Connecticut fines collection agency $10,000 for violating usury laws
On June 28, the Connecticut Department of Banking issued a consent order against a licensed consumer collection agency for allegedly engaging in numerous violations of state law. These include (i) collecting on loans made by unlicensed lenders affiliated with federally-recognized Native American tribes that violate state usury laws; (ii) commingling operating monies from its business account with funds in its trust accounts; and (iii) engaging in unfair or deceptive acts or practices by advertising financial products and services of unlicensed affiliates in communications with consumers. According to the order, an examination found that the company collected on loans made by unlicensed lenders affiliated with Native American tribes that charged interest rates exceeding state limits, and that the company received payments on small loans that violated other state statutes. The Connecticut Department of Banking noted that, pursuant to a Connecticut Supreme Court decision in Great Plains Lending, LLC v. Department of Banking, consumer collection agencies are prohibited “from collecting on small loans made by unlicensed persons, including lenders affiliated with Native American tribes." Such loans are considered void and unenforceable, the Department said.
While the company neither admitted nor denied any of the allegations, it voluntarily agreed to the imposition of sanctions to obviate the need for formal administrative proceedings. Under the terms of the consent order, the company must pay a $10,000 civil penalty, refund all amounts collected from Connecticut borrowers as payment on small loans made by unlicensed lenders affiliated with federally recognized Native-American tribes, implement appropriate policies and procedures, cease and desist from soliciting financial services products in its collection communications with consumers, and cease and desist from collecting, attempting to collect, and receiving payment on small loans not made in compliance with state law.