Tribes Seek To Halt New York Internet Lending Investigation; Meet With DOJ On Parallel Investigation

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On August 21, two Native American tribes and related entities announced a lawsuit against the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) in response to its recent effort to halt the offering of online payday loans to New York borrowers. On August 6, the DFS, among other related actions, sent letters to 35 online lenders, including lenders affiliated with Native American tribes, demanding that they cease and desist offering allegedly illegal payday loans to New York borrowers. The tribes argue that the DFS actions are “intimidation tactics” that will deny the tribes’ rights as sovereign entities and will result in irreparable injury to the tribes absent injunctive relief. The tribes claim that the investigation already has led to “significant harm” to tribes’ business relationships, which impacts the funding of tribal government operations. The suing tribes also met with the DOJ on August 21 regarding its Internet lending enforcement activities. The tribes sent a follow up letter quoting DOJ officials who reportedly stated they are concerned only with financial fraud, and that the DOJ’s actions are not aimed at tribal short-term lending businesses. The letter also indicates that tribal governments will join the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force’s Consumer Protection Working Group.

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