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Indian-owned online lending firm hit with lawsuit in Arkansas

Western Sky Financial, an Internet lending business owned by a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, is facing yet another lawsuit in another state.

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel filed suit in state court against Western Sky, its owner Martin A. Webb, and companies affiliated with the firm. McDaniel says the group is making loans that are illegal in the state.

“Though we have successfully eliminated storefront payday lending in Arkansas, some online lenders continue to offer the kinds of loans that often push consumers further into debt,” McDaniel said in a press release. “The defendants claim to be protected by tribal immunity, but we intend to prove they are not and we will ask the court to prevent them from making these harmful loans in our state.”

Western Sky has already been hit with litigation and enforcement actions in numerous states, including Minnesota, Maryland and New York. Webb laid off nearly all of his staff and has stopped making new loans as a result.

The state of New York is also going after online lending firms owned by tribal governments. A federal judge said the Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Oklahoma and the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians must answer to claims that their businesses are offering illegal loans to New York consumers.

"Today's ruling failed to address hundreds of years of legal precedent and legislative action regarding Native Americans' sovereign rights and will continue to allow ongoing and irreparable damage to Indian country through the state of New York's actions. The court acknowledges this, noting that 'given the tribes' heavy fiscal reliance on lending operations, these developments pose a potentially ruinous threat to the tribes' financial viability,'" Barry Brandon, the executive director of the Native American Financial Services Association, said in a press release.

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the New York case, Otoe-Missouria Tribe v. New York State Dept. of Financial Services.

Get the Story:
Dustin McDaniel Files Lawsuit Against Online Payday Lenders (Arkansas Business 10/1)
Judge Denies Tribes' Bid to Block Online-Lending Case (The Wall Street Journal 10/2)
Judge rules New York can regulate lenders with Native American ties (The Washington Post 10/2)

Related Stories:
Judge rebuffs tribal online lenders in case against New York (10/1)
Indian-owned lending firm seeks dismissal of New York case (09/18)
Otoe-Missouria Tribe sees benefits from Internet lending firms (9/16)
Column: States paying more attention to Indian online lenders (9/16)
Law Article: Non-Indian lending partners are likely next target (9/16)
Tribal online lenders off to court in lawsuit against New York (9/11)

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