Tribe-owned lending companies collect thousands of complaints

The Miami and the Modoc tribes of Oklahoma online lending operations are the focus of scrutiny by the Oklahoma attorney general's office.
BY ANDREW KNITTLE Published: January 29, 2012

The state attorney general's office is watching the activities of two eastern Oklahoma tribes involved in the high-interest, online lending industry.

Diane Clay, spokeswoman for the attorney general's office, told The Oklahoman the Miami and Modoc tribes of Oklahoma are the focus of the scrutiny.

“We are aware of online lending by tribes in northeastern Oklahoma, and are monitoring the practice along with the Department of Consumer Credit, which regulates payday lenders in Oklahoma,” Clay said.

Payday lending is big business in Oklahoma and the rest of the country.

In 2010, payday lenders in the state generated fees of $51.6 million on nearly $400 million in loans, according to an annual report on the Oklahoma Department of Consumer Credit's website.

Nearly a million payday loans were taken out in Oklahoma that year, which is the latest year available for comparison, and by the end of 2010 more than 150,000 people had turned to the high-interest loans to get cash before their next paycheck.

Payday loans are regulated by state law and cannot exceed $500.

Such lending companies, those operating as private companies, are subject to a laundry list of other regulations, including laws dictating how long the term of the loan can be and a section granting borrowers the right to request a payment plan if they can't pay back the entire amount of the loan at once.

But the payday-like lending operations being run by companies affiliated by the Miami and Modoc tribes often get around these state laws.

The reason, some say, is these two tribes are using their statuses as sovereign nations to skirt state law.

Business practices questioned

State Sen. Rick Brinkley, who's had personal experience dealing with complaints generated by businesses owned by the two tribes, has said he believes the business practices of these companies are “unethical.”

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