Center for Responsible Lending

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Center for Responsible Lending
Founded 2002
Headquarters Durham, North Carolina
Key people
Michael Calhoun (president)
Martin Eakes (CEO)
Products Financial Services

The Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) is a nonprofit organization non-partisan research and policy group based in Durham, North Carolina and with offices in Washington DC and Oakland, Calif. Its purpose is to educate the public about financial products and to push for policies that curb predatory lending. On its website and elsewhere, CRL describes its mission as that of “protecting homeownership and family wealth by working to eliminate abusive financial practices.” CRL is affiliated with the Center for Community Self-Help.[1]


Established in 2002 by Self-Help, CRL is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and policy organization that focuses on financial products and services, including mortgages, credit cards, payday lending, and bank overdraft fees.[2] It is affiliated with the Self-Help Credit Union, also founded by Martin Eakes in Durham, N.C. It has issued research reports, issue briefs and policy statements on a range of topics. These have included, for example, the disproportionate impact of predatory loans on black and Hispanic communities and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s failure to do its job of overseeing national banks to prevent predatory lending in the mortgage, overdraft and payday lending arenas.[3] CRL has pushed hard for financial reform--including the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency--in the wake of the mortgage meltdown[4]

Martin Eakes, the current CEO of CRL and Self-Help, describes the mission of the organization as follows: "The economic problems we've seen in subprime lending came about through a narrow focus on self-enrichment among brokers, lenders and investors on Wall Street. We must redefine success to include the common good, and recognize that we are all enriched through sustainable lending that strengthens families and communities."[5]

CRL’s executives are often relied upon by government officials to comment on and suggest rules and legislation aimed at protecting consumers, taxpayers and shareholders. The president of CRL, Michael Calhoun, testified many times in front of the House Committee on Financial Services regarding the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act of 2009. Eric Stein, a senior vice president at CRL, served recently as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Consumer Protection at the Department of the Treasury. CRL's research has been praised by the Federal Reserve Board, on whose Consumer Advisory Council included Michael Calhoun. CRL's work with attorneys in Maine exposed the so-called Robosigning scandal, where mortgage services routinely broke the law by filing tens of thousands of false affidavits in foreclosure proceedings around the country. CRL works with consumer, industry and civil rights groups to craft common sense policies and law to prevent the kind of economic meltdown the country is now experiencing and that has so severely hurt consumers, taxpayers, shareholders and the workforce.

Research Work[edit]

One of the more interesting of their recent reports was Lost Ground (November 2011), which among other things estimated that the national foreclosure crisis was not even half over at that time.[6]

Lobbying Work[edit]

Based on its research, CRL lobbies in favor of rules and laws that promote common-sense financial services practices to eliminate the kind of predatory loans that nearly wrecked the U.S. economy. Sensible rules of the road benefit not only individual consumers, but taxpayers, shareholders and ultimately the financial services industry itself.[editorializing]

CRL opposed the Mortgage Choice Act of 2013 (H.R. 3211; 113 Congress), a bill that would direct the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to amend its regulations related to qualified mortgages to reflect new exclusions made by this bill.[7] The CRL called the bill a "bill that would threaten the safety of home loans and leave consumers vulnerable to excessive fees."[8] According to the CRL, the bill "would allow the fees from affiliated title companies to be exempt from the fee limits in the definition of a Qualified Mortgage."[8]

Influence on Operation Choke Point[edit]

An investigation by the House Oversight Committee[9] found that the Federal Deposit and Insurance Commission took a prominent role in Operation Choke Point, an interagency initiative to pressure banks to stop providing business services to industries such as payment processors, firearms sellers, payday lenders etc. As members of the FDIC’s Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion, CRL CEO and board member Wade Henderson pushed agency leadership to crack down on the payday lending industry—one of the industries targeted by Operation Choke Point. Additionally, according to emails uncovered by the Oversight investigation, Mark Pearce (former CRL president and current director of FDIC’s Division of Depositor and Consumer Protection), was exploring ways for FDIC to “get at payday lending.” The report found Pearce used his position to push for stringent regulations on the payday lending industry.[10] CRL praised efforts by Operation Choke Point to increase regulations on payday lenders.[11]


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