The UCLA Anderson School of Management has named two ProPublica projects as finalists for this year’s Gerald Loeb Awards, one of the most prestigious prizes in business and financial journalism.
“Evenflo, Maker of the ‘Big Kid’ Booster Seat, Put Profits Over Child Safety” was a finalist in the personal finance and consumer reporting category. Using the company’s own side-impact testing footage, our investigation demonstrated that the car-seat maker had put marketing above the safety of the children who used their “Big Kid” booster seats. Our reporting revealed the corporate blindness and regulatory failures that allowed the seats to be sold, even after children were seriously injured, even paralyzed. In July 2021, a group of 18 state attorneys general signed a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg criticizing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for failing to mandate side-impact tests for children’s car seats, despite a law requiring the agency to protect kids in such collisions.
A story co-published with the Texas Tribune, “A Personal-Loan Company Sues Its Customers — During a Pandemic,” was also named a finalist in the personal finance category. The investigation revealed that Oportun Inc., which was founded to help Latino immigrants build credit and operates in 12 states, routinely uses lawsuits to intimidate a vulnerable population into keeping up with high-interest loans — even as the coronavirus was raging across the country. Oportun markets itself as a financial ally to the Latino immigrant community, but our analysis of court records in nine of Texas’s largest counties found that the company has sued borrowers who were behind on payments more than 47,000 times from May 2016 through July of 2020, which averages out to an astounding 30 lawsuits per day, making Oportun the most litigious personal loan company in Texas.
See a full list of finalists here.