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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

District Court dismisses usury claim against New York lender

Courts State Issues Usury Interest Rate Licensing NYDFS

Courts

On August 12, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York dismissed usury claims against a lender, concluding that lenders licensed in New York can charge interest rates up to 25 percent on loans under $25,000. According to the opinion, a consumer received a check in the mail in the amount of $2,539 from a licensed lender under Article IX of New York Banking Law, with terms requiring repayment at an annual interest rate of 24.99 percent, if the consumer cashed the check. The consumer cashed the check, agreeing to the loan terms. After failing to repay the debt in full, the consumer filed a complaint against the lender asserting various claims, including that the interest rate is unenforceable under New York General Obligations Law (GOL) § 5-511 because it exceeds 16 percent. The lender moved to dismiss the action.

The court agreed with the lender on the usurious claim, concluding that as a licensed lender in New York, the lender is “authorized to extend loans of $25,000 or less with interest rates up to 25[percent]” which is “the limit set by New York’s criminal usury statute, New York Penal Law § 190.40.” The court cited to NYDFS interpretations, stating that unlicensed nonbank lenders may not charge more than a 16 percent annual interest rate, but lenders that “obtain an Article IX license [] may charge interest up to 25[percent] per annum on the small loans.” Because the lender was licensed under Article IX in the state of New York, the lender “was permitted to loan $2,539.00 to [the consumer] at an agreed-upon annual interest rate of 24.99[percent] without violating GOL § 5-511.”

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