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'The Card Game' Examines Credit, Debit Industry

  • Frontline, Wednesday, November 25, 2009 10:21 AM
Correspondent Lowell Bergman took a hard look at the consumer loan industry, and particularly how the powerful banking industry is adapting to new regulations on credit cards, in a Frontline co-production with The New York Times that aired on PBS last night.

If you're in financial services marketing, you'll marvel at just how clever your colleagues have been in enticing people to borrow money over the years, and at the genius of subsidizing free floats for the affluent on the monthly minimum payments of the working poor. If you're not, however, you may feel your blood begin to curdle over the lobby's grip on Washington, soaring interest rates on credit in the face of nearly zero percent yields on T bills, and legal maneuvers that, for example, enable debit card issuers to gouge consumers with overdraft fees. Wherever you stand, the program is an excellent overview on the current debate in Congress over the need for a Co nsumer Financial Protection Agency.

Bergman also snares the first interview with Shailesh Mehta, the former chairman and CEO of Providian Financial who resigned after the company was forced to pay $300 million in 2001 in restitution for misleading consumers. Mehta is frank about Providian's creation of a credit market for people they labeled "unbanked" with come-ons and gimmicks that, he says, were quickly copied and expanded on by competitors.

The entire program can be viewed here. Whole interviews and supplemental material are also available; a program transcript will be available within the week.

Marketplace's Jeremy Hobson, meanwhile, reports about a new study by First American CoreLogic that finds that one in four homeowners owes more on their mortgage than their house is worth. The good news for marketers of other products is that many lenders are modifying mortgages so homeowners don't give up on their properties. "Homeowners who feel confident about their mortgage may be more likely to spend on everything from a new paint job to a new TV," Hobson reports.

Read the whole story at Frontline »

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