The administrators of a Wisconsin Native American tribe are facing a class action lawsuit alleging that they charge payday loan customers with interest fees close to 700 percent.
Plaintiff Isiah Jones III says he borrowed money from the Lac Du Flambeau Tribe of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians internet lending business as he needed cash to cover certain household expenses. The tribe accepted JonesвЂ™ loan application and approved him for $400 with a 690% A.P.R., payable in 14 biweekly payments of $110.24, the LDF class action lawsuit states. After making payments totaling more than $1,000, Jones says he refused to make any more payments and the tribe accused him of defaulting on the loan. The payday loan class action lawsuit accuses the tribeвЂ™s board members of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
The LDF class action lawsuit also charges numerous board members with perpetuating a usury scheme.
For example, Jones argues that Joseph Wildcat, Sr., the president of the LDF tribe, вЂњis believed to have a role in the LDF TribeвЂ™s use of funds generated by its internet lending and loan servicing businesses, and he is believed to play a role in choosing board members for the LDF TribeвЂ™s business development corporation that services high interest loans for lending entities owned by the LDF Tribe and others.вЂќ The LDF class action states that вЂњIn 2010, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that internet lenders were doing business in Pennsylvania and had to comply with the CommonwealthвЂ™s banking laws and usury regulations.вЂќ
Jones also says that LDF board members knew about this ruling, but failed to change their lending practices to fit into PennsylvaniaвЂ™s interest rate laws.
In addition, the LDF class action lawsuit states вЂњThe Individual Defendants never sought to have any of the lending or loan servicing entities under their [control] apply for a license to lend in Pennsylvania or otherwise seek to comply with Pennsylvania law in connection with loans made to and collected from Pennsylvania borrowers.вЂќ
The plaintiff states that he doesnвЂ™t yet know the size of the potential Class, but will be able to ascertain the size during discovery. However, he believes that since LDF Holdings and its subsidiary RadiantCash.com has been operating since early 2010, there are numerous citizens in Pennsylvania who have received loans from LDF over the stateвЂ™s lawful usury rate.
The proposed Class Members of the LDF class action lawsuit are, вЂњCitizens of Pennsylvania who received consumer loans over the internet serviced by LDF Holdings at a rate of interest at or greater than 12% per annum from lenders who were not licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities, beginning four years prior to the filing of this complaint until the present; and (b). Citizens of Pennsylvania who received loans over the internet from Radiant at a rate of interest in excess of 12 % per annum, beginning four years prior to the filing of this complaint until the present. Jones is represented by Robert F. Salvin of the Philadelphia Debt Clinic And Consumer Law Center.
Payday lending bill faces uncertain fate in Indiana Senate.In this Jan. 13, 2017 file photo, Senate Pres Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS The Republican leader of the Indiana Senate says he is opposed to legislation to expand payday lending and allow for rates more than triple what is currently permitted under the state’s criminal loansharking law. It’s treading water and the water is pretty deep,” Republican Senate leader David Long of Fort Wayne said Thursday, referring to a payday lending bill that narrowly passed the House last month and is now before the Senate. “. I’m not a big fan of it, personally.” It’s a felony under state law to offer loans with an annual percentage rate greater than 72 percent, according to the Indiana Department of Financial Institutions. But the new payday lending bill would lift that, allowing payday lenders to charge annual percentage rates as high as 222 percent on short term loans between $605 and $1,500, an analysis by Indiana Institute for Working Families found.
Many payday loans are for two weeks, but the bill would create a new class of loan that would be paid off over the course of three months to a full year.
Long’s comments come amid a chorus of faith based groups announcing their opposition to the bill, including leaders of the church attended by House Speaker Brian Bosma, who voted for the measure. The bill cleared the House in January on a closer than usual vote of 53 41. A cross denominational group of 13 clergy members including Indianapolis Archbishop Charles C. Thompson wrote in a letter this month that it “opens doors for lending practices that are unjust and which take unfair advantage of people in desperate circumstances.” Other opponents include social service charities and the state’s four largest veterans’ organizations, who say such high cost loans trap people in debt and prey on the poor.
“The optics of it aren’t very good, to be honest,” Long said. Republican Sen. Mark Messmer of Jasper, who is carrying the bill in the Senate, is working on amendments that may make the bill more palatable to members of the Senate Commerce and Technology committee. Long said changes that would eliminate some of the fees could help earn support, but he still wasn’t sure “it will get enough votes to get out of the committee.” Still, he anticipates that the bill will be brought up for a vote. Payday lenders argue the proposal would serve people who need quick cash but have nowhere else to go, filling a void. We always think more options are good for customers,” said Jamie Fulmer, a spokesman for Advance America, one of the country’s largest payday lenders. He said the bill would create a regulated environment that is transparent and beneficial to small dollar borrowers.
Critics, however, say the proposal lacks consumer protections, especially now that President Donald Trump’s administration is looking to Portland money payday loans scrap rules created under former President Barack Obama aimed at tightening loan practices. These high cost loans have devastating consequences for borrowers,” said Steve Hoffman, president and CEO of Brightpoint, a Fort Wayne based non profit that provides social services to low income people.