In the lead-up to Memorial Day this year, Marketplace and ProPublica have been investigating predatory lending to soldiers and their families. Now, we’ll host a live online discussion of the issues facing indebted military members, and the military units they serve in.
The Military Lending Act (implemented in 2007) was supposed to protect military members from exorbitant interest on small-dollar loans. It set a 36 percent APR cap and banned payday and title loans -- short-term high-cost cash loans that often got soldiers and their families into a deepening cycle of debt. And consumer advocates, as well as the military itself, credit the MLA with significantly reducing the availability of these types of predatory loans.
But, we looked at military bases in Georgia and elsewhere in the country, where storefront lenders still cluster just outside the gates -- title-pawn, pawn shops, and installment, all lending ‘to the military.’ We found national chains of non-bank finance companies are either restructuring their lending products to exploit gaps in the Military Lending Act -- extending the term of the loan, for instance -- or flagrantly violating the law. The plight of severely indebted soldiers continues to impact the military -- threatening soldier’s security clearances, taking up officers’ time and threatening the readiness of the force.
Help us answer a few questions in our next live chat (revisit our previous discussion on installment lending here):
- Are you a military member, or do you know a military member, who has gotten into financial trouble from predatory lending?
- Are soldiers paid enough to cover their living expenses, as well as financial emergencies?
- Why don’t more military members use the zero-interest emergency loans available from the Army and other services, to avoid predatory lenders?
- Do you think the Military Lending Act has made a difference in predatory lending to military members?
- Why are military members so vulnerable to predatory lenders -- outside the gates of bases, or online?
- Should members of the military be given more consumer protections from predatory payday and title lenders than the rest of the civilian population?
- Should the Military Lending Act (or similar loan bans and APR caps) be extended to all Americans?
Join us back here for a live discussion this Friday, May 24, at 11 a.m. PT/2 p.m. ET, with Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman and ProPublica's Paul Kiel.