Think Finance Facing $44.5 Million Judgment in "Rent-a-Tribe" Scheme

Advocate Andy

Online lender used tribal-owned companies to evade state interest rate caps

Virginia consumers who borrowed from online payday lender Think Finance could soon see cash refunds as a result of a proposed settlement in a class action lawsuit. Details from the case suggest Think Finance ran loans through three tribal lenders in an attempt to evade state interest rate caps and charge triple-digit interest rates on payday loans.

The class of Virginia residents sued the founders of Think Finance in 2018 for allegedly using tribe-owned lending companies Plain Green LLC, Great Plains Lending LLC and MobiLoans LLC as fronts to skirt state usury laws, which prohibit lenders from charging excessively high interest rates.

The proposed settlement will result in a settlement fund paid by Think Finance in the amount of $44.5 million.

The use of tribal-owned lenders is similar to so-called “rent-a-bank” schemes also sometimes used by online lenders in a quest to charge rates that violate state law.

“The relief provided by the settlement is significant,” they said. “Most consumers will receive a cash payment. This settlement also helps protect consumers against future predatory lending by preventing Elevate from working with Think Finance entities. These benefits will be provided to class members without the need to submit a claim form, proving any harm, or taking any affirmative action.”

Elevate Credit, named in this suit, has also been caught up in a “rent-a-bank” scheme that led to a judgment against them in the District of Columbia. There, they were charging rates up to 251%.

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Andy Spears is a middle Tennessee writer and policy advocate. He reports on news around public policy issues - education, health care, consumer protection, and more.

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