In a proposed settlement with several lenders allegedly offering high-interest credit to veterans, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offered redress to harmed veterans and consumers.
The CFPB and the Office of the Arkansas Attorney General filed a proposed settlement with Andrew Gamber, Voyager Financial and SoBell. The lenders are accused of brokering contracts offering high-interest credit to veterans, many of whom are disabled, and other consumers.
This settlement would permanently ban the lenders from the industry. This would include brokering, offering or arranging agreements between pension recipients and third parties under which the consumer purports to sell a future right to an income stream from the consumer’s pension.
The settlement would also require redress of $2.7 million, a civil money penalty of $1 to the CFPB and a payment to the state of Arkansas of $75,000 entered against them to be paid to the Arkansas Attorney General’s Consumer Education and Enforcement fund.
The CFPB alleges that the lenders, operated by Gamber, misrepresented to consumers that the contracts the company created were valid and enforceable. In reality, the contracts are void under federal state law. The bureau also alleged the lenders of misrepresented to consumers that the product is a sale of payments and not a high-interest credit offer. The lenders also allegedly misrepresented when consumers will receive their funds and failed to inform them of the applicable interest rate on the credit offer.
As explained in the proposed order, full payment of the judgment for redress would be suspended upon Gamber paying $200,000 for consumer redress, the civil money penalty to the Bureau, and the $75,000 to the State of Arkansas. The suspension of the full payment for redress, as well as the $1 civil penalty, is based on Gamber’s inability to pay more based on sworn financial statements. Harmed consumers may be eligible for additional relief from the Bureau’s Civil Penalty Fund.
Back in 2015, the CFPB fourth annual Servicemembers report showed 19,200 complaints from members of the military community, which is 13% more than what was reported in 2014, according to the report. The total number of complaints in 2015 by all consumers totalled 271,600.
And recent changes in the bureau’s leadership have not helped lower the number of veteran complaints, or target potential predators.
Under Mick Mulvaney, who served as acting director of the CFPB prior to Kraninger’s confirmation, it was decided that the bureau would stop supervising lending made to active duty service members. This was much to the dismay of congressional Democrats, who pushed the CFPB to retain oversight.
Under Mulvaney’s changes, the CFPB relied solely on complaints from service members and their families to trigger investigations. Mulvaney had reportedly expressed that the bureau had overstepped its authority by proactively looking into cases against military members without receiving complaints.
But back in January, the CFPB changed course on its decision to stop supervising lending to active duty service members.
CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger sent a letter to Congress, asking for “clear authority” to supervise for compliance with the Military Lending Act.