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District court approves $18.5 million “rent-a-tribe” payday loan settlement

Courts Settlement Payday Lending Class Action State Issues RICO Usury

Courts

On February 25, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia granted preliminary approval of an $18.5 million class action settlement to resolve allegations including violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, state usury and lending laws, and unjust enrichment against a financial technology company and a tribal corporation (defendants). According to the complaint, the company evaded state law usury limits by attempting to use the sovereignty of an Indian tribe (“rent-a-tribe”) in order to issue payday loans carrying annual percentage interest rates as high as 460 percent. While the defendants have denied any wrongdoing, they have agreed to, among other things, (i) cancel loans originated during the class period “on the basis that the debt is disputed”; (ii) no longer sell any outstanding loans and cease all collection activity; (iii) contact all consumer reporting agencies to request the permanent removal of any missed payment marks on loans originated during the class period; (iv) no longer sell class members’ personal identifying information to third parties; and (v) establish an $18.5 million fund to go towards costs, service awards, attorneys’ fees, and cash awards to class members.

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