HARRISBURG — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced that the Office of Attorney General has reached separate agreements with Kenneth Rees, the former CEO of Think Finance, and the debt collector, National Credit Adjusters (“NCA”). The settlements effectively end the $133 million allegedly illegal online payday lending scheme that targeted as many as 80,000 Pennsylvania consumers.
“Think Finance exploited thousands of Pennsylvanians and used their vulnerability to turn a profit,” said Attorney General Shapiro. “Today’s agreement is another step towards ensuring that anyone involved in the Think Finance scheme can never again take advantage of Pennsylvanians through illegal payday lending.”
As a result of prior settlements with Think Finance, Inc. and Chicago-based private equity firm Victory Park Capital Advisors, LLC, and various affiliated entities, all remaining balances on the illegal loans have been voided and, for any borrowers who repaid more than the loan principal and the lawful interest rate of 6 percent, they will share proportionately in a multi-million-dollar fund created by the settlement negotiated in Think Finance’s bankruptcy. Eligible consumers have been receiving those checks in the mail.
In late 2014, the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General sued Think Finance, Inc., its former CEO, and NCA among others. The suit alleged that between 2011-2014, three websites operated by Think Finance—Plain Green Loans, Great Plains Lending and Mobiloans—signed borrowers up for loans and lines of credit while charging effective interest rates as high as 448 percent. Payday loans, which typically charge interest rates higher than 200 or 300 percent, are illegal in Pennsylvania.
The settlement agreements announced today are regarding Rees, former President and Chief Executive Officer of Think Finance, Inc., and NCA, a national debt collector headquartered in Kansas. Attorney General Shapiro’s original investigation alleged that Rees participated in, directed and controlled the business activities related to a $133 million allegedly illegal online payday lending scheme that targeted as many as 80,000 Pennsylvania consumers. The NCA Settlement related to its collection of those debts arising from the illegal loans.
NCA allegedly collected more than $4 million on more than 6,000 consumer loan accounts of Pennsylvania consumers.
The settlement requires NCA to comply with relevant consumer protection laws and further provide the following:
• NCA will ensure that all debts it acquires, and which it attempts to collect, comply with applicable laws and regulations;
• NCA will cancel all balances on, and will take no further action to collect debts allegedly owed by Pennsylvania consumers on Think Finance debts;
• NCA will notify each Pennsylvania consumer debtor alleged to have owed monies under a Pennsylvania account that the balances have been cancelled;
• NCA will refrain from engaging in collections on any debts involving loans made over the internet by non-bank lenders that violate Pennsylvania laws, including its usury laws, and;
• NCA will not sell, re-sell or assign Debt related to Pennsylvania accounts, including those subject to a previously-negotiated nationwide class action settlement agreement and Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan.
Similarly, the Rees Settlement requires him to comply with relevant consumer protection laws and further agrees Rees for 9 years will not provide capital to a third-party to originate consumer loans to Pennsylvania residents, be employed by a third party, or provide services to a third party, if the third-party (a) makes or offers a consumer credit product to Pennsylvania consumers, or (b) brokers, markets, purchases a participation interest in, collects or services a consumer credit product made or offered to Pennsylvania consumers unless Rees believes that such consumer credit product or service complies with Pennsylvania law, including its usury laws. Rees has also paid the Commonwealth $3 million.
The settlement with NCA and the settlement with Rees has been approved by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Anyone who believes they have been a victim of a predatory loan or related debt collection practices can submit a complaint at attorneygeneral.gov/submit-a-complaint/ or contact the Bureau of Consumer Protection by calling 1-800-441-2555 or emailing email@example.com.
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