Bank backers pull switcheroo
Lawmakers, bankers and brokers met Tuesday to clear the week of confusion clouding the proposed Georgia Fair Lending Act.
Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, at first didn't realize that the bill he drafted to protect poor homeowners had been replaced with one more friendly to big banks, which often own subsidiaries accused of predatory lending.
Fort says he had mistakenly approved the pro-bank changes at a Senate banking committee hearing Feb. 20. "The meeting was so hectic," Fort says. "There were hundreds of people there. What happened was, I didn't have a chance to look at [the changes]."
As of press time, Fort was working to reverse some of the changes in time for the bill to be presented to the full Senate.
National predatory lending expert Bill Brennan, an attorney at Atlanta Legal Aid, says the original bill would have helped protect unsophisticated borrowers from getting duped and cheated by savvy lenders.
"But the current bill does not address in any effective way the abuses we see here," Brennan says.
Mo Thrash, lobbyist for the Mortgage Brokers Association of Georgia, says he supports restraints on predatory lending. But the original bill would have placed too many restrictions on lenders. If it had passed, lenders would have been hesitant to continue loaning to poor borrowers, Thrash says.
"Investment dollars would be slowed down," he says, "and it wouldn't really benefit the consumers of this state."