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Big Banks Key Financers Of Payday Lenders

Loans and credit may still be hard for some companies to get, but payday lenders don't seem to be having trouble. A new report shows Wells Fargo and Bank of America are top funders of the payday loan industry. The authors of the report blame big banks for the growth of the payday loan industry. "These banks were bailed out by the American taxpayer and they need to stop investing in an industry that thrives off bilking the American taxpayer," says George Goehl, executive director of National People's Action, a community advocacy group that co-sponsored the report. It estimates big banks extend as much as $3 billion in credit to payday lenders each year. Wells Fargo is the largest funder with a lead role in financing six of the nation's largest payday lenders. According to the report, Bank of America and its subsidiaries own more than a one-percent stake four of the top five publicly-held payday lenders. Neither bank disputes the report, but both say they put payday lenders through a strict screening process to qualify for funding. Bank of America spokesman Jefferson George says the bank treats payday lenders as a "discouraged industry" and does not actively recruit their business. But it's a lucrative business, says Kevin Connor. He's with the Public Accountability Initiative and co-author of the new report. Big banks collected about $70 million in interest on loans to publicly-traded payday lenders last year: "That gives a sense of how much is going into these banks pockets - especially when they're borrowing at near-zero interest rates from the Fed while payday borrowers on the other end of the cycle pay a typical rate of 455 percent," says Connor. The typical fee for a 2-week payday loan is $15 per $100 borrowed. Advance America spokesman Jamie Fulmer says it's unfair to calculate that interest on an annual basis because customers don't take out a new loan every two weeks. He says the average is 7 or 8 loans per year for Advance America customers who typically don't have access to other forms of credit. "The premise of the report really ignores the fact that millions of Americans choose this product each and every year because it meets their needs," says Fulmer. And he says Advance America couldn't meet those needs without a substantial line of credit from BofA, Wells Fargo and other banks.