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LOS ANGELES — California's attorney general joined a coalition of two dozen other state attorneys general on Tuesday in opposing the Trump administration's efforts to delay a consumer protection rule for payday lenders.
The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last month proposed repealing a 2017 "ability-to-pay" requirement that the industry opposed. The Obama administration proposed the rule as a way to end predatory lending against low-income Americans.
"The Trump political appointees at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have forgotten the essential mission of their agency — to protect consumers," said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. "The CFPB's proposed rule change would allow payday lenders to target and take advantage of our nation's most vulnerable borrowers rather than issue loans based on a person's ability to pay."
Becerra, a Democrat and frequent critic of President Donald Trump, submitted a letter with the coalition opposing the administration's proposal to delay the rule, which had been scheduled to go into effect in August. The letter was sent to CFPB Director Kathleen Kraninger.
In the letter, the state attorneys general criticized the Trump administration's delay in implementing the rule and alternative proposals that would rescind the provision. Among the other state attorneys general signing the letter were Letitia James of New York and Gurbir Grewal of New Jersey.
"These proposals were issued only after representatives of the payday industry secretly lobbied CFBP's former acting Director Mick Mulvaney, and after CFPB falsely denied that such a meeting had occurred," the letter stated.
In addition, the letter said the 2017 rule is of concern to the state attorneys general because they share authority with the CFPB over enforcement of the provision. The rule took effect last year but the federal agency announced it would delay compliance until August 2019.
"The delay in the underwriting protections will leave the citizens of our states unprotected from many types of exploitative loans, and could embolden lenders who seek to circumvent the laws of those states with strong protections against such loans," the letter added.
Finally, the attorneys general warned "we will not hesitate to consider taking legal action if CFPB unlawfully proceeds."
Last month, the CFPB said in a press release that "there was insufficient evidence and legal support for the mandatory underwriting provisions in the 2017 final rule. Additionally, the Bureau is concerned that these provisions would reduce access to credit and competition in states that have determined that it is in their residents' interests to be able to use such products, subject to state-law limitations. "
The CFPB didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.