Activists to unleash 'Shark Week' attack on payday lending industry

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Financial reform advocates will try to take a bite out of payday lenders, launching a push for tougher regulations to correspond with the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week.”

The weeklong initiative seeks to capitalize on the annual television event, a rite of summer that has amassed a cult-like following in its 26th year, with a series of online memes and a petition urging regulators to clamp down on the industry.

The effort will also include as yet unspecified “ground actions” in Iowa, Illinois, Missouri and Idaho, according to activists who warn that the most dangerous sharks in America “aren’t found in the sea.”

“They’re the payday loan sharks lurking on neighborhood corners and on the Internet and they offer small dollar loans that take a big bite out of family budgets with interest rates averaging roughly 300 percent,” the groups charge.

National People’s Action, a network of activist organizations, is leading the initiative, which seeks to apply pressure on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

The bureau is currently weighing tougher regulations for the payday lending industry, and in March released a study finding that four out of five borrowers renew their payday loan within two weeks because they need more money to pay their bills and make ends meet.

Pointing to a “revolving door of debt,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray has signaled a forthcoming crackdown on the industry.