The issue of “true lender” has been one that has dogged the marketplace lending industry virtually since its inception. When a borrower takes out a loan from most marketplace lenders the loan is often originated by a partner bank then held on their balance sheet for a short time before being sold to the lending platform. There has been debate about who is the true lender in these circumstances.
In 2017, the Colorado Attorney General filed two separate lawsuits against Marlette Funding and Avant alleging violations of the state’s Uniform Consumer Credit Code by charging interest rates in excess of those allowed under Colorado law. These loans were originated by out of state banks, Cross River Bank and WebBank, who were also party to these lawsuits. These banks are allowed to export higher interest rate caps across state lines but Colorado was saying that this was all a scheme to lend above Colorado’s usury rate limited.
The upshot of these lawsuits was that Colorado consumers had less choice as both Avant and Marlette, along with WebBank, started excluding Colorado consumers from their loan offerings. And it even called into question the business models of Cross River Bank and WebBank as both banks have established long running partnerships with many marketplace lenders.
After years of back and forth, and much time and expense, today the Colorado Attorney General announced a settlement with all parties. It is hard to overstate how important this is for the industry. These lawsuits have been hanging over the industry for years and even though the OCC recently proposed a new true lender rule there was still a great deal of uncertainty.
With this settlement, which amounts to $1.55 million in total, the companies have “committed that they will not lend to Colorado consumers at rates above 36% and will provide consumers with other protections required by Colorado law. In addition, non-bank partners will maintain a Colorado lending license.” There are also certain oversight requirements and they laid out a model for successful bank-fintech partnerships in Colorado. It is this model that could be adopted by other states and become a de facto national standard. Which is why this is big news today.
The industry was clearly pleased with this settlement. I reached out to several parties to get their commentary on what this means. First, Nat Hoopes from the Marketplace Lending Association: [Read more…]