Expert panel explores challenges, opportunities of personal online financial management tools – National Consumers League

September 27, 2012

Contact: Carol McKay, NCL Communications (412) 945-3242,

Washington, DC – Consumers’ use of personal financial management tools (PFMs), such as Web- and smart phone-based applications, to manage their money is on the rise, according to research from Deloitte Consulting. To examine this trend, advocates at the National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s oldest consumer advocacy organization, hosted a live expert chat today to discuss whether the increasing use of PFMs is helping consumers get a better grip on their financial lives while managing potential concerns about privacy and security.

Estimates are that more than one in three online households (34 percent) will use PFMs by 2014. Still, nearly 20 percent of consumers are not regularly monitoring or managing their personal finances. Advocates are rightfully concerned about consumers’ financial futures and are looking at PFMs as a one part of the solution.

The live online chat, sponsored by Chase Blueprint®, included participation by a panel of consumer advocates, analysts, PFM industry leaders, and government representatives, who examined topics such as how PFM tool use is improving consumers’ financial management habits, what can be done to address consumer concerns about privacy, and the impact of mobile PFM tools.

“PFM tools give consumers a powerful way to keep track of multiple credit cards, bank and retirement accounts,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director. “However, with the amount of sensitive personal financial data that consumers are sharing with these tools, we wanted to examine what value they are getting in return. We are pleased that we were able to bring together such an all-star group of experts to examine the issues these tools create.”

“Consumers are emerging from the recession with a better handle on their daily expenses and a need to have greater control, simplicity and predictability in managing their finances,” said Phil Christian, general manager, Chase. “Our experience with Chase Blueprint has shown that when given the right personal financial management tool, consumers are more likely to pay down their balances faster, pay their bills on time and save money on interest.”

“Free personal financial management tools and apps from banks or other financial Web sites are a great way to set financial goals, track spending and measure progress,” said Linda Sherry of Consumer Action. “PFMs have the potential to change consumer behavior by giving consumers aggregated, real-time information to better control of their finances.”

Additional panelists at the event included John Breyault, Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud, National Consumers League; Sophie Raseman, Director of Smart Disclosure, U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Consumer Policy; Mark Schwanhausser, Director of Multichannel Financial Services, Javelin Strategy & Research; Ron Shevlin, Senior Analyst, Aite Group; and Ken Sun, Group Product Manager,

The full event has been recorded and can be viewed on NCL’s YouTube channel.


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

Meet this year’s Trumpeter honoree: Labor legend Cecil E. Roberts – National Consumers League

On October 4, the National Consumers League will honor Cecil E. Roberts, International President of the United Mine Workers of America, with the 2012 Trumpeter Award. In presenting President Roberts with the prestigious Trumpeter Award, NCL recognizes his incredible efforts to champion the rights of working Americans by organizing on both the grassroots and national levels. His leadership is founded on a passionate conviction to keep workplaces safe and healthful while ensuring fair compensation for workers.

Cecil Roberts, a sixth-generation coal miner and one of the labor movement’s most stirring and sought-after orators, became President of the United Mine Workers (UMWA) of America on October 22, 1995, having served as Vice President of the union since December 1982. Roberts succeeded Richard L. Trumka, who was elected Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO.

Growing up in a UMWA household on Cabin Creek in Kanawha County, WV, Roberts heard the stories of his family, including a great-uncle, Bill Blizzard, who was a legendary organizer during the West Virginia mine wars of the 1920’s and a UMWA District President under John L. Lewis. Both of his grandfathers were killed in the mines.

After military service in Vietnam and college, Roberts worked for six years at Carbon Fuels’ No. 31 mine in Winifred, West Virginia, where he served as a local union officer. In 1977 he was elected Vice President of UMWA District 17 by a 2-to-1 margin. In May 1981, he was reelected without opposition.

On November 9, 1982, Roberts was elected Vice President of the UMWA International Union, again by a 2-to-1 margin, running on a slate headed by Trumka and including John J. Banovic, who was elected Secretary-Treasurer. The Trumka – Roberts – Banovic team was reelected without opposition five years later.

In 1989, Roberts was the on-the-scene leader, often referred to as field general, and day-to-day negotiator in the UMWA’s militant 10-month strike against the Pittston Co., which had cut off health benefits to its retirees and was trying to walk away from its obligations to the UMWA Health and Retirement Funds. For his role in that successful strike, Roberts received the Rainbow Coalition’s Martin Luther King award as well as awards from Citizen Action and the Midwest Academy.

On November 10, 1992, Roberts was reelected by an 80-percent margin to his third term as Vice President.

In December, 1995, Roberts assumed the UMWA Presidency upon the resignation of Richard Trumka.

In 1996, he reopened the UMWA’s National Agreement for the first time in the union’s history and made significant improvements in the wage agreement.

In August 1997, Roberts was elected by acclamation to the Presidency of the UMWA.

In 1998, he negotiated a new National Agreement that was ratified by the highest percentage in the Union’s history. The agreement included an historic 20-year and out pension provision which has benefitted approximately 5,000 UMWA members to date.

In July of 2001 he became a member of the AFL-CIO’s Executive Council. He serves on the Civil and Human Rights Committee; Labor and the Environment Committee; Manufacturing and Industrial Committee; Safety and Occupational Health Committee; Senior Action Committee Strategic Approaches Committee; Political Education Committee; and Article XX Appeals Committee. In October of 2005, he was appointed to the Executive Committee of the AFL-CIO’s Executive Council.

In 2000 he was again elected by acclamation as President of the United Mine Workers of America, and in 2001 he negotiated a new National Agreement that provided a first ever 30-year and out pension provision regardless of age which has benefitted approximately 3,000 UMWA members to date.

In 2004 he became the first President in the history of the United Mine Workers of America to be elected by acclamation by the membership for three consecutive terms.

At the end of 2008, he became the 2nd longest standing President of the UMWA, second only to John L. Lewis.

In August 2009, Roberts was once again re-elected by acclamation to his fourth full term as International President.

He is on the board of the American Income Life Insurance Company.

Roberts graduated from West Virginia Technical College in 1987, and received an honorary Doctorate in Humanities from West Virginia University of Technology in 1997.

Roberts is married to the former Carolyn Stewart. They have a son, Kyle, a daughter, Melissa, two grandsons, Aaron and Brandon and two granddaughters, Savannah and Kathryn.

Live event today! Chat with the pros about managing personal finance online – National Consumers League

NCL live online event @ 2:30 pm Eastern today!
Personal financial management tools: opportunities and challenges for consumers

Event details

  • When: Today! September 27, 2012, 2:30pm Eastern
  • Where: The event will be broadcast live on NCL’s YouTube channel and at
  • Who: Confirmed panelists include: John Breyault, NCL (moderator); Sophie Raseman, U.S. Treasury Department; Ken Sun,; Phil Christian, Chase; Mark Schwanhausser, Javelin Strategy & Research; Linda Sherry, Consumer Action; and Ron Shevlin, Aite Group
  • Who should attend: Personal finance reporters, bloggers, policymakers, consumer advocates, and consumers interested in personal finance issues
  • To RSVP for this free eventclick here

Join NCL’s chat with the pros and learn more about the benefits and concerns with online personal financial management tools (PFMs).

Far too many consumers face aggressive financial fees, inadequate savings, and piles of debt. One way that consumers are addressing this is by adopting online tools to help them manage their personal finances. It is estimated that 26 million consumers will be using PFMs by 2015.

What challenges and opportunities do those tools create?

Questions that will be explored by an expert panel of analysts, advocates, regulators and PFM industry representatives include:

  • Given the large amounts of sensitive financial data that consumers are sharing via PFMs, what are the benefits they are getting from these tools?
  • Are PFMs helping consumers pay less in fees, save more money and get out of debt faster?
  • How are consumers’ financial management habits being affected by the new breed of mobile and bank-affiliated PFMs?
  • Does the government have a role in ensuring consumers can use PFMs safely and effectively?

Panelists will take questions from our online audience on YouTube and via the Twitter.

Ask your questions in advance of the chat — or follow it via the Twitter hashtag: #eTool$

This event was made possible thanks to an unrestricted educational grant from Chase Blueprint®.

National Consumers League to honor UMWA International President Roberts with 2012 Trumpeter advocacy award – National Consumers League

September 25, 2012

Contact: Carol McKay, NCL Communications, (412) 945-3242,

Washington, D.C.— The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s oldest consumer advocacy organization, will honor United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil E. Roberts with its highest honor, the Trumpeter Award, on Thursday, October 4, in Washington DC. The event will bring together a diverse group of representatives from labor unions, consumer advocates, nonprofit organizations, and industry to celebrate the honoree’s career in service to worker rights.

“The Trumpeter Award is NCL’s highest honor, given to leaders who are not afraid to speak out for social justice and for the rights of consumers and workers. No one fits that description better than Cecil Roberts, a legend among working families and their advocates,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “Roberts’ lifelong dedication to improving the quality of life for workers in the United States has earned him this year’s Trumpeter Award.” 

Roberts’ long and fearless tenure as UMWA leader has led to a great many victories for North American mine workers, including reopening the UMWA’s National Agreement for the first time in the union’s history and winning significant improvements in wages; negotiating new National Agreements that included historic 20-year and out and 30-and-out pension provisions that have benefited thousands of UMWA members to date; and successfully leading the 1989 strike against the Pittston Co., which had cut off health benefits to its retirees and was backing out of obligations to the UMWA Health and Retirement Funds—a victory that earned Roberts the Rainbow Coalition’s Martin Luther King, Jr., award, as well as awards from Citizen Action and the Midwest Academy.

NCL will also honor Linda Hilton, Director of Coalition of Religious Communities at Crossroads Urban Center in Salt Lake City, with the Florence Kelley Consumer Leadership Award, named for NCL’s early leader and awarded to grassroots consumer advocates.

Hilton is being honored by NCL for her work on the funding of critical needs for low-income and homeless residents of Utah, the reduction of Utah’s grocery tax, and increased regulation of the payday loan industry, including scrutiny of short-term loan products offered through credit unions nationwide. She speaks frequently to community and religious groups about the struggles of low-income and homeless families; she trains students and members of faith communities to advocate for low-income citizens; and she conducts community workshops on the need for increased wages for the working poor and adequate benefits for those who are unable to work.

“Linda Hilton’s advocacy for low-income and underserved communities is remarkable, and she has personally had a measurable impact on the lives of people in her community—both those for whom she advocates, and the students and community members she trains to become their own advocates at the grassroots level,” said Greenberg.

The event will feature a reception, dinner, and speaking appearances by NCL leadership and the honorees, as well as:


  • Richard Trumka, President, AFL-CIO
  • Dan Kane, Secretary-Treasurer, United Mine Workers of America
  • Susie Johnson, Director of Public Policy, Washington Office, United Methodist Women


Event details

What: National Consumers League’s 2012 Trumpeter Awards Dinner
When: Thursday, October 4, 2012 | 6 p.m. Reception | 7 p.m. Dinner and Presentation of Awards
Where: Capital Hilton, 1001 16th Street NW, Washington, DC
Questions or to RSVP: Larry Bostian, National Consumers League (202) 835-3323 


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

Average MPGs on the rise – National Consumers League

By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

A recent USA Today article brought great news: by 2016, fuel efficiency of our gas-operated vehicles will be required to meet strict new standards. The average by 2025 will be 54.5 mpg! That’s nearly double today’s average of 29.7 mpg and will mean less air pollution and less consumption of oil. In the 1980s and 90s while working for Consumers Union, we joined the environmental groups in lobbying vigorously for stronger “CAFÉ” standards (Corporate Average Fuel Economy.)  The industry – and the United Auto Workers – argued they couldn’t improve fuel efficiency significantly and fought our efforts. We always believed that American engineering smarts and knowhow could meet the design challenges of making a far more fuel-efficient vehicle.

With the advent of hybrid technology, and with battery design and power improving each year, automakers now have the confidence they can meet this CAFÉ goal of 54.5 by 2025. USA Today even quotes UAW president Bob King, who said “these new standards will help propel the auto industry forward by giving American families long term relief from volatile oil process, Lower the total cost of driving will make automobiles more affordable and expand the market for new vehicles.” This is great for the economy, for the auto industry and for consumer’s pocketbook and a long time coming.

This September 19, remember: ‘It Can Wait’ – National Consumers League

By John Breyault, NCL Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud

“My aunt was in a car accident. She was texting and driving and drove off the edge of a bridge that didn’t have any guard rails. Her skull was crushed in and she was killed instantly. That haunts me every day. I want to take the pledge for her, and for my family and friends. #itcanwait” – Kelsey, TN

Today is September 19, 2012. While it may seem like any other Wednesday, it’s a special day for consumers concerned about the rising numbers of serious accidents attributed to texting while driving.  The quote above comes from a consumer who wrote in to, a website created by AT&T in partnership with more than a dozen community organizations (including NCL) to raise awareness about the dangers of texting while driving.

The numbers are frightening.  A 2009 Virginia Tech study found that operators of heavy vehicles or trucks are more than 23 times as likely to risk a crash or near-crash as non-distracted drivers.  A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention founds that 58 percent of high school seniors said they texted or emailed while driving. About 6,000 deaths and half a million injuries are attributed to distracted driving per year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Clearly, texting while driving is an issue that continues to pose a major threat to consumers, despite the significant numbers of states and localities that have outlawed texting while driving.  Despite these laws, thousands of drivers continue to get hurt due to distracted driving, and particularly texting while driving.

More needs to be done to educate consumers about the dangers of distracted driving. This is why NCL is proud to support AT&T’s “It Can Wait” consumer education campaign.  If you haven’t already done so, head over to and sign the pledge to refrain from texting while driving.  Today is “Pledge Day,” so encourage your friends to support the campaign by sharing information about the campaign on Facebook and tweeting about it with the #itcanwait hashtag.

Remember, no life is worth risking over a text message. As Val from Texas put it:

Life >>>>> A silly little text message #itcanwait

Team Up. Pressure Down! – National Consumers League

By Ayanna Johnson, Health Policy Associate

Ayanna Johnson is a recent addition to the NCL team, where she will work closely to support and promote our health campaigns, including Script Your Future. Ayanna recently completed her MSPH at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where she focused her research on improving access to health care for underserved populations.

Hypertension, more commonly referred to as high blood pressure, is a serious health problem for American adults. Nearly 1 in 3 adults has hypertension and 36 million Americans do not have it under control.  When hypertension is left uncontrolled, individuals are at risk for heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. Every year there are two million cases of stroke or heart attack in America. Almost 800,000 deaths are attributed to heart disease. In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of preventable death for individuals under the age of 65.

Improving medication adherence is important to combat this growing public health problem and economic burden— nearly $444 billion is spent in related health care costs and loss of productivity due to heart disease. On September 5, 2012, Script Your Future joined in the launch of the Team Up. Pressure Down. program to help hypertensive patients more effectively manage and control their high blood pressure – and ultimately prevent one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017.

Team Up. Pressure Down. is a new pharmacy-focused program developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Million Hearts™ initiative co-led by the CDC and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The program offers time-saving resources – from video vignettes to conversation starters– that encourage and support pharmacists in providing counseling services to their hypertensive patients, with the goal of improving medication adherence. A suite of patient education materials, including the Script Your Future wallet card, will also be available through the program to help people with high blood pressure take a more active role in self-management efforts and to encourage increased interaction with their pharmacists.

Last week, the official launch of Team Up. Pressure Down. was held at the HHS building here in Washington, DC. Dr. Regina Benjamin, United States Surgeon General, lent her support to this important cause. As a family physician, Dr. Benjamin has treated a fair share of patients with hypertension, but for her this health problem was personal. She talked about the devastating role that stroke and heart disease played in her family and why this initiative is so important. The tools to help patients adhere to regimens and the medicine to treat high blood pressure are available. Now, it is a matter of ensuring that the health care ‘home’ is functioning from all angles; what better place to start than at the pharmacy. Recent research shows that pharmacist-directed care can improve the management of major cardiovascular risk factors – including hypertension – and has a positive impact on patient health outcomes.

Taking hypertension medicines as prescribed can greatly reduce a patient’s risk for heart attack and stroke, yet 30 percent stop taking their medicines within 6 months and 50 percent stop within 1 year.  It is time to take control of high blood pressure and take medicine as prescribed. Team Up. Pressure Down.!

For more information on Team Up. Pressure Down. email or visit the Million Hearts™ Web site at Take the pledge to take your meds. Visit Script Your Future today!

Farm bill providing certainty to farmers, ranchers – and those in need – National Consumers League

By Teresa Green, Linda Golodner Food Safety & Nutrition Fellow

On Wednesday, NCL joined hundreds of farmers and ranchers on Capitol Hill at the Farm Bill Now! rally. The purpose of the rally was to draw attention to the imminent expiration of the current farm bill on September 30, and to the fact that no new farm bill has been passed.

The farm bill is a massive piece of legislation that is passed every five years. Comprised of various titles that deal with issues ranging from commodity prices to conservation to—most notably—nutrition programs, the farm bill is an essential package. It provides certainty to farmers and ranchers, who then in turn are able to supply Americans with a healthy and reliable source of food.

The largest part of the money set aside in the farm bill goes to nutrition programs. In fact, 80 percent of the funding in the bill is devoted to programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. These nutrition assistance programs, which help needy families put food on the table, are an essential part of the American safety net.

In recent years, which have been marked by financial hardship for many Americans, SNAP has served more Americans than ever. Currently about 46.6 million are participating in the program, up from 27.6 million in 2007. Additionally, SNAP has been shown to be an economic stimulator; USDA data indicates that every $5 in SNAP benefits generate $9 in community spending. The SNAP program is good for those who benefit as well as the farmers whose products they buy.

At the rally on Wednesday, Sally Greenberg, our Executive Director, spoke about the importance of maintaining funding for the nutrition title in the farm bill. She also emphasized how important small and family farms are to the American economy, and how necessary to their survival a dynamic and robust farm bill is.  Check out pictures from the rally at our Facebook page!

NCL applauds NYC ban on oversized sugary beverages – National Consumers League

September 13, 2012

Contact: Carol McKay, NCL Communications, (412) 945-3242,

Washington, DC–The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s oldest consumer advocacy organization, applauds the New York City Board of Health for its decision, announced today, to approve Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to limit the sale of sugary beverages over 16 ounces.

“This decision is a great step forward for public health,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League. “By placing limits on the sale of large beverages, Mayor Bloomberg and the city of New York are promoting healthier habits. America has been plagued in recent years by oversized portions which result in expanding waistlines and negative health outcomes. In a nation where two-thirds of American adults and one-third American children are either overweight or obese, we encourage other leaders to adopt similar creative strategies to combat this growing health epidemic.”

The measure, which was introduced earlier this year by Mayor Bloomberg, would limit the sale of sweetened beverages over 16 ounces at establishments, such as restaurants, which are monitored by the City Board of Health. Members of the public health community, including Sally Greenberg, testified before the board in July in support of the measure. Advocates pointed out that sweetened beverages are the single-largest source of calories in the American diet.

“The decision to support the Mayor’s proposal shows the Board of Health’s clear commitment to New York City’s wellbeing,” added Greenberg. “It is a courageous step in the fight against high obesity rates. We hope that other cities will follow New York’s lead and enact limits on the sale of sugary beverages.”


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

Worrying trends emerging in mobile text messaging and malware – National Consumers League

Several new trends in fraud perpetrated via mobile phones are making it more important than ever for consumers to educate themselves about these next-generation scams.According to security firm Symantec, 31 percent of mobile users have received a text message from someone they didn’t know asking them to click on a fishy link or dial an unknown number. According to security firm Cloudmark, during the first week of September, text messaging (or SMS) phishing attempts increased by 913 percent, making this type of scam the single largest SMS messaging threat. In a typical SMS phishing scam, the consumer receives a text message purportedly from their bank, credit card company or even a health service provider. In each case, the consumer is asked to divulge sensitive personal information that can be used by the scammer to perpetrate fraud or identity theft.

While there’s no foolproof way to avoid these phishing attempts, consumers can take some steps to mitigate the risk:

  • First, don’t share your cell phone number widely, particularly on Web sites that ask for your number as part of a survey or sweepstakes.
  • Second, never click on suspicious links in text messages, particularly if they come from unknown or unfamiliar senders.
  • Third, many wireless carriers offer spam controls that can reduce unwanted text messages. Consumers should contact their carrier to get details. In extreme cases, you could even turn off the ability to receive all text messages.

Consumers can also help report suspicious text messages by forwarding them to 7726.

Malware threats

Smartphone users should also be aware of the increasing prevalence of malicious software, called “malware” for short. Mobile security firm Lookout predicts that four in ten American mobile users will click on an unsafe link this year. This unsafe clicking can lead to so-called “toll fraud” where consumers are billed for premium SMS services, often without their knowledge. According to Lookout, in the first quarter of 2012, toll fraud malware surpassed spyware as the most prevalent form of mobile malware. It is estimated that more than six million people were affected by mobile malware on Android phones from June 2011-June 2012 alone.

Consumers can take steps to protect themselves from mobile malware:

  • First, don’t click on suspicious Web links from your phone’s browser.
  • Second, be wary when downloading apps from independent app stores or unfamiliar sites.
  • Third, pay close attention to your monthly wireless bill and dispute any suspicious charge.
  • Finally, consider installing a mobile security app, which will scan new apps and can protect you from unsafe sites.

Consumers who have been a victim of SMS or mobile malware fraud should report these scams to NCL at