U.S. media finger local “financial predators”!

Ryan Mack

Ryan Mack, President of Optimum Capital Management: What crimes did local financial institutions commit to deserve his special attention?

Ryan Mack is an African-American and president of Optimum Capital Management. By his own account, he is also a “financial advisor working with many prominent clients across the U.S. and charitably lends his support to the inner-city communities by coordinating workshops and creating economic empowerment initiatives that teach the principles of understanding the power of financial literacy.”

Moreover: “Unions, churches, government-subsidized housing communities and especially colleges have benefitted from the financial workshops/programs that he has development and instructed through Optimum Capital Management.”

Mack is also a blogger for the Business section of Huffington Post, wherein recently he revealed he had spoken frequently against financial predators and their prominent friends, among them Russell Simmons, BET, Magic Johnson, the Kardashians and Suze Orman.

For the benefit of recent arrivals from Mars (although it is quite possible aliens know more about us than we care to know of ourselves!): Simmons is a business magnate who pioneered the famous hip-hop label Def Jam, the clothing fashion lines Phat Farm, Argyleculture, and American Classics. No need to introduce BET, Magic Johnson or the Kardashians—all legendary household names even where no houses exist. As for Suze Orman, she is a New York Times best-selling author, financial advisor, motivational speaker and host of the Emmy Award-winning Suze Orman Show. Her self-declared raison d’être: “Helping people make the connection between self-worth and net worth.”

So what crimes had the above-mentioned committed to deserve Ryan Mack’s special attention?

“All of these products [they endorse] are legally sound but lack any sense of moral responsibility to actually help those they pretend to be serving. All involved in these despicable practices have chosen to select profit over principal [sic] and for this I will continue to speak out. I will speak out to expose their wrongful practices as well as educate the community about the best alternatives found mostly within the principles of fiscal responsibility.” So stated the blogger himself in the Business section of the May 8 issue of the Huffington Post.

From all I’ve gathered, Mack was last month the special guest of Dr Stephen King’s RISE group. His mission: “To advise young Saint Lucians with neither means nor knowledge how to make sound business and financial decisions.”

The same good people who had earlier suggested the RISE chief executive bring to Saint Lucia the charismatic Carl Marx had also hooked King up with Mack, the predator hunter. Unforgettably, Dr Marx’s highly controversial appeals on behalf of local youth had resulted in the Stephenson King government reluctantly agreeing to foot tuition fees and other expenses for several young Saint Lucians now studying in the United States. As I recall, before the dust settled there had been need of convenient explanations and apologies!

While in Saint Lucia last month Ryan Mack had lectured such groups as the NSDC, CARE and the Upton Gardens Girls. He had also addressed Bordelais inmates. But busy as conceivably was his schedule, Mack had nevertheless found time to hunt down his favorite prey. At any rate, so he revealed in his earlier cited blog in the widely read Huffington Post.

To quote Mack directly: “Imagine my surprise while on a mission trip to educate the community in St Lucia when I found similar practices. [“similar,” as in the activities of the aforementioned ‘financial predators’ Simmons, BET etc.] In my discussions with the community I ran across the firm FastCash, which provides short-term loans with interest rates as high as the Pay Day Loan industry in the States. When you include the fees, you could be paying fees as high as 200 percent interest to pay back those loans, according to local sources. This predator decided this important information was not important enough to display on their website.”

But nothing he had ever confronted in the financial wild west was quite as bad as a particular species he encountered in backwater Saint Lucia: “Of all the financial predators I have seen, whether in the U.S. or elsewhere, none was worse in terms of foolishness, irresponsibility and turpitude.”

His bad, bad, bad Leroy Brown turned out to be Axcel Finance, by Mack’s measure “a micro-finance institution that just started operations in St Lucia a little over a year ago.”

Additionally: “Axcel specializes in short-term loans—code for high-interest loans— mainly for healthcare, education and home furnishings. So if you get sick unexpectedly, need money for school or want to purchase furniture for your home, they aspire to be the provider of services to you. Axcel Finance claims to have a new idea for community empowerment, an idea that was inspired and endorsed by a carnival band named Toxik Nation. I could not think of a more toxic product for the people of St Lucia.”

Additionally: “I have been in St Lucia over a week doing multiple workshops for various groups of people, most of them disadvantaged, and have yet to find anyone who agrees with the program.

“Axcel has decided to unveil a new loan product offering to help people who cannot afford to jump in carnival . . . Why would Axcel do this? The answer is simple: so you can party. Clearly, if you are currently in debt and cannot afford a costume, wear a wristband signifying you are a member of a winning band, follow that band during the parade and go to multiple parties by that band, it makes no sense to go deeper into debt just to party.

Directly addressing Axcel, Mack asks: “Are you so hungry to make money that you will prey upon people who are so down on their luck and are desperately in need of an escape from their impoverished state? Shame on you for bringing this idea to market. Shame on you for partnering with Toxic Nation that obviously has a vested interest in this deal because they will be on the receiving end of the monies. And shame on you for helping create a more permanent underclass of society by keeping poor people under the unnecessary pressure of unnecessary debt.”

Finally Ryan Mack addresses the whole country: “I understand the historical significance of carnival. I understand what it means to the people to be part of this long-standing tradition. I am not asking you to give up participating in this event. I am asking you to be responsible in how you participate in carnival. Educate yourselves of the best way to have fun but not at the risk of your own and your family’s financial security. Instead of a $1200 loan for VIP access for carnival, can you save $100 per month and put it toward an investment of long-term value, like land, education, savings, stocks, or a new business? It is not enough to be angry only at Axcel. We must also be angry with ourselves for allowing our actions to open the door for these predators to exist in our communities in the first place.”

Does predator hunter Ryan Mack know all he should know about this particular jungle? Does he know Dr King is also an influential member of the Saint Lucia Senate whose voice carries weight—as Carl Marx and Stephenson King can attest?  How did our ubiquitous slot machines and other inducements to gamble all over the country, regardless of the player’s age, escape Mack’s knife? Or is Dr King planning to RISE up on that little matter during his coming Budget address?

I gather the Speaker of the House is embroiled in a court matter involving the gaming that from all I can gather sustains at least one government project here.

Surprisingly, FastCash and Axcel Finance representatives saw no urgent need to comment publicly on Mack’s blog. Even more surprising is that the blogger had written not a word about the fact that at least one of the alleged financial predators is owned by an American company that benefits from all the evil underscored by Mack. So now, shame on who?

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