Holly Petraeus to Take on Predatory Lending

VIDEO: Holly Petraeus to be appointed to protect military families from scam artists. PlayABCNEWS.com
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Holly Petraeus, the wife of the top American general in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, will soon hold a newly created position in the Obama administration, helping to protect military families from the scourge of predatory lenders.

Though not well known to the American public, the low-key wife of one of America's most popular figures has long worked to raise awareness about the issue.

Holly Petraeus will be named to a position at the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by Obama appointee Elizabeth Warren.

Warren told ABC News that the new agency will be taking responsibility for enforcing predatory lending laws.

"The message has now been delivered that we can't continue with business as usual, we can't continue with products people don't understand," Warren said.

"What I hope we have by July 21, is I hope we have an industry that has sobered up and on their own. stopped some, not all, some of the practices of 'I'm going to pretend to sell it to you for one price, but I'm really going to make a much bigger price on this,'" she said, "and all the tricks and traps that are hidden in the fine print."

Petraeus will specialize in protecting military families from predatory lenders who have been a constant headache for the military for many years.

"The real point is," Warren said, "we're moving this thing in the right direction. It's slow, it's complicated, it's down in the weeds, but it moves in the right direction."

Predatory lending is not a new problem in military communities. It is a frequent sight to see pawn shops, check cashing stores and auto loan offices located just beyond the entrances to America's military bases.

The businesses offer cash advances to military members and their families, who may be unprepared for the extremely high interest rates the lenders will charge them.

"These are real dollars out of the pockets of real hardworking families," Warren said. "All I can say is that I am doing my dead-level best to build a strong agency that will be there for American families. And that the outrages that we have suffered on consumer credit, will come to an end."

"We might not be able to bring them to an end in a day or a week or a month or even a year," she said. "But by God, we will bring them to an end."

Holly Petraeus Well Known in Fight Against Military Scams

While she has generally shunned the public spotlight that has made her husband a household name, Petraeus' new position in the administration will undoubtedly raise her public profile and raise awareness about an issue she has worked on for years.

In addition to being an outspoken critic of predatory lending, for the past six years she has headed the Better Business Bureau's Military Line, which educates military personnel about scams and provides them with guidance for better financial planning.

Petraeus became involved with taking on predatory lending when her husband was in command of the 101st Airborne Division based at Fort Campbell, Ky.

She is known for her intellect and the direct advice that she provides to her husband of 35 years. She once told him to read Greg Mortenson's "Three Cups of Tea" as a good way to understand the realities of life in rural Afghanistan.

Hollister "Holly" Knowlton met her future husband on a blind date when she was a senior at Dickinson College and David Petraeus was a cadet at the Military Academy at West Point. Her father, Lt. Gen. William Knowlton, was the superintendent at West Point at the time.

The book "The Fourth Star" by Greg Jaffe and David Cloud describes her as being "fluent in French and finishing her honors dissertation on the novelist Francois Mauriac."

It also describes a "whirlwind romance" that resulted in their marriage at the West Point Chapel in 1974, just weeks after Petraeus graduated from the military academy and received his commission as an officer.

Since then she has been an Army wife, following her husband's assignments as he rose through the ranks.

But while her husband's public profile has increased dramatically over the last decade, she largely remained in the shadows, with the exception of trying to take on unscrupulous lenders who target military families.

The Petraeus' have a daughter, Anne, and a son, Stephen, who recently served in Afghanistan as a young officer.