-elkins-texas-representative-john-oliver/
Posted by Reform Austin on Tuesday, July 24, 2018
“Oh do I know it?” said Oliver mocking Elkins, after playing a clip of Truitt asking if Elkins was familiar with the term conflict of interest. “Why madam, I am the physical embodiment of that term at this very moment.”
Another Houston Chronicle article reports Elkins’ Power Finance stores in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio have been cited for allegedly “not registering with the cities or allowing regulators to inspect their books.”
Then-Dallas City Councilman Jerry Allen said it best when the Houston Chronicle asked for his take on Elkins’ responsibility as a lawmaker but inability to follow regulations as a businessman: “Here you have a lawmaker that makes laws for everybody else, and then when it comes time for him to follow the law that other people follow, he thumbs his nose at it. We’re not going to tolerate it.”
No state lawmaker should use their legislative position to shield their businesses from the law, while fattening their wallets off the suffering of hard-working Texans.