Yesterday, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced that the last three major out-of-state payday lenders had agreed to stop making illegal loans in North Carolina.
As a result, working families in the state will save almost $100 million each year -- money they can use to buy food, pay their bills, and balance their family budget. Payday lenders make small loans and charge interest rates of as much as 400 percent, trapping families in a cycle of debt from which many never recover.
The Center for Responsible Lending, a nonprofit, non-partisan research group based in Durham, NC, applauds the Attorney General's work on behalf of the state's consumers and says this milestone should be an example for other states where the payday lenders still do business.
These states should be aware it did not happen overnight. It took five long years.
First, the North Carolina legislature had to admit that the payday lending experiment had failed -- that borrowers were being trapped into a cycle of debt that should have been prohibited by NC law. Legislators resisted incredible lobbying pressure to allow the industry to remain in the state.
Then, when a handful of out-of-state payday lenders thumbed their noses at NC's new prohibition against the practice, it took strong, persistent state officials -- the Commissioner of Banks and the Attorney General -- to enforce the will of the state legislature and the rights of North Carolina citizens.
It also took assistance of federal banking regulators, most recently the FDIC's ending sham partnerships between out-of-state banks and out-of-state payday lenders seeking to evade North Carolina's law.
It took the leadership of a few lenders, such as State Employees Credit Union, to offer an alternative product that actually met the need for emergency credit without using that desperation as an excuse for abuse.
Finally, it took the will of advocates and concerned citizens who were unwilling to accept the smoke and mirrors offered by payday lenders. These advocates include: AARP-NC, the NC Justice Center, the Community Reinvestment Association of NC, the NC NAACP, the NC Council of Churches, Credit Counseling Agencies of NC, the NC Fair Housing Center, organizations representing military families, and many others.
I hope that yesterday's announcement -- that payday lending is now officially dead in North Carolina -- will give other advocates and regulators and legislators around the country hope that they too can win the fight against the payday debt trap.
Working families deserve it.