Massachusetts AG reaches $1.25 million settlement with online lender
On January 21, the Massachusetts attorney general announced a $1.25 million settlement with an online marketplace lender to resolve allegations that it violated the state’s Small Loan Statute by facilitating the origination of loans with excessive interest rates to Massachusetts borrowers. According to an assurance of discontinuance (AOD) filed in the Suffolk Superior Court, the company allegedly facilitated personal loans to Massachusetts residents with interest rates exceeding the statutory interest rate cap set by the Small Loan Statute, which regulates terms for consumer loans of $6,000 or less. “Small loans” are defined by the statute as those where the disbursed amount is $6,000 or less. To determine whether a loan is a “small loan,” the Small Loan Statute provides that if, after all deductions or payments (whether on account of interest, expenses, or principal made substantially contemporaneously with the making of the loan), the amount retained by the borrower is $6,000 or less, the transaction will be deemed to be a loan in the amount of the sum retained by the borrower after deductions or payments, notwithstanding that the loan was nominally for a greater sum (the “deduction provision”). Among other things, the AG’s office claimed the company facilitated “small loans” with interest rates above the maximum permitted rate for non-licensed small loan companies, and that after the company obtained a small loan company license, it allegedly facilitated loans that exceeded the maximum permitted rate for licensed small loan companies based in part on its reading of the Act’s “deduction provision.” The company admitted no liability, agreed to pay $1.25 million to the Commonwealth, comply with Massachusetts law, and stop facilitating small loans to state residents with interest rates that exceed the maximum permissible rate based on the AG’s reading.