Another Payday Loan Biggie Being Probed By CFPB

Days after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau revealed that is currently investigating the lead-generating practices of MoneyMutual — the company with the Montel Williams ads that puts borrowers in touch with payday lenders — comes news that the Bureau is taking a peek under the hood of World Acceptance Corp. (aka World Finance), one of the country’s largest high-interest installment lenders.

Back in May, we told you about the ProPublica investigation into questionable fees and insurance add-ons that World Finance allegedly encouraged its employees to push on borrowers.

Though not always included in the APR calculations provided to customers, these additional costs would significantly alter the debt owed by the borrower. For example, an installment loan with an APR of 90% (already above usury limits in a number of states) actually had an APR of 140% once the extra money was factored in.

Yesterday, ProPublica noticed that World had published a disclosure that it, like MoneyMutual, had received a Civil Investigative Demand from the CFPB.

According to World, the CID states that the purpose of the CFPB probe is “to determine whether finance companies or other unnamed persons have been or are engaging in unlawful acts or practices in connection with the marketing, offering, or extension of credit in violation of Sections 1031 and 1036 of the Consumer Financial Protection Act, 12 U.S.C. §§5531, 5536, the Truth in Lending Act, 15 U.S.C. §§1601, et seq., Regulation Z, 12 C.F.R. pt. 1026, or any other Federal consumer financial law” and “also to determine whether Bureau action to obtain legal or equitable relief would be in the public interest.”

World says that it is cooperating with the CFPB’s request for documents and providing answers to the Bureau’s questions “related to loans made by the Company and numerous other aspects of the Company’s business.” However, World maintains that it “believes” its marketing and lending practices are lawful.

The MoneyMutual and World Acceptance investigations, along with December’s actions against payday lender CashCall, all appear to be prelude to a much larger crackdown to come from the CFPB on the payday lending and installment loan industries. For the most part, these lenders are regulated by state authorities. In some states where consumer protections are high, payday loans are either outlawed or made pointless by usury caps that prevent lenders from charging triple-digit interest rates.

A recent Consumerist investigation of legislative reform efforts in states like Utah and Missouri found that state-level efforts to rein in predatory lending often leave open loopholes that are easily exploited by clever lenders.