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Russell Simmons Interchange amendment hurts underserved
WASHINGTON (6/21/10)--More opposition to the interchange amendment in the Senate version of the regulatory reform legislation is being voiced by Russell Simmons, co-founder of hip-hop recording label Def Jam and advocate for the "poor, the voiceless and the underserved"--this time in a letter to the members of the financial reform conference committee. Simmons, writing in Huffington Post (June 18) to the committee, said he is "increasingly concerned that the central issue, the effect on the most vulnerable in our country is not fully appreciated by those making the decision." He has studied the amendment, spoken to members of Congress and "spoken to groups that have no hidden agenda: the community banks and credit unions--the good guys in the financial system," he wrote. The amendment, which would allow government intervention in setting interchange fees, is strongly opposed by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and the nation's credit unions. Last week hundreds of credit union representatives hiked Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., while credit union grassroots supporters made about 600,000 contacts with congressional representatives to deliver the message: "No interchange amendment." Simmons' article pointed out what is at stake: "Debit cards are the entry point for millions of Americans into the American financial system. Debit cards are what keep the under-served--including minorities, immigrants, the poor, soldiers, veterans and students--from the claws of payday lenders and check cashers, from humiliated lines waiting to cash their paychecks and then more lines to pay their bills." Simmons owns a debit card company and maintains the amendment will have comparatively little and possible a positive effect on my particular business," but said "this is about ensuring that within our desire to create financial reforms, we do not do so at the expense of the poor." He noted his support of the "Move Your Money" campaign that supports community banks, credit unions and specialist providers of debit card services. Simmons has "received assurances" that new language in the amendment will come. "However, until I see action behind the words, I will continue to fight for the needs of poor people," he said. The article was the second this month Simmons had written for the Huffington Post in opposition to the interchange language. In the earlier article, he cited a joint letter that CUNA and the Independent Community Bankers of America wrote on the inadequacy of a carve out in the bill for smaller institutions as an influence on his decision to speak out against the amendment (News Now June 8).
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