A lobbying firm with close ties to new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and many other minority politicians has been retained to push a controversial bill that would allow check cashers to make high-interest loans, records show.
In December, the MirRam Group was hired by Financial Service Centers of New York, an industry group, for $10,000 a month to push check cashers’ bill in Albany. Mr. Heastie, D-Bronx, then became speaker—a development that clients of MirRam may see as a stroke of luck. MirRam co-founder Roberto Ramirez, a former assemblyman and Bronx Democratic leader, is reportedly helping Mr. Heastie with his transition.
Mr. Heastie had in 2013 sponsored the check cashers’ legislation, which the Daily News called "horrendeous" and which was also opposed by Benjamin Lawsky, the Cuomo administration’s chief banking regulator.
MirRam is particularly influential among minority elected officials in Manhattan and the Bronx. Mr. Lawsky, who heads the Department of Financial Services, has said the check cashers’ bill would legalize predatory lending, which he is trying to eradicate. A source close to the bill’s proponents said it may be amended to better protect borrowers and to address other concerns that critics have.
MirRam in the past has represented clients serving minority neighborhoods, such as the livery car industry. The check cashers argue that their bill, like reforms of the city’s taxi industry in recent years, would reshape an antiquated industry that poorly served these neighborhoods. They say the interest on the loans would reflect the risk to the lender, but would be lower than rates charged by the illicit lenders to whom borrowers often turn when shunned by banks.