Collaborating Authors

Millions of defaults threaten future of microfinance in India

The Japan Times

In February 2020, unaware the coronavirus pandemic was about to wipe out her livelihood, Arpita Das borrowed $2,300 to buy materials and equipment for her family fishing business in West Bengal, India. A few weeks later, demand for her prawns collapsed, leaving her unable to make the $180 monthly repayments to two microlenders. The 33-year-old mother of two, who had never missed a payment since she started borrowing three years earlier, is now living off the vegetables and grains she grows on a plot of land outside the home she shares with her husband and his parents. With the whole family out of work, they are unlikely to have any income unless she can borrow $1,400 for this year's prawn harvest. During India's initial three-month lockdown, one of Das' lenders would call her regularly to see how she was doing.

Ukraine's battle between the banks and the borrowers

Al Jazeera

Lviv, Ukraine - Maria Baranska, a 68-eight-year-old grandmother of four, could pass as a poster child for Ukraine's post-Soviet economy. Two decades ago, in 1996, Baranska pooled a lifetime of savings to become the proprietor of the photo studio where she had worked for 19 years as a state employee. In the years that followed, the two-storey building located in a historic neighbourhood next to the tramway came to occupy a niche market in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv. "We had line-ups on Sundays," says Baranska, describing those boom times. "Soldiers would come to have their pictures taken, and if a girl bought a hat, she would come here to have her picture taken and [her friends] would get photographed wearing that same hat also."

Italy wants to reopen. Businesses ask: Where's the money?

The Japan Times

AMELIA, Italy – When the COVID-19 pandemic forced Roberto Ferraro to shut the patisserie he runs in Amelia, a scenic hilltop town in central Italy, he had just rented out a new site to increase production of ice cream and start selling it abroad. Ferraro would like to be preparing his business to reopen in the weeks to come, working out how to secure supplies and ensure social distancing among customers. Instead, the 51-year-old is devoting his time and energy to wading through the pile of documents he must file with banks to tap state-guaranteed loans. His struggles are just one example of how red tape is holding up the state aid needed to keep companies afloat in the euro zone's third-largest economy and a country that has suffered Europe's deadliest coronavirus outbreak. "When can I get the money? It depends – days, weeks, they don't know," Ferraro said.

How your bank is reacting to competition

BBC News

New lenders may struggle to prise customers from traditional banks even though their borrowing and lending rates can often be much better, research from the BBC suggests. Borrowing money from a peer-to-peer lender or changing currency with an online firm can be cheaper. But the lure of free bank accounts, and hidden risks associated with peer-to-peer are muddying the waters. And, for customers without debts, old-fashioned banks may come out on top. Meanwhile, these traditional banks also have an eye on the competition.

Appeals court deals setback to L.A. mortgage discrimination suits against big banks

Los Angeles Times

Mortgage discrimination lawsuits filed by Los Angeles against Bank of America and Wells Fargo & Co. have hit a roadblock, with a federal appeals court saying the cases spurred by last decade's housing bust lack merit. Opinions in those two cases, released late last week by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, mark a significant setback for the city. And they come just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in companion Miami cases that was widely seen as strengthening cities' legal hand against mortgage lenders. The high court ruling, though, addressed only whether cities have a right to sue banks under federal fair housing laws, whereas the 9th Circuit opinions in the L.A. lawsuits focused on the facts of the cases -- showing that, even with the recent Supreme Court decision, cities face tough hurdles if they continue to push ahead with their lawsuits. The appeals court found that Los Angeles had not backed up its key allegation: that the banks in the years leading up to the bust had policies that pushed minority borrowers -- intentionally or otherwise -- into mortgages that were pricier or riskier than those offered to white borrowers.