Alternative Finances

Consumer Advisor And Advocate Found To Be Tied To Payday Lending

Howard S. Dvorkin claims to have perosnally counseled at least 40,000 Americans on getting their debt under control in his capacity as the founder and former president of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services Inc.,a nonprofit that reports having helped 5 million Americans get their borrowing under control.

As it turns out, it might also be fairly said that Mr. Dvorkin has also helped many Americans get their borrowing totally out of control. Dvorkin owns interests in a number of businesses that either offer payday loans or  provide services to payday lenders, according to a review by The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Dvorkin said when asked about such matters: “We’re not in the payday-loan business, period.”

When it was pointed out to him by journalists that his paper work tells a slightly different story, Dvorkin noted that he is not in charge of these companies, and that he can not be familiar with the details of every company that he has owned, founded or invested in because there are a lot of them.

Mr. Dvorkin was recently quoted  as saying that a payday loan’s fees soon mount to more than the loan itself because  that payday lender’s “interest rate is outrageous.” However, in conversations with the Journal, Dvorkin has said there is a place for such loans for consumers without other options.

Among the interesting investments turned up in the the Wall Street Journal’s review of Dvorkin’s multifaceted business interests is loan-management software provided by Epic Loan Systems, a subsidiary of a Dvorkin-founded enterprise.

Ms. Tirres said Dollar Premier uses loan-management software provided by Epic Loan Systems. Epic is a unit of a company called Advance Loan Technologies that, according to Florida corporation records, was started in Mr. Dvorkin’s home in 2010. In an interview, Mr. Dvorkin said he is a part owner of Advance Loan.

According to the patent obtained by Epic’s parent, the software package can be used to  compile borrowers’ personal information, including their social security numbers. It could also scour borrowers’ loan histories and, if it uncovered any unpaid balances, offer information about them to lenders that are trying to collect on those debts.  Experts at the Pew Charitable Trust have identified this as an unusually aggressive feature.

When asked whether Epic’s software could be facilitating hardball practices by payday lenders, Dvorkin responded, “It’s their data. What they do with it, I couldn’t tell you. It’s software. It doesn’t deal with consumers. It has no interaction with anyone but other technologists.”

Dvorkin founded Consolidated Credit Counseling Services in 1993; by 2013 when he parted with the company it had grown to become the largest of its kind, generating $31 million in annual revenue, according to its most recent tax filings.

“I’ve been in all sorts of businesses, good and bad,” Mr. Dvorkin said. “But at the end of the day, the business I like best is helping people.”

 

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