A California federal court has held that the purchaser of consumer loans is the “true lender” and thus subject to state usury laws, even though a separate entity funded and closed the loans in its own name. The recent decision, however, is another reminder that US state and federal regulators, as well as plaintiffs’ attorneys, may be able to pierce these partnerships where the financial institution funding and closing the loan does not bear substantial risk on those loans.
Last Fall, in its 2015 Rulemaking Agenda, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) signaled its intent to “to develop rules to define larger participants in markets for consumer installment loans.” Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the CFPB is authorized to issue “larger participant” rules to define entities in a particular market for consumer financial products or services. The issuance of such rules opens the door for supervisory and examination authority over such entities. Fast forward to Spring 2016, when the CFPB announced that it is accepting complaints from consumers regarding alleged problems with online marketplace loans, and it appears that the CFPB has marketplace lenders squarely in its sights.