TALLAHASSEE

The CEOs and lobbyists for Florida’s largest payday loan companies approved changes to a controversial industry bill as it worked its way through the Legislature this year, emails show.

Emails between a Florida House employee and industry representatives show she repeatedly asked the industry before making changes to the bill, which would allow payday loan companies to offer bigger loans with higher fees.

“Please let me know by 5pm today whether you have questions, comments, concerns, tweaks, etc.,” analyst Meredith Hinshelwood wrote in January, after sending them an “updated version” of the bill. “If I do not hear back by that time, I will assume you are good with the proposed changes.”

“These changes are fine with us,” replied Jessica Rustin, the chief legal officer and chief compliance officer for Advance America.

 

“The changes are all good with me too,” wrote Ian MacKechnie, the founder and CEO of Tampa-based payday lender Amscot.

The payday loan bill has passed the Senate and still has to get through the House this week, but its passage is all but guaranteed. It has received almost no opposition from Republicans or Democrats in the Legislature.

The emails were obtained in a records request by Karl Frisch, executive director of the Washington-based Allied Progress, a liberal group that has targeted the industry.

Included in the conversations were industry lobbyists and employees with the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, which regulates payday loans.

Notably absent from the email chains: opponents of the bill, including Alice Vickers, director of the Florida Alliance for Consumer Protection.

“It’s disappointing, no doubt about it,” Vickers said. “Sadly, I don’t think it’s that unusual.”

 

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