Citing a Seattle Times investigation that showed how Warren Buffet's company locks buyers in loans at interest rates that can exceed 15 percent, the editorial decried a proposed plan to roll back consumer protections.

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The New York Times editorial board said Wednesday that Congress needs to protect vulnerable buyers of mobile homes, citing recent stories published in The Seattle Times.

The editorial decried a proposed plan to roll back recent consumer protections for people who get high-cost mobile-home loans. The Seattle Times reported earlier this week that the bill would deregulate a segment of the market overwhelmingly controlled by Clayton Homes, a company that is part of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

“This deregulatory push would harm the mostly rural, older and hard-pressed buyers of mobile homes, as has been made clear in a recent series of articles in The Seattle Times about Clayton Homes,” the editorial said.

Last month, a Seattle Times investigation done in partnership with the Center for Public Integrity showed how Clayton locks buyers in loans at interest rates that can exceed 15 percent. Clayton is the nation’s largest manufacturer of mobile homes, and it also sells the homes at its own retail lots and finances the purchases through its own subsidiaries. Buyers have described how Clayton retail outlets misled them to take on unaffordable loans and steered them to Clayton-owned lenders.

The Mobile-Home Trap

Billionaire philanthropist Warren Buffett controls a mobile-home empire that promises low-income borrowers affordable houses. But all too often, it traps those owners in high-interest loans and rapidly depreciating homes.  
  Kirk and Patricia Ackley spent thousands to prepare their land, then were stuck with a higher loan rate than promised. Their home was taken by Berkshire Hathaway-owned Clayton Homes in 2012. (Katie G. Cotterill and Lauren Frohne / The Seattle Times)   MORE

The New York Times editorial board said the proposed deregulation plan “would put profits from predation above protections for consumers.” The bill has already passed the U.S. House and is set to be considered by a Senate committee on Thursday.

The editorial board previously cited the Times/CPI investigation when first addressing the topic last month. In that editorial, the newspaper suggested Berkshire Hathaway shareholders ask Buffett why his company found basic consumer protections to be so threatening.

Buffett did address some Clayton issues at the May 2 shareholder meeting, but he did not discuss the deregulation plan.