Wednesday - January 17, 2018
Ft. Bragg commander critical of proposed consumer finance bill
Friday, 20 May 2011 08:58

(RALEIGH) -- A bill that would allow North Carolina lenders to charge higher fees and interest rates on small unsecured loans drew criticism from a top military leader.

Col. Stephen Sicinski, garrison commander at Fort Bragg, told members of the House Banking Committee that soldiers “flushed with deployment money” were especially susceptible to consumer installment loans. He said the industry-backed bill would to ultimately lead to more economic problems for military servicemen and women.

“This demographic is highly tempted at always overreaching their economic means – regardless of how much money they have,” Sicinski said. “And the more money they have available, the more they tend to overreach.”

Lawmakers eliminated a provision that would have raised the maximum interest rate lenders could charge. However, the bill would still adjust the rate brackets to allow lenders to charge up to 36 percent on loans less than $1,500. Currently, that maximum rate only applies to loans below $600. The measure would also give lenders the ability to collect higher fees from borrowers.

Supporters said the proposal is needed to make sure installment loans remain a viable option for consumers. C. Everett Wallace, a lobbyist for the N.C. Credit and Personal Finance Council, said lenders have seen a 30 percent drop in smaller loans during the past 20 years.

“What we’re asking for are changes – not to deal with the short ups and downs of the recent recession or anything like that,” said Wallace. “We’re asking specifically for changes that we think are fair and reasonable for 28 years of not having any change.”

An annual report from Joseph Smith, the state’s banking commissioner, said most companies offering installment loans saw profits of roughly 10 percent during the past few years. Industry leaders said those margins are much lower for small lenders.

Chairman Rep. Johnathan Rhyne, R-Lincoln, said the House Banking Committee will likely vote on the proposal at its next meeting.

 
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