Toronto The board meeting for ACORN Canada was fascinating. Leaders were in Toronto from the local groups here as well as from the newly organized units in Ottawa in three different neighborhoods and from Surrey and New West around Vancouver. It’s always interesting how much can be learned when the leaders gather.
ACORN Canada has pioneered our campaigns around predatory lending practices with pay day lenders. I read again the report they had issued in March of this year (www.canada.acorn.org/conflict-of-interest_report) that was a beautiful piece of work and a nice bit of research in assistance with the ACORN Financial Justice Center. We belled the cow by looking at two large banks for which we had information, Toronto Dominion and the Royal Bank of Canada.
Call it “conflict of interest” or straight hypocrisy, the problem plainly put is that these big banks are trying to have it both ways. On one hand they talk about financial education and financial literacy and other community and asset building strategies, and on the other hand they turn out to be investing in the pay day lenders themselves and profiting from their predatory practices! Talking one way and making money the other way in a sense.
Between the two banks they had $10,000,000 in investments in pay day lending companies under their name with TD having the most. Add subprime lenders into the picture, as the report did, and there is another $50,000,000 worth of investments in sub-prime lenders.
Reporting on the meetings with the two banks, the ACORN Canada leaders said they found an interesting response. Toronto Dominion claimed that these were not really “their investments” but were investments in the name of their clients. Huh? Hard to believe whatever it might be called that they were doing it as a charitable contribution — this was about money and they made money doing it! Some of this “disappeared” from their websites, but it may have been simply a screen put on the investments.
Once confronted with the moral paradox here and its impact in the community, all the banks could say in their defense was, “it’s legal.” Maybe not for long! Makes sense to walk your talk, but simply pad your pockets.