First Nations Development Institute Releases Critical Report On A Model Tribal Consumer Protection Code

With funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, First Nations Development Institute announces the release of a new research report that examines the passage of consumer protection and anti-predatory lending legislation by tribal governments. Previous research has demonstrated that predatory lending is stripping money from low-income tribal citizens, especially those who are unbanked or underbanked. Some tribes have passed legislation to provide consumer protection for their citizens.

“Tribes have the power to establish their own legislation that limits predatory lending on reservations and this sends a strong signal that such lenders are not welcome,” stated Michael E. Roberts, president of First Nations Development Institute. “This report helps tribal leaders think through the options available to them as they work to avoid asset stripping in the form of high-cost loans.” The report also includes a model tribal code that can be adopted by tribal governments to limit the activities of predatory lenders.

The report, titled Building Trust: Consumer Protection in Native Communities, is the first attempt to explore the complex legal dynamics related to tribal consumer protection legislation and to discuss what tribal nations are already doing to combat predatory lending through the use of tribal legislation. Examining existing consumer protection and anti-predatory lending policies, this report also highlights issues that tribal leaders should consider in developing such legal and regulatory tools, including matters related to tribal legal jurisdiction and setting up regulatory systems.

Levon Henry, the executive director of DNA People’s Legal Services, will be presenting the paper at the South Dakota Indian Business Alliance conference on May 17, 2011 in Rapid City, South Dakota. Henry was a member of an advisory committee that directed the research for this project. DNA People’s Legal Services is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit legal aid organization working to protect civil rights, promote tribal sovereignty and alleviate civil legal problems for people who live in poverty in the southwestern United States. “We have seen the negative impact of predatory lending on many tribal members,” stated Henry. “Tribes can take a pro-active step and adopt legislation that can limit the impact of such activities.”

For more information about the report Building Trust: Consumer Protection in Native Communities, visit First Nations Development Institute’s website at www.firstnations.org.

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Outdoor Chic Sponsors Fashion Kicks, A Star Studded Charity Gala Evening

Fashion Kicks raised over a million pounds with a star studded evening attended by 900 lucky guests.

Super model Lily Cole opened the evening’s entertainment with a stunning catwalk fashion show hosted by Selfridges. The best of this summer’s high fashion was on show, from some of the biggest design brands

The biggest cheer of the evening was for the FA cup itself, brought onto the catwalk by the Manchester City players in a thrilling end to a top class fashion show.

After a delicious meal prepared by some of the North West’s favourite chefs including Nigel Haworth and Paul Heathcote, the real business end of the evening took centre stage to raise fantastic amounts of money for McMillan cancer support, Beechwood cancer care centre and Adopt a school.

The generous support from the guests in the room helped Shay and Jane Given smash through their target to raise a million pounds through their annual event.

The climax of the evening was a high energy performance from Alexandra Burke with a live set of all her smash hits with her dancers.

Outdoor Chic were proud to offer their services again by furnishing the pre dinner cocktail bar and after show party with some of their fabulous 2011 collection of contemporary garden furniture. “Some of our key brands, Gloster, Fatboy garden bean bags, Dedon and MyYour kindly supported us to help create some very VIP areas for the venue” said Dave Lofthouse of Outdoor Chic.

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Report: Poor Quality Tax Preparation And Refund Anticipation Check Abuses In New Mexico

Between February 1 and April 18, 2011, First Nations Development Institute conducted 12 “mystery shopper” tests of paid tax preparers in New Mexico. These mystery shopper tests were conducted in communities with a high Native American population and close to Indian reservations. First Nations visited tax preparer sites in Gallup, Grants, Bernalillo, Farmington, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. The goal of the work was to assess the quality of tax preparation services and to test the hypothesis that the tax preparation firms are steering people toward expensive products, such as Refund Anticipation Loans or Refund Anticipation Checks.

This research uncovered several problems with inaccurate, unethical, or unprofessional behavior on the part of tax preparers. “In our small sample of mystery shoppers, it was shocking what we uncovered,” stated Shawn Spruce, a financial education consultant for First Nations. Spruce also shared,“Unfortunately, the companies that our mystery shoppers visited did a poor job preparing even basic tax returns and could have exposed them to serious tax liability. In general, we were startled by the low quality service and the fact that two of these companies automatically signed our shoppers up for expensive Refund Anticipation Checks, even though they could have directly deposited their tax returns into their own bank accounts.”

Michael E. Roberts, president of First Nations Development Institute, stressed the importance of conducting the mystery shopper tests and resulting research on tax preparers.

“This research reinforces what other studies have found,” stated Roberts. “There is a great need for better regulation of tax preparers so that low-income people can hold on to their hard earned tax refunds and avoid expensive and predatory products like Refund Anticipation Checks. It is unfortunate that tax time serves as an opportunity to exploit Native American taxpayers through high fees and unnecessary products that take money out of taxpayers’ pockets.”

On May 4, 2011, Spruce presented the findings in Tax Time Troubles, a First Nations Development Institute report that provides details about predatory, unprofessional, and inaccurate tax preparation firms serving often low income communities in New Mexico. Spruce was the evening keynote speaker at the Effective Asset Building Strategies in New Mexico conference being held at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This conference was sponsored by Prosperity Works, a nonprofit organization that works to reduce the impact of predatory lending and whose mission is to ensure that every New Mexican has the opportunity, knowledge and relationships to achieve economic prosperity.

For more information about the research report Tax Time Troubles, visit First Nations Development Institute’s website at www.firstnations.org.

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The National Trust Announces Partnership with Garmin

The National Trust is offering visitors an exciting new way to explore its great outdoor places by partnering with GPS experts Garmin this summer.

Geocaching, a family friendly ‘digital’ treasure hunt, will be taking place at over 40 National Trust places across the country*. Visitors will be able to borrow a Garmin handheld GPS device to guide them to treasure ‘caches’ hidden in the countryside and coastland of National Trust sites.

These modern-day treasure-hunts are a fun way for visitors to get out and really experience the outdoors with the National Trust.

Andrew Silver, senior product manager for fitness and outdoor at Garmin said: “Geocaching is a great way for families and people of all ages to get outdoors and discover hidden places using a Garmin GPS and opencaching.com. At National Trust places this summer, you can have fun and get rewards, but also learn useful techniques such as how to read maps and co-ordinates. Garmin is really pleased to be able to offer this new activity to people who love to experience beautiful National Trust places.”

The partnership between the National Trust and Garmin is part of the Trust’s vision to encourage more people to enjoy the outdoors.

Over the forthcoming months, Garmin will be hosting taster sessions at National Trust places, so visitors from across England, Wales and Northern Ireland can become 21st century treasure hunters.

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