C.A.R.S. and Military Families

 
 
Jeffrey Goldberg’s report in The Atlantic, “Trump: Americans Who Died in War Are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers,” met with flat denials by the White House. But President Trump’s actions speak louder than his words. In addition to the many other incidents that have been covered by news organizations, where Trump disparaged members of the Armed Forces, and viciously attacked Gold Star families, there’s another action he took, that goes beyond his words to demonstrate an appalling level of contempt for the military community.

If you have any lingering doubt that President Trump treats America’s brave, patriotic military heroes like “suckers,” please consider this:

President Trump ignored the voices of the entire military community and sold out our brave military heroes and veterans to greedy, unscrupulous corporate scofflaws like Wells Fargo that engage in predatory and illegal practices and have a history of preying on military service members, veterans, and their families.

Those predatory, illegal practices often create financial readiness problems that can cause members of the Armed Forces to lose their security clearances, harming their military careers, costing our nation the full benefit of their extensive training and expertise, and jeopardizing our national security.

Pres. Trump even hosted a signing ceremony in the White House with representatives of unscrupulous, predatory banking interests — behind closed doors — to celebrate his shameful, anti-consumer, anti-military act. Then the White House released a photo, showing him surrounded by gleeful GOP representatives of Congress and banking trade associations whose member banks have been repeatedly caught violating state and federal consumer protection laws, scamming their customers and engaging in massive fraud.

On November 1, 2017, President Trump holds signing ceremony with Republican members of Congress and lobbyists and representatives of banking interests, signing anti-consumer, anti-military legislation opposed by The Military Coalition.
 
Pres. Trump's signature on HJ Resolution 111 means that our nation's military heroes are denied basic, precious Constitutional rights they risk their lives and sacrifice to defend.

Those are legal rights that others — such as car dealers — were granted by Congress, and that President Trump himself has exploited to the hilt, as the most litigious president in U.S. history, while denying the same rights to members of the Armed Forces.
 
President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Republican Members of Congress killed the Obama Administration Rule That Would have Freed Wronged Consumers, Including Military Service Members, to Fight Back in Court Against Corporate Scofflaws That Rip Them Off
 
In 2016, The Military Coalition, a consortium of uniformed services and veterans organizations representing more than 5.5 million current and former servicemembers and their families and survivors, spoke up publicly for ensuring access to justice for all, including active duty military service members and veterans.

The Coalition includes familiar household names such as AMVETS, the National Military Family Association, Vietnam Veterans of America, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. They united in an effort to help ensure that military service members are free to join forces to defend themselves from illegal acts committed by unscrupulous banking interests, predatory lenders, and crooked debt collectors.

The military organizations urged the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to finalize a proposed rule to restore the Constitutional right to band together and fight back in an open court of law against corporate lawbreakers who prey on military personnel. Greedy, unpatriotic corporations like Wells Fargo.
 
Wells Fargo Preyed on Military Service Members
 
The scandal-riddled bank got caught illegally seizing vehicles from active duty military service members without even bothering to get a court order — a blatant violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).

CNN News: Wells Fargo illegally seized soldier Dennis Singleton's car, while he was about to leave for duty in Afghanistan.
The SCRA has always enjoyed widespread bi-partisan support. It’s aimed at ensuring that military servicemembers can focus on defending our nation and fulfilling their mission without the stress and distractions posed by financial issues that are often very difficult and time-consuming to resolve, even for consumers who are not serving in a remote location half way around the world, on a submarine or aircraft carrier in the middle of an ocean, or in the midst of a war zone.

During the Obama Administration, federal investigators were alerted about a complaint that a North Carolina member of the Army National Guard, Dennis Singleton, filed with the Army’s Legal Assistance Program. He told the Legal Assistance attorney that Wells Fargo suddenly repossessed his car in 2015, just as he was deploying to Afghanistan to serve in Operation Enduring Freedom. Wells Fargo sold his car at an auction, then sought a deficiency balance of over $10,000 from him and his family — leaving them with no car, trashed credit, and a huge debt.

The investigators corroborated his complaint. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, they also uncovered “a pattern of unlawful repossessions spanning over more than seven years.”

Under fire from the DOJ, Wells Fargo eventually admitted it had illegally seized over 400 vehicles from active duty troops, without giving them any opportunity to defend themselves in court. The DOJ also charged Wells Fargo with violating the federal law against exceeding the 6% interest rate cap on loans to service members, making them more likely to default. Wells Fargo finally agreed to pay the harmed military personnel $4 million, repair their credit, and refrain from violating those laws in the future.
 
 
But there’s more....
 
Army Staff Sergeant Jin Nakamura was stunned to find out, while he was serving overseas in Operation Iraqi Freedom, that Wells Fargo had seized his 2006 Nissan Altima - even though he had arranged for direct payments from his account before he was deployed to his new duty station.

Staff Sergeant Jin Nakamura served our nation in Operation Iraqi Freedom. While he was serving our nation, Wells Fargo illegally repossessed his car.
 
It wasn’t until later, when Staff Sergeant Nakamura filed a private, civil class action lawsuit on behalf of himself and other service members who were also harmed by the same illegal practices at Wells Fargo, that the cases of over 400 more active duty military personnel came to light. In a shocking display of hutzpah, Wells Fargo was busily ripping them off the same way, and seizing their vehicles, while the DOJ’s investigation was actually already underway.

According to Staff Sergeant Nakamura’s attorney, Bryce Bell, the contract that the Staff Sergeant signed when he bought his car did not include a clause that would have forced him to submit his case to the unfair, rigged system dominated by crooked corporations, known as “arbitration.” So he was free to fight back against Wells Fargo in an open, public court of law.

Staff Sergeant Jin Nakamura fought back against Wells Fargo not only on his own behalf, but on behalf of hundreds of other military Servicemembers who were harmed by Wells Fargo's illegally seizing their vehicles.
Sergeant Nakamura had to return to the mainland U.S. twice, from his duty station in South Korea, to represent the members of the class action, and gave up substantial personal leave time to meet with attorneys and give a deposition. He could have simply settled with Wells Fargo on his own behalf. If he had, he would probably have received more money. But instead, he chose to fight back on behalf of hundreds of other military Servicemembers who were also harmed by Wells Fargo's illegally seizing their vehicles.

He succeeded in getting Wells Fargo to refund $5 million in compensation the bank owed him and and more than 400 other military service members. To settle his class action, Wells Fargo agreed to refund each member of the class action $12,300. Terms of the settlement can be found here: Nakamura v. Wells Fargo.

That freedom to join forces in order to fight back against such scams, like Staff Sergeant Nakamura did on behalf of hundreds of other brave Members of the Armed Forces, is super-important for active duty military personnel. That’s because they may not be able to fight back at all, if they must act alone — especially if they are serving in a remote location or a war zone.

That freedom was guaranteed by the 7th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but radical, controversial decisions issued by Republican-appointed Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court have robbed wronged workers, consumers — including military Servicemembers — and small business owners of their right to fight back in a court of law.

Under the leadership of President Obama’s appointee Richard Cordray, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sided with pro-consumer groups and the military organizations, and issued a rule that would have restored that Constitutional right in a major way, freeing victims of predatory lenders and crooked banks to band together and fight back in court. But it was immediately under attack.

Crooked banks, along with Republican Senators and Representatives who benefit handsomely from their campaign cash, cooked up a scheme to kill the consumer watchdog agency’s rule in Congress before it could even take effect. Their goal: to let crooked banks get away with ripping off American consumers — including members of the Armed Forces — with little or no fear of being held accountable.

So the lawbreakers could evade having to face the music in an open, public court of law, where judges and juries are tasked with applying the law, the banks were dead-set on depriving American consumers and military Servicemembers of their Constitutional rights and forcing them to submit to a rigged, privatized “alternative” system dominated by the greedy, lawbreaking special interests themselves — called “forced arbitration.”

 
The Military Coalition: "Forced arbitration is an
Un-American system... rigged, secretive..."
 
When the CFPB proposed the rule, The Military Coalition wrote in support:
 
“Forced arbitration is an un-American system wherein service members’ claims against a corporation are funneled into a rigged, secretive system in which all the rules, including the choice of the arbitrator, are picked by the corporation. Found in almost every financial services contract, forced arbitration clauses systematically include a provision banning the rights of consumers to band together to hold a corporation accountable. Given the exponential and expansive use of these clauses by financial institutions in contracts with service members, prohibiting the practice of forcing service members to surrender fundamental Constitutional and statutory rights through the use of pre-dispute forced arbitration clauses is now more critical than ever.

Our service members protect our nation against both foreign and domestic threats. The sacrifices and logistical undertakings they and their families make in order to serve are compelling reasons alone to ensure they are not only shielded from predatory financial practices and unscrupulous lenders, but are also able to enforce their congressionally mandated rights through our civil justice system if and when violations arise.

However, class action waivers work against these rights. They are particularly abusive when enforced against service members, who may not be in a position to individually challenge a financial institution’s illegal or unfair practices because of limited resources or frequent relocations or deployment. Furthermore, for those service members on active duty and serving overseas, it is critical to retain the ability to get justice without having to interrupt their service and distract their attention from the mission at hand. Since these types of service members cannot participate full time in pursuing an individual claim, being able to enforce their rights through the class action mechanism is essential. Thus service members should receive the benefits of participating in a class action despite their inability to shoulder the burden of bringing a claim alone.

Our nation’s veterans should not be deprived of the Constitutional rights and freedoms that they put their lives on the line to protect, including the right to have their claims heard in a trial by a jury when their rights are violated. The catastrophic consequences these clauses pose for our all-voluntary military fighting force’s morale and our national security are vital reasons for the CFPB to act quickly to finalize the regulations.”
 
But instead of siding with The Military Coalition, the GOP sided with the crooked banks and predatory lenders.

The Republican majority in Congress decided to exploit a rarely used law, the Congressional Review Act, to overturn the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rule. That allowed them to undo the rule with a simple majority vote, avoiding a filibuster in the Senate. Using that arcane Act also had the added impact of prohibiting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from issuing a similar rule in the future, unless Congress specifically allows the agency to revisit the issue.

The legislation to overturn the rule, House Joint Resolution 111, was hotly debated on the Floor of the House of Representatives. Then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other pro-consumer, pro-military champions spoke forcefully against the measure. All of the Democrats sided with consumer advocacy organizations and the military, and voted NO. But all of the Republicans, with the lone exception of Rep. Walter Jones, who had served in the North Carolina National Guard, voted AYE, and the resolution passed in the House and moved on to the Senate.

Once again, the resolution was hotly debated. Democratic Senators, including Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a distinguished U.S. Army Veteran, spoke eloquently in defense of preserving the rule. Sen. Elizabeth Warren delivered an impassioned speech on the Senate Floor, blasting the legislation and quoting from letters from military groups, raising their voices for all to hear.
 
 
When the vote was taken, all the Democratic Senators sided with the military coalition and voted NO, to preserve the rule. Only two Republican Senators, Lindsey Graham and John Kennedy — both attorneys — voted NO. All their GOP colleagues voted AYE, siding with the crooked banks, resulting in a tie. For a brief time, the future of the CFPB’s rule hung in the balance.

In a historic moment of high drama, Republican Vice President Mike Pence rode to the Capitol to break the tie, arriving on the Senate Floor around midnight. He voted AYE, siding with the crooked banks, and against the military, sending the measure to President Trump’s desk.

To his shame, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, who had championed the successful effort in Congress to grant car dealers a special exemption from forced arbitration and restore the Constitutional rights of car dealers to have their cases heard in a court of law, voted against restoring those same rights to regular citizens and members of the Armed Forces.

Our nation’s military doesn’t often ask anything from their Commander in Chief. In return for their selfless, immeasurable sacrifice and deep devotion to keeping our nation safe and defeating our enemies, they rarely ask their Commander in Chief for anything in return, other than to have their backs.

But in a rare move, the military community asked President Trump to veto the measure. The American Legion publicly announced their decision to call on him for a veto, declaring:
 
"Legion calls on Trump to veto measure that strips servicemembers and veterans of vital financial protections"
"The leader of the nation’s largest veterans service organization expressed concern over the loss of financial protections for veterans and servicemembers in the wake of a U.S. Senate late night vote on Wednesday.

Fifty-one members of the Senate voted to overturn a recent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rule on arbitration agreements intended to provide consumers with an opportunity to sue in court when they have been harmed by financial institutions.

'Every servicemember and veteran should have the right and responsibility to confront predatory loan practices,' said American Legion National Commander Denise H. Rohan. 'We will not be silent while banks and payday loan shops rip off servicemembers and veterans.'"
But President Trump utterly ignored their pleas. Instead, he signed that travesty into law. Among the invited guests who smiled down upon Pres. Trump as he signed the anti-consumer, anti-military measure: GOP members of Congress and a representative of an enormous banking trade association that includes banking interests like Wells Fargo.

Because of the Republican members of Congress, Vice President Pence, and President Trump, scofflaw corporations continue to trample on the Constitutional rights of our military heroes. Crooked banks remain free to force our nation’s military Servicemembers to submit disputes to an unfair, rigged, secretive forum that those special interests dominate — private, mandatory arbitration.

The laws to protect military service members as consumers are often ignored in arbitration. No matter how unfair the decisions rendered by the arbitrators are, there is usually no opportunity to appeal. Given how burdensome and rigged arbitration is, it’s rarely even used for consumer cases.

So whenever President Trump or Vice-President Pence proclaim their supposed fondness and regard for our nation’s military Servicemembers, please keep in mind that when the chips were down, they eagerly, gleefully went out of their way to betray them to their lawbreaking Big Bank buddies.

Read more:

Wall Street Journal: Congress Makes it Harder to Sue the Financial Industry

Politico: Pence breaks tie in Senate vote to ax arbitration rule
 
 
Sweet Victory for Military Family
Toyota drops lawsuit, buys back unsafe lemon car
 
Christina and John Snell and their son, with their new 2017 RAV4
After a two-year ordeal that started when Toyota sold them an unsafe lemon RAV4, Army Tank Commander John Snell and his wife Christina are celebrating a very sweet victory.

Their ordeal started after a Toyota car dealership in Georgia sold the Snells a new Toyota RAV 4. About a year later, it began breaking down at unpredictable moments, leaving Christina stranded on winding country roads in the middle of winter in Germany, where John was stationed. At first, Toyota refused to repair their vehicle unless they paid for the parts and labor out of pocket in advance. Even after they persisted, Toyota failed to provide the necessary parts, leaving them without a vehicle for months. Eventually, a panel of arbitrators ruled that their RAV 4 was unsafe and declared it a lemon. Toyota was ordered to take back their lemon vehicle and replace it, but they refused. Instead, they sued the Snells.

Why? Toyota wanted to get a ruling in court that would allow them to get away with selling defective new cars to military families in our country, without having to honor the warranties if the families are later stationed outside the U.S. and take their cars with them.

This is shameful. As Christina Snell wrote in a petition she filed on Change.org:

Christina and John Snell at a military ball, before their son was born
"I could not be more proud of my husband, who is a highly decorated Army Tank Commander. We're both honored to be a military family. When we learned we were going to be transferred to a duty station in Germany, we talked it over and decided to buy a brand new car, so we wouldn't have to worry about having reliable transportation while coping with all the challenges that come with being stationed overseas. When we went to a local Toyota dealer in Savannah, Georgia, we asked whether Toyota would honor the warranty, even if we were serving abroad. We were repeatedly assured that Toyota is a global company with dealerships and repair facilities around the world, and there was no problem. It even said in the warranty book that 'If you are using your vehicle outside the United States, US territories and Canada and need warranty service, contact a local Toyota dealership….The warranty repairs should be completed in a reasonable amount of time, not to exceed 30 days.' So we bought the new RAV 4.

Unfortunately, Toyota does not want to honor that commitment or their warranty. They claim that because we are in the military, and took the car with us to Germany, they do not have to comply with Georgia's auto lemon law. We are determined to fight back. Toyota boasts they made over $18 billion in profits last year. They should not make those profits at the expense of military families who are serving our nation and putting their lives on the line to help protect all of us from our enemies."
 
CARS heard about their ordeal, and helped them and their attorney, Michael Flinn, raise awareness about Toyota's outrageous and disgraceful conduct toward the Snells. Over 155,000 people signed the Snell's petition on Change.org, urging Toyota to buy back their lemon car. Many wrote comments such as "Toyota should be banned from selling cars on any military base."

For months, Toyota stonewalled. They even tried to keep evidence about John Snell's tours of duty and his military medals and awards from becoming part of the record before the Court. To his credit, Flinn did not back down, and never wavered in his defense of the Snells and their rights. Finally, Toyota agreed to drop their lawsuit against the Snells, buy back their lemon car, and replace it with a new 2017 RAV4. Plus they paid some fees. Under Georgia's lemon law, Toyota has to brand the title of the lemon RAV4 as a "manufacturer buyback," to help alert consumers about the car's history. They also have to repair the defects and provide at least a 12-month warranty.

An added bit of good news: Toyota also had to give up on winning an appellate court decision that could have allowed them to deny lemon law protections to ALL military families who ship their cars to duty stations overseas.

Many thanks to all who signed Christina's petition on Change.org. We are proud to salute Christina and John Snell for their principled perseverance, and for their courageous and exemplary service to our nation. They have played an important role in preserving important lemon law protections for ALL of our military heroes and their families.
 
 
CARS tells Toyota: Stop selling unsafe lemons to military families
Toyota sold John and Christina Snell a new unsafe lemon RAV 4
     CARS has joined Christina and John Snell in calling on Toyota to buy back their unsafe lemon car, and stop suing them -- because they are in the military and took their new car with them to their duty station in Germany. John Snell is a highly decorated military hero serving in the U.S. Army. As Christina wrote in a petition on Change.org:

     "In 2013, a Toyota car dealership in Georgia sold my Army husband and me a new Toyota RAV 4. About a year later, it began breaking down at unpredictable moments, leaving me stranded on winding country roads in the middle of winter in Germany, where we were stationed. At first, Toyota refused to repair our vehicle unless we paid for the parts and labor out of pocket in advance. Even after we persisted, Toyota failed to provide the necessary parts, leaving us without a vehicle for months. Eventually, a panel of arbitrators ruled that our RAV 4 was unsafe and declared it a lemon. Toyota was ordered to take back our vehicle and replace it, but they refused. Instead, now they are suing us."

Act Now: Help send a message to Toyota: stop selling unsafe lemon cars to military families
 


Military seeks improved protections from unscrupulous auto dealers
abandoned auto sales lot
Cpl. William Woods served 2 tours in Iraq.
The U.S. Department of Defense, Secretary of the Army, and Secretary of the Air Force have identified predatory auto dealer lending as a threat to military readiness and national security. They were joined by Holly Petraeus, Head of the Better Business Bureau's Military Line, who helped raise public awareness of the serious financial problems faced by Servicemembers and their families, due to auto dealer scams.

For decades, the Federal Trade Commission has turned a deaf ear to pleas by military officials and individual members of the Armed Forces for help. At a hearing before the House Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, an FTC official even denied that auto lending is a problem for military personnel - - despite overwhelming evidence of the problems documented in official studies, data calls, testimony, memorandums, and news reports.
 
Read more: Letters from Military and news reports about sleazy auto dealers preying on Military Service members
 


abandoned auto sales lot
~ Rosemary Shahan presents Cpl. Woods with his new car.
CARS works to improve protections for military Servicemembers and their families
The military has identified financing by unscrupulous auto dealers as the #1 financial readiness problem encountered by troops and their families.

Report by KPIX-TV in San Francisco: Marine Veteran, after serving two terms in Iraq, is cheated by shady auto dealer near Camp Pendelton.
 
 


Wall Street Reform
Dept. of Defense Seeks New Cop on the Beat to Protect Troops from Unscrupulous Auto Dealers.
Will Congress Protect Troops, or Sleazy Auto Dealers?
 
abandoned auto sales lot
~ Photo by Neil Michel, Axiom Photo Design, 2006.
Lt. Nathan Kindig (U.S. Navy, shown in enlarged photo), Capt. Patton (U.S. Navy), Rosemary Shahan (CARS President), Sergeant Major Wayne Bell (U.S. Marine Corps.), Ellen Turnage (Lt. Kindig's attorney), and California State Senator Liz Figueroa, speak to reporters at Capitol press conference, urging improved consumer protections for troops stationed in California from lemon vehicles, auto frauds, and predatory lending practices. Lt. Kindig spoke via phone, live from his duty station in Iraq, and described his ordeal over his lemon Chrysler truck.
 
 


CARS succeeds in expanding California's Auto Lemon Law to Protect
Military Troops Stationed in California
corbett
Senator Ellen Corbett, author of SB 234,
to expand California's lemon law to protect
our troops and their families.

Capt. Patton (U.S. Navy), Rosemary Shahan (CARS President),
Sergeant Major Wayne Bell (U.S. Marine Corps.),
Ellen Turnage (Lt. Kindig's attorney), Senator Liz Figueroa,
and photo of Lt. Nathan Kindig (U.S. Navy) speak to
reporters at Capitol press conference, urging improved
consumer protections for troops stationed in California
from lemon vehicles, auto frauds, and predatory lending practices.
Photo by Neil Michel, Axiom Photo Design, 2006.
Bill extends lemon law to military
Los Angeles Times
July 21, 2007


California is now the first and only state in the nation to specifically protect active duty military troops whose vehicles are “lemons,” regardless where their vehicles were purchased or are registered. The new law will take effect January 1, 2008.

The new law was inspired by a particularly courageous consumer, Lt. Nathan Kindig, who serves in the United States Navy as a physicians assistant. When Lt. Kindig bought a new 2004 Dodge Dakota truck, he had no idea he was in for such a wild ride. Now the ordeal he and his family experienced at the hands of DaimlerChrysler has sparked improved lemon law protections for all 160,000 active duty troops stationed in California.

Before he bought the truck in Washington state, Lt. Kindig carefully researched ratings of trucks and chose one that promised to be safe and reliable. And for a while, it was. Then it started to overheat. When he returned from his first tour in Iraq, he took his fiancée and 7-year-old daughter with him to visit his parents in Arkansas. Shortly before they arrived, the truck overheated and left them stranded on the side of the road. It had to be towed to a local dealership for repairs. There it stayed for about a week. During the precious time Lt. Kindig had with his family on leave, he had to borrow his parents’ car simply to have wheels.

Thus began a long saga of repeated overheating episodes. Once they crossed the Arizona desert in blazing midday heat, rushing to make it back to California in time to report for duty, with the widows rolled down and the heater going full blast–as a dealer had suggested, to keep the engine from seizing up.

Finally, after many attempts to fix the overheating failed, a dealer in Southern California conceded it was not repairable and advised Lt. Kindig to get a lawyer. He found Ellen Turnage, a seasoned lemon law attorney in San Diego. When she contacted DaimlerChrysler, their attorney acknowledged that if Kindig were protected by California’s lemon law (widely considered to be the best in the nation), D/C would buy it back right away.

But–California’s lemon law applies only to vehicles purchased in the state. And Kindig bought his Dakota in Washington. So–DaimlerChrysler refused to give him a refund. While he waited for justice, he had to continue making monthly payments on a vehicle he and his family couldn’t drive. This caused them severe economic hardship, especially since his wife had planned to use the truck to haul furniture and generate income restoring antiques, to help supplement their meager military pay.

Daimler/Chrysler’s attitude didn’t sit well with Turnage, who began to complain about Kindig’s treatment. His plight came to the attention of Rosemary Shahan, President of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety. Shahan, who was married to a Navy Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer for 20 years, sympathized with Lt. Kindig. She began to contact lawmakers in Sacramento and raise their awareness of California’s lemon loophole that leaves troops at the mercy of stonewalling auto manufacturers.

At the urging of CARS, Senator Liz Figueroa (D-San Leandro), chaired a special Joint Sunset Review Committee hearing to delve into scams that afflict military personnel stationed in California. At the hearing, representatives of the U.S. Armed Forces and consumer groups, including CARS, testified. Lt. Kindig testified live via phone from his duty station in Iraq.

Shortly before the hearing, D/C agreed to repurchase Lt. Kindig’s lemon, but on terms that would cost him thousands of dollars, compared to what he would have received if he were protected by California’s lemon law. In order to maximize the refund Lt. Kindig received, Ellen Turnage agreed to forego her attorneys fees and represent him pro bono publico (for the public good).

Moved by Lt. Kindig’s account of his lemon ordeal, Senator Figueroa authored legislation to expand protection under California’s auto lemon law to include our troops, regardless where they buy their lemons. However, since the bill was introduced late in the session, it didn’t get assigned to any committee, and died. Then Senator Figueroa left office, due to term limits.

However, her successor, Senator Ellen Corbett, widely respected as one of consumers’ staunchest champions on the California legislature, took up the cause. This year, she is the author of SB 234. The bill attracted widespread bi-partisan support, and has passed unanimously in both houses of the California Assembly before the Governor signed it into law.

Lt. Kindig tells about his horrible experience with a Chrysler lemon:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjGYAm2xdS8
    Among the supporters of SB 234:
  • Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS), sponsor
  • Lt. Gen. Michael Lehnert, Commanding General, United States Marine Corps, Marine Installations West
  • Navy Federal Credit Union, letter of support signed by Vice Admiral Cutler Dawson, (Ret.), President and CEO
  • California State Commanders Veterans Council
  • National Guard Association of California
  • Consumer Federation of California
  • Consumer Attorneys of California
  • Charles S. Cooper III, Major General, USAF (Ret.)
  • Lt. Col. Steve Lynch, USAF (Ret.)
  • Consumer Action

CARS commends Lt. Kindig for standing up and speaking out on behalf of all our troops, to help spare them the hardships he and his family endured. No one who is serving our nation should have to worry about a seriously defective “new” automobile causing them economic hardship or putting their families’ lives in jeopardy.

Thank you to all who worked to help sweeten California’s recipe for lemon-aid for our troops and their families.


U.S. Secretary of the Army McHugh:

"Many of our Soldiers have fallen victim to predatory lending practices and...unscrupulous car dealerships and lenders." Read more...
 

 
U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Donley:

"...greater Government oversight of automobile financing and sales for our Airmen will help protect them and reduce unnecessary financial strain on our already overburdened Air Force families." Read more...
 

 
U.S. Department of Defense urges Congress to help protect troops

"The Department of Defense would welcome and encourage [Consumer Financial Protection Agency] CFPA protections provided to Service members and their families with regard to unscrupulous automobile sales and financing practices, provided such protections would not limit access to legitimate products. Read more...

Department of Defense Data Call summary: based on responses from 841 officers who provide financial counseling to all 4 branches of the United States Armed Forces. Read summary...
 

 
Star-spangled rip-off
Why car buyers in the military are vulnerable to bad deals

Edmunds.com report, posted Jan. 5, 2012

" ... some car salesmen who actively solicit military members and loudly praise their service nevertheless target them for rip-offs, frauds and overcharges." Read article...
 

 
Follow the Money
 
Recently Congress granted auto dealers a special exemption from being regulated by the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This, despite the fact auto lending is a $850 billion business, and auto dealers are the #1 source of consumer complaints to the Better Business Bureau and state and local consumer protection agencies.

Surprise -- campaign cash played a central role in the dealers' win against consumers, including the military.

In the past two decades, auto dealers have lavished more than $25 million in campaign contributions on Congressional candidates, with 75% going to Republicans. They have repeatedly reaped rewards in return, at the expense of consumers and taxpayers. Last year, Congress gave auto dealers more than $3,000,000 in taxpayer dollars, through the "Cash for Clunkers" program -- with no strings attached to protect car buyers from predatory dealership lending. Auto dealers have also benefited from TARP and TALF and other bailout funds.

The biggest beneficiary of auto dealer campaign cash: U.S. Sen. John McCain. He has accepted more than $717,000 from auto dealers. Despite his military background, Sen. McCain turned a deaf ear to the military community, and voted to exempt auto dealers. Ironically, Arizona has some of the most high-profile cases involving auto dealers preying on troops.

Read more: auto dealers ripping off military Servicemembers

Read more: auto dealers' campaign contributions
 

 
An End to Shady Dealers
New York Times, May 11, 2010

Even the Pentagon has weighed in, insisting that automobile purchases and dealer-assisted financing should be part of any new financial legislation because low-income military people are victimized in large numbers by shady car dealers that set up shop just outside many bases. Officials say distractions caused by these bad auto deals could affect the readiness of the armed forces. Read more...
 

 
The Pentagon versus the Auto Dealers
Huffington Post, May 12, 2010

President Obama yesterday spoke out against a "special loophole" sought by the country's auto dealers... Dealers engage in "powerbooking" and "yo-yo financing...." Read more...
 

 
The Military Coalition urges the U.S. Senate to stand up for our troops against unscrupulous auto dealers

The Military Coalition is comprised of 31 nationally respected military advocacy organizations representing more than 5.5 million active duty military Servicemembers, veterans, their families and survivors. Read more...
 

 
Auto Dealers, Pentagon square off;
Increased oversight of loans fought

Detroit Free Press, April 25, 2010

"...an amendment by Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback to exempt car dealers from Dodd's bill 'will allow unscrupulous dealers to continue to take advantage of service members and their families.' 'We can't have lenders continuing to prey on our military families,' said Katie Savant, deputy director of government relations at the National Military Family Association." Read more...
 

 
New Front in Battle over Financial Regulation
Wall Street Journal, April 22, 2010

"...among the lobbyists crowding Congress are representatives of U.S. military personnel, who are in a pitched battle with America's car dealers....U..S. car dealers want to be excluded from new financial regulations...A coalition of more than 30 military organizations is urging lawmakers to resist the exclusion of the auto dealers, arguing that soldiers are being targeted by predatory lenders. The coalition says it is a problem affecting military readiness." Read more...
 

 
Cpl. William Woods on duty in Iraq
~ Cpl. William Woods on duty in Iraq
Marine Corporal William Woods served two tours of duty in Iraq as a mortarman. He is also fluent in Arabic, and served as a translator between his command and Iraqi officials.

Congress may improve protections for military members from shady auto dealers.

Huffington Post, March 14, 2010 
read more

Concerns over troops getting rooked by shady car dealers have prompted the Pentagon to get involved in the fight over a Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

The Economist, March 15, 2010 
read more

Pentagon brass want a new consumer watchdog agency to regulate auto dealers so they don’t rip off troops.

Politico, March 9, 2010
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Cpl. Woods with Rosemary Shahan
~ Cpl. Woods with Rosemary Shahan of C.A.R.S.
After a shady auto dealer refused to give him back his own car, Iraq war vet and Marine Corporal William Woods was without wheels since August, 2009. That made it hard for him to look for a job -- until CARS President Rosemary Shahan presented him a Valentine's Day gift of $3000 to purchase a used car. Cpl. Woods is all smiles at the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Sacramento, where he unwrapped his "new" used car. His dog Haley looks pretty happy too. But -- does she have a license to drive?

Update (July, 2010): "With his new set of wheels, Cpl. Woods found two new jobs, and was also able to drive to his younger brother's high school graduation.


CARS gives Iraq war vet Valentine's Day gift of a "new" used car, after dealer ripoff leaves him without wheels since last August.

CBS KPIX-TV Channel 5, February 12, 2010
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Marine Judge Advocate General (JAG) Officer describes how auto dealers scam our troops.

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CARS gains enactment of new law to expand protection under California's Landmark auto lemon law to military personnel stationed in CA.

Bill passes unanimously in state Assembly and Senate, is signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger.

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Lawsuit alleges that Dick Edwards Auto Plaza scammed soldiers "power booking" – financing phantom items.

Kansas City News,
 July 30, 2009
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"I love a mark in uniform: Kidnapping. Falsified documents. Hooters nights. Meet the sleazebucket car dealers who prey on our troops."

Mother Jones,
 July / August 2009
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Army puts Arizona dealership off-limits.

Automotive News,
 August 12, 2008
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Military base declares dealerships off-limits; Ex-cons threaten soldiers.

Arizona Daily Star, July 13, 2008
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Holidays are Open Season on Military Wallets; Auto Dealer Charges Marine $45,000 for $3,200 1995 Dodge Neon.

San Diego Union-Tribune, December 12, 2005
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After car breaks down, Iraq vet wages new battle -- with dealer.

Sacramento Bee, April 14, 2005
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Some Creditors Make Illegal Demands on Active-Duty Soldiers.

New York Times, March 28, 2005
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Auto scams are #1 source of consumer headaches for troops stationed in California.

Testimony by military legal officers and representative of Navy Marine Corps Relief Society
Assembly Banking and Finance Committee hearing, March 11, 2005.

read more

Car Dealers Rip Off Our Troops; Scamsters Preying On Military Families.

Dishonest repair shops, dealerships and lenders often take advantage of those in the armed services. A charity works to assist those in need.

The Los Angeles Times, April 2, 2003
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Marine Corps finds…
…that buying cars causes more problems than any other single financial factor, and financial problems can endanger the troops themselves, their unit, and the mission itself.

read more
     
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C.A.R.S. Mission
CARS is a national, award-winning,
non-profit auto safety and consumer
advocacy organization working to
save lives, prevent injuries, and
protect consumers from
auto-related fraud and abuse.

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to everyone who has supported CARS' work, including the more than 573,500 people who have contributed financially to CARS, signed or shared CARS' petitions, and / or posted personal comments.

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CarMax sells cars with deadly
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Buyer Beware! Auto dealers use
forced arbitration
to get away with cheating customers
Even when car dealers flagrantly violate consumer protection laws, you may not be able to get justice. That's because almost 100% of car dealers stick "forced arbitration" clauses into their contracts. If they cheat you, and you try to take them to court, they can just laugh at you. That's because they can get your case kicked into arbitration -- a secret, rigged process that favors big, corrupt lawbreakers. The dealer often gets to choose the arbitration firm, and even the arbitrator who hears your case. Unlike judges, arbitrators are perfectly free to ignore the law.

Dealers claim that arbitration is quick. But Jon Perz in San Diego had to wait over 8 years in "arbitration limbo" before he finally got justice, after Mossy Toyota sold him an unsafe car. CARS produced a short video exposing what happened. More than 1.3 million people have watched our video on YouTube:
See the billboard CARS displayed
right next to Mossy Toyota's car lot,
and read more about how Jon finally won.

 
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