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By Geoff Metcalf

October 31, 2005

Businesses that exploit military service men and women are just below child molesters, crooked politicians and liberal mainstream media revisionists.

There exists a group of predatory lenders who specifically target military personnel and jack them up with abusive contracts and outrageous cumulative fees.

Although there has been some federal and state actions to chill the jets of financial services outfits exploiting solider, sailors, airmen and marines, the systemic dysfunction and malfeasance needs immediate attention.

Especially at a time when our military is so heavily tasked and money tight, companies and individuals who seek to take advantage of troops is reprehensible.

In addition to the streets outside military bases being packed with car dealers and bars, moneylenders, check cashers, payday lenders, pawnshops and loan companies have become as ubiquitous as pigeon droppings�and more offensive.

The New York Times reports the biggest lender to military types is Pioneer Financial Services. They are a Missouri based company with one of its largest offices outside Camp Pendleton in California. According to their own corporate filings, Pioneer�s sole business is marketing their financial services exclusively to the military.

This is exactly the sort of thing the California Department of Corporations ought to aggressively investigate. Beyond the alleged fee packing fine print, Pioneer also seems to �imply� that it is somehow associated or endorsed by the military.

Former Army Ranger Representative Geoff Davis has accused Pioneer of �making high-cost loans with hidden fees.� But that�s a broad brush legislative language ding�some argue that Pioneer intentionally uses complicated loan forms, packed with ultra fine print, which adds costs�lots of costs (origination fees, credit life insurance, accident and health, casualty insurance and other requirements that frankly are not necessary.

Pioneer�s own public filings show it aggressively refinances existing loans before maturity in order to maximize fee income. Double dipping is bad enough but when the victims are young military troops, such a practice would gag most self-respecting maggots.

Notwithstanding the Davis effort, Pioneer has their own congress critter, Rep. Sam Graves who would prefer to remove Pioneer�s competition. Graves has a bill (H.R. 97)�a real piece of work�basically regulates the payday advance industry out of business. The net result would be to create few options other than Pioneer�s unique for usury for service men and women seeking short-term small loans.

H.R. 97 is a bad apple. It is a classic special-interest bill designed and intended to benefit one company�and a bad company to boot.

The superior solution is the Military Personnel Financial Services Act (H.R. 458), which has already passed the House. It regulates EVERYone who markets financial services to military personnel, including insurance companies, payday lenders, title loan companies AND Pioneer. It ends hidden fees, stops abusive collection practices and requires special protections for our special service men and women.

Public Interest Watch, a Washington watchdog group (and Pioneer critic) has lauded H.R. 458 as the best way �to eliminate the unscrupulous practices of military lenders.�

Additionally, the bill stops lenders from misrepresentations and pretending to be connected formally or otherwise with the military. Reportedly such misrepresentations are a much-favored tactic of Pioneer�s marketing. At least one state attorney general is already investigating them for their lending practices.

Military personnel get paid once a month. They sometimes find they need short-term �hey you� loans. It is a service troops want and need. It is imperative that there are strict regulations to chill the jets of predatory lenders.

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We as a country want and need our young service members. They are the lifeblood of our efforts to fight the war on terror. It is beyond reprehensible that smarmy finance companies would target these national treasures and it is beyond contempt that elected officials could be so inimitably malfeasant as to enable bad companies doing bad stuff.

� 2005 Geoff Metcalf - All Rights Reserved

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"Geoff Metcalf is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host for TALK AMERICA and a veteran media performer. He has had an eclectic professional background covering a wide spectrum of radio, television, magazine, and newspapers. A former Green Beret and retired Army officer he is in great demand as a speaker. Visit Geoff's

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Beyond the alleged fee packing fine print, Pioneer also seems to �imply� that it is somehow associated or endorsed by the military.