Payday Lending Testimony

Texas Baptist pastors testify against payday lending

DALLAS—Two Texas Baptist pastors raised concerns about payday and car-title lending practices in public hearings before the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in Dallas.

jeffjohnson130Jeff JohnsonJeff Johnson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Commerce and president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and Steve Wells, pastor of South Main Baptist Church in Houston, addressed Director Richard Cordray and other staff members of the federal bureau that oversees consumer financial products and services.

“Wise federal oversight and regulation are sorely needed.” Johnson said. “I encourage you to closely monitor payment processing procedures and any compliance safeguards that may already exist. In addition, I suggest additional federal safeguards to protect the integrity of our payment systems, financial institutions and consumers.”

The hearing primarily addressed forced arbitration clauses in contracts used by financial institutions to settle disputes outside of the court, but the subject of payday and car-title lending occupied much of the public comment portion of the hearing.

steve wells130Steve WellsIn addition to testifying in the hearing, Wells also joined other faith-based and nonprofit leaders in a private meeting with Cordray and his staff that focused primarily on payday and car-title lending practices.

The Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission has supported stricter regulations on payday and auto-title lending in Texas. These businesses use a legal loophole that enables them to charge fees that can become the equivalent of more than 400 percent interest, said Ferrell Foster, acting CLC director.

“These small-dollar, short-term loan products result in exorbitant fees for many of the users,” Foster said. “The Texas constitution and Texas Finance Code have set limits on the amount of interest that can be charged in Texas, and there are clear biblical teachings against usury, or the charging of exorbitant fees.

“The current situation is simply unethical, and it is draining billions of dollars from the Texas economy. We care about people who are being taken advantage of, and we care about upholding the intent of Texas law.”

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