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Law Article: Tribal lenders fight federal agency investigation






The office of American Web Loans in Red Rock, Oklahoma, owned by the Otoe-Missouria Tribe. Photo by Jane Daughtery.

Attorney discusses efforts by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to investigate tribal online lending operations:
A California federal court recently issued an order granting the CFPB’s petition to enforce its civil investigative demands (CIDs) issued to three tribally-affiliated payday lenders. However, the court also granted the lenders’ request for a stay pending their appeal to the Ninth Circuit. Although the CFPB did not oppose the stay, the court nevertheless found that if its decision was wrong, the lenders were likely to suffer irreparable harm because of the disclosure of sensitive proprietary documents to the CFPB whereas the CFPB would not be injured by a temporary delay.

The court rejected the lenders’ argument that, as arms of sovereign tribes, they were “sovereigns” and therefore were not “persons” to whom the CFPB can issue CIDs under the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA). According to the court, controlling Ninth Circuit precedent established the rule that laws of general applicability such as the CFPA are presumed to apply with equal force to Indian tribes. Such precedent also recognized three exceptions to the rule where (1) applying the law would interfere with a tribe’s right of self-governance on purely internal matters, (2) applying the law would abrogate treaty rights, or (3) there is proof that Congress intended to exempt tribes. The court found that the lenders could not show that any of the exceptions applied.

Get the Story:
Jeremy T. Rosenblum: Federal district court grants CFPB petition to enforce CIDs issued to tribal lenders (JD Supra 7/29)

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