Texas Finance Commission head: ‘There’s nobody out there that forces anybody to take any kind of loan’

The payday loan industry receives a lot of criticism and heat from both public agencies and the general public. Some of the common complaints are the number of fees and the high interest charges that are applied to each short-term loan. However, one Texas payday-lending officials has defended the industry.

Speaking with the El Paso Times late last month, chairman of the Finance Commission of Texas William J. White, who is also vice president of Cash America, a large payday lender, argued that no one ever forces customers to take out loans and that people should be responsible for their own decisions.

“People make decisions,” said White. “There’s nobody out there that forces anybody to take any kind of loan. People are responsible for their decisions, just like in my life and in your life. When I make a wrong decision, I pay the consequences.”

State Senator and Texas Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis is now calling for the top finance official to submit his resignation or for Republican Governor Rick Perry to remove him from public office. Perry appointed White in 2011.

“Texans are tired of backroom deals and dishonesty in Austin. William White can’t protect Texas consumers while representing several predatory payday loan lending companies on the side. Mr. White should resign from his post — and if he won’t, Governor Perry should remove him,” Davis said in a statement.

“It’s really disgusting that an industry that profits from the poor by charging 1,000-plus interest is put at the head of the state’s financial regulatory agency. It’s saying, ‘It’s not only OK, but we’re going to put them in charge.'”

Davis has been submitting legislation against payday loans since 2009, but the bills have largely failed in the legislature.

Cash America issued a statement defending White and said that his appointment to the agency was not a conflict of interest.

“One of the requirements for that [commission] seat states that Bill must be affiliated with a consumer credit organization, which he is through Cash America,” said Yolanda Walker, a spokesperson for Cash America, in a statement. “Bill does not work with specific lobby teams, but members of the Finance Commission are regularly contacted by bankers, mortgage bankers, savings and loan representatives and consumer credit organizations.”

Governor Perry has also come out against Davis’s comments and called it nothing more than “grandstanding from a political campaign.”

Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor to succeed Perry in the next election, also criticized her remarks.

“Sen. Wendy Davis’ statement is blatant election-year hypocrisy. Perhaps unknown to Sen. Davis, state law mandates that industry executives serve on the Finance Commission, and Sen. Davis voted to confirm William White to his position,” said Abbott.

“Sen. Davis also had two opportunities to amend bills pertaining to the requirements to serve on the Commission, and both times Sen. Davis chose not to do so. Before calling for the resignations of those she voted to confirm, Sen. Davis might take a hard look at her own record.”

The Texas gubernatorial election is scheduled for Nov. 4 of this year.

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