How state government turned Alabama into ground zero for modern-day loan sharks.
In late 2007, local government in Anniston took an unusual and bold step.
Faced with a glut of predatory lenders in its commercial district, the city council voted to stop issuing business licenses to the high-interest lenders. Though the ordinance was presented as a short-term step, more than a year later the moratorium is still in place.
Unfortunately, the city's ruling was a case of closing the barn door after the troublesome livestock had escaped. Predatory lenders are seemingly everywhere in our part of east Alabama. A short drive through one of the city's main retail arteries reveals dozens of businesses whose mission includes separating the working poor from what little cash they have.
In 2008, The Anniston Star presented a special report examining the issue of predatory lending. The stories are featured below:
On a fixed income and in a fix to lenders
The disability check didn't always carry her to the end of the month. There were bills to pay, and the price of gas kept going up. The woman, a Calhoun County resident, had to eat, and the few dollars in food stamps didn't go nearly far enough. Sometimes, especially toward the end of the month, she just ran out of money.
Lender: 'Gregory had a need and I filled it'
Gregory Rogers is a 45-year-old Anniston man with an easy smile and a friendly manner. He describes himself as mentally handicapped and illiterate. On a recent April afternoon on Noble Street, Rogers settled into the shadow of a blazing sun to chat about the poor state of his finances, something he and his attorneys blame on two Alabama statutes called the Small Loan Act and the Consumer Credit Act.
A city's moral obligation
Maudine Holloway listens to a visitor's simple claim, an assertion repeated often in Calhoun County boardrooms and bank offices, a declaration taken by many as truth.
North Carolina's example
The Center for Responsible Lending, a nonprofit organization that combats abusive financial practices, has a North Carolina mailing address for a reason. It was here that one of the most progressive predatory lending laws in the nation was passed in 1999.
Rescuing the prey: Local solutions for a local problem
Today's predatory lenders have two distinct advantages over their shadier forebears: skilled public relations defenders and laws legitimizing their work. But the toll exacted on the economically vulnerable by these modern-day loan sharks is as harsh as it ever was.