Firm to Pay Millions After Issuing Illegal Loans Targeting Vets

Inside Subprime: Nov 27, 2018

By Grace Austin

A judge is ordering several Nevada– and Delaware-based companies to pay back millions to Virginia veterans after a lawsuit claiming unscrupulous loan practices brought by the Virginia Attorney General.

The three companies and its owner were originally sued by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring in March 2018.

The state claimed that the companies persuaded older servicemembers to buy “pension sales,” which violated the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.

Herring said more than 1,000 Virginians were targeted in the scheme, which carried on from June 2011 to June 2017. The victims were mainly from Northern Virginia and the Hampton Roads metro area, which both have a high population of retired vets and former civil servants.

The lawsuit came out of Herring’s Predatory Lending Unit, which investigates and prosecutes suspected violations of state and federal consumer lending laws, including laws impacting the payday loan industry.

The loan provider marketed its product as a quick way for consumers to receive a lump-sum or “pension buyout” cash amount. They used third party websites to steer customers to their products.

One retired and disabled Department of Defense employee said he was hounded by the loan provider in a complaint filed with the AG’s office that was included in the lawsuit. “I was in a financial situation where I could hardly keep up paying my bills.” The pensioner was “told they could loan me $3,071… I didn’t understand the extension to me … to borrow $3,071 and pay back $15,000. Who does that?”

Now, the loan provider is being forced to forgive $20 million in loans for those who were scammed by the company, return a little more than $400,000 back to consumers, and pay nearly $32 million in civil penalties.   

That decision was made by a Hampton (Va.) Circuit Court judge in mid-November. The AG argued that it should be heard in that court because most of the transactions were done there.

The firm attempted to dismiss the case in May, but a judge denied that motion in September.

This loan provider has been on the receiving end of litigation across the country before — it was sued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in September 2018 in federal court in California. The CFPB alleged that the companies made loans disguised as asset purchases, violating state laws.

In its suit, the CFPB said the attorney generals from Minnesota, Colorado, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Iowa, Oregon, Illinois, Maryland, and the Los Angeles City Attorney had all filed suits against the loan provider and its companies; that’s in addition to various other state regulatory agencies.

For more information on scams, cash advances and title loans, check out all of our state-by-state Financial Resource Guides.