Court Awards $10 Million Penalty Against Payday Lender, Rejecting CFPB’s Request for $280 Million in Restitution and Penalties

CFPB sign

In August 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted partial summary judgment to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in a federal lawsuit against a California-based online payday lender, its individual owner, its subsidiary, and a servicer of its loans (“Defendants”), where the CFPB alleged that Defendants used a “rent-a-tribe” scheme to avoid state usury and licensing laws in violation of the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA).

But that ruling only established liability, and on January 19, 2018, the Court issued Findings of Fact and Conclusion of Law, ultimately awarding a statutory penalty of only $10 million—much lower than CFPB’s proposed $52 million. The Court awarded a lower-tier penalty because it found that the evidence did not show that Defendants knowingly violated the CFPA because when Defendants devised their plan, it was unclear as to whether liability would attach. The Court also concluded that the CFPB failed to present evidence sufficient to merit any restitution award, much less the CFPB’s proposed restitution amount of $236 million.

Enforcement Watch covered similar enforcement actions against the company by state attorney generals, which are available here, here, here, and here. Mike Whalen, co-leader of Goodwin’s Fintech Practice, has also covered “true lender” issues as part of Goodwin’s Fintech Flash series.