Consumer Action salutes 10 with special recognition certificates

Over the years, Consumer Action has celebrated its birthday with an awards ceremony at which many deserving people and groups have been honored with our Consumer Excellence Awards
Published: Friday, November 05, 2021

By Linda Sherry

Over the years, Consumer Action has celebrated its birthday with an awards ceremony at which many deserving people and groups have been honored with our Consumer Excellence Awards. On the momentous occasion of our 50th anniversary, to be celebrated on Nov. 16, we wanted to also recognize some our most dedicated supporters and consumer protection allies.

“It was tough to whittle down the list to 10,” said Ken McEldowney, Consumer Action’s executive director. “So many people have helped Consumer Action in one capacity or another over the past five decades. We wish we could mention every last one.”

Here is more about the individuals we will recognize:

We met communications expert Jason Alderman when he worked at Visa Inc. Together we have worked on educational projects including Know Your Card, a website designed to educate consumers about payment cards. Alderman has changed jobs a few times since we met him—now he’s with Fast a secure shopping and payments startup—but he’s stayed by our side as a member of our corporate advisory board and anniversary event planning committee. With our certificate, Consumer Action recognizes Alderman’s tireless dedication to helping Consumer Action further its mission to achieve fairness and financial prosperity for underrepresented consumers nationwide.

Our Southern California outreach team has found in Chancela Al-Mansour a staunch ally for human rights and an expert resource for our community work. Al-Mansour is the executive director of the Housing Rights Center, the nation’s largest and oldest private fair housing advocacy organization. A graduate of Vassar College and UC Davis School of Law, she is no stranger to awards and accolades—all well deserved. We are proud to recognize Al-Mansour’s impressive achievements as a champion of fair housing, civil rights and access to justice for underserved and disadvantaged Californians.

Our D.C. office first met Jenny Backus when she was head of strategic engagement at Google, where she helped us with funding to create educational materials about staying safe on the internet and protecting your online privacy. In 2015, Backus struck out on her own as president of Backus Consulting, where she helps companies and nonprofits with public affairs outreach. Her upbringing, as the daughter of Jan Backus, a former Vermont state senator, and her political experience on the Hill and with federal regulatory agencies make Backus a good friend to have. We are honored she finds the time in her busy consulting practice and her role as an activist mom to help Consumer Action out as a member of our 50th anniversary planning committee.

With 15 years of government antitrust experience as a trial attorney in the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice and in several senior level positions at the Federal Trade Commission, David Balto is an expert in antitrust, consumer protection and healthcare policy. He’s also a good friend to Consumer Action, who has, as a member of our corporate advisory board, helped Executive Director Ken McEldowney with engagement and fundraising strategies to further our mission to enact and protect strong consumer rights. Balto is an invaluable resource to our advocacy work around prescription drug pricing and antitrust issues and has written compelling regulatory briefs on behalf of Consumer Action.

As executive director (and a founder of) Housing and Economic Rights Advocates (HERA) of Oakland, California, Maeve Elise Brown works in support of affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families and fair treatment of mom-and-pop landlords, whom she recognizes serve an important role as affordable housing providers. A core community partner for Consumer Action’s outreach and training work, Brown is also a familiar face to San Francisco Bay Area TV news viewers, as she is often interviewed about housing issues. Kudos to Brown for her impressive achievements as a champion of fair housing for tenants, homeowners and small landlords, and for her work to improve the lives of underserved Californians.

As director of consumer protection and privacy for the Consumer Federation of America, Susan Grant is a longtime consumer advocate who has influenced policy in the areas of privacy, identity theft, online safety and security, telemarketing, electronic and mobile commerce, deceptive marketing, fraud, and airline passenger rights, as well as a slew of general consumer protection issues. A staunch ally, Grant is generous with her time in preparing documents and “herding cats” in many of the coalitions we work in and is not afraid to mete out pointed criticism of corporate practices when warranted. We have nothing but plaudits for her impressive achievements as a leading privacy advocate, a champion of consumer rights, and a faithful ally in Consumer Action’s work to empower consumers.

When he isn’t being interviewed by the media, testifying on the Hill and writing his influential consumer protection-focused blog for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Ed Mierzwinski might be seen getting around DC on his bicycle. As a revered éminence grise of the consumer movement, Mierzwinski knows the shortest route to all the most important Hill offices and the names and phone numbers of aides high and low, earning him numerous “Top Lobbyist” awards from The Hill and other outlets. Mierzwinski’s role in the development of strong legislation and regulations that promote access to credit and fair financial services, protect consumer privacy and ensure the safety of consumer goods earns him our accolades.

Our former board chair, public interest lawyer and community activist Patricia Sturdevant, served Consumer Action for many years before recently stepping down from our board to focus on community policing issues in California’s capital, Sacramento. A successful litigator who recovered more than $100 million in damage awards in lawsuits challenging unlawful business practices, she pioneered the concept of distributing unclaimed class action settlement dollars to nonprofit organizations. We are grateful for Sturdevant’s service as a board member and for her dedication to consumer justice and access to the courts.

Born and raised in a small town outside Mexico City, Erika Toriz-Kurkjian is the founder and executive director of Haven Neighborhood Services, a nonprofit financial and housing counseling organization in Los Angeles. A loyal community-based partner, she has helped with numerous Consumer Action-produced trainings and has served as an expert resource to our community outreach employees. We applaud her tireless efforts to improve financial opportunities for low- and moderate-income individuals and families, design effective financial and housing programs, and advance economic opportunities for underserved communities.

Consumer Action’s staff of lay advocates relies on the expertise of many of the talented attorneys at the National Consumer Law Center. We have Boston-based Chi Chi Wu on speed dial, given her deep expertise on fair credit reporting, credit cards, refund anticipation loans and medical debt. Wu, a graduate of Harvard Law School and Johns Hopkins University, shows tireless dedication to reforming the credit reporting system, expanding access to credit, and protecting low-income consumers from predatory financial services and debt collectors—and for that we salute her.

We hope that those in the Washington, D.C., area can join our Nov. 16 in-person awards ceremony (6-8 p.m. ET). We'd love to see you! Email [email protected] if you are interested in a complimentary ticket.




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