Tribal Lender Bright Lending Violates Usury Laws, Complaint Alleges
A case filed in federal court in New Jersey alleges that tribal lender Bright Lending is engaged in usury and fraud by charging up to 700% for short-term loans.
Two New Jersey residents, Mary Haremza and Jacob Murray, sued Aaniiih Nakoda Finance LLC, which does business as Bright Lending and is owned by the Fort Belknap Indian Community of the Fort Belknap Reservation of Montana, according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs allege the online lender is engaged in usury — the practice of lending money at unreasonable high interest rates — in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, New Jersey’s Consumer Finance Licensing Act and Consumer Fraud Act and state usury laws.
Haremza claims that on Nov. 23, 2020, she applied for a $500 loan online with Bright Lending and was approved almost immediately. According to the complaint, the loan agreement generated for Haremza stated a repayment sum of more than $3,000, with weekly payments of $72.48.
The New Jersey complaint follows a similar complaint filed in Illinois in December.
Of the Illinois complaint, Law360 notes:
In a complaint filed Thursday in Illinois federal court, Tyanna Qualls took aim at a ring of LLCs — including LDF Holdings, Anong LLC and Availblue — purportedly owned by a Wisconsin tribe called the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians. According to Qualls, the LLCs are no more tribal than their non-Native, out-of-state beneficiaries: Jesse Phillips Lorenzo, Mark Koetting, and debt collector Rick Gwynne.
Qualls, who took out a personal loan from Anong LLC over the internet last month at a disclosed annual interest rate of 664.77%, seeks to represent a class of Illinois borrowers who received loans from LDF, Anong and Availblue with interest rates higher than 36%.
The complaint in New Jersey notes that tribal lenders are not exempt from state laws relative to lending — including rate caps — and that any exemption for tribal sovereignty only governs loans issued on tribal land, rather than loans issued over the internet.