Wednesday, November 11, 2020
Today, Veterans' Day, I caught an interesting radio piece on the marketing of supposedly low-interest-rate loans for those who are or have service in U.S. military branches. I've been teaching a Nonprofit Organizations Law course this semester at Dickinson Law, and the lack of transparency in the various loan programs reminded me of a student's presentation about a "veterans' benefit" nonprofit organization that, until recently, seemed to be doing more fundraising for the organizers than for the military service people. Misuse of "charitable" missions is a topic we explore in the class.
But, I caught the program a second time while driving. The second time around I realized that the story started with a curious segment with a particular veteran who was describing his recent struggle with a misleading veteran-friendly loan company that charged more, not less, than conventional loans. This time, I realized the interview included a tour of the older vet's lovely home on the water in Florida, and of his various boats. The borrower was clearly proud, and rightly so, and the interviewer even admitted to a bit of envy. The loan he was seeking was to refinance about $350k for what seemed to be pretty high-end living and it was easy to be glad the older gentleman has done well in his post-service life.
The radio interview and the accompanying article at NPR's Morning Edition site described low-interest loans, "backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs" as a "perk" offered to vets and service members in honor of their service. Wait a minute. This wasn't a struggling veteran getting started in civilian life, perhaps needing help to buy a first or second home or to fund to start a new business. This veteran was struggling to find the best terms in a veteran-friendly program -- not to "get" a loan.
My reaction the second time while listening to the program about misleading loans to veterans was "wouldn't it be better if all consumers could rely on transparency and fairness in lending rates and terms?"