CFPB Sues Pawn Lenders for Cheating Military Families
November 12, 2021 / Source: CFPB
FirstCash, Inc. and Cash America West, Inc. allegedly made pawnshop loans to military families in violation of the Military Lending Act and 2013 CFPB Order
NOV 12, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) today filed a lawsuit in a Texas federal district court against FirstCash, Inc. and Cash America West, Inc. The CFPB alleges that the two companies violated the Military Lending Act (MLA) by charging higher than the allowable 36% annual percentage rate on pawn loans to active-duty servicemembers and their dependents. The CFPB also alleges that FirstCash violated a 2013 CFPB order against its predecessor company prohibiting MLA violations. The CFPB is seeking an injunction, redress for affected borrowers, and a civil money penalty.
“FirstCash is a repeat offender and cheated military families over and over again,” said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. “FirstCash and Cash America West gouged military families and robbed them of their rights to go to court.”
FirstCash, Inc. is a non-bank corporation operating out of Fort Worth, Texas. FirstCash and its wholly owned subsidiaries operate more than 1,000 pawnshops throughout the U.S. FirstCash is a publicly traded firm with a current market capitalization of about $3.5 billion. Cash America West, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of FirstCash that operates pawn stores in Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Washington.
The CFPB alleges that between June 2017 and May 2021, FirstCash and Cash America West violated the MLA by making more than 3,600 pawn loans from their Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Washington stores with an annual percentage rate above the 36% allowed by the MLA. The unlawful loans had APRs that frequently exceeded 200%. The CFPB also alleges that the loan contracts violated the MLA by requiring borrowers to sign away their ability to sue and by failing to make all required loan disclosures. These 3,600 loans are from only a limited period for which the Bureau currently has transactional data, and the stores from which they originated make up only about 10% of FirstCash’s nationwide pawn-loan operations. Accordingly, the CFPB alleges that since October 3, 2016, FirstCash has, together with Cash America West and other wholly owned subsidiaries, made additional pawn loans in violation of the MLA from stores in these and other states.
In 2013, the Bureau ordered Cash America International, Inc. to halt its misconduct against military families, prohibiting Cash America and its successors from violating the MLA. FirstCash is a successor to Cash America and therefore subject to the 2013 order. The Bureau alleges that FirstCash’s violations of the MLA violated the Bureau’s 2013 order.
Congress gave the CFPB enforcement authority over the MLA beginning in 2013. The law is among the only federal lending laws that includes an interest rate cap and a ban on forced arbitration. The CFPB is seeking an injunction to stop the alleged unlawful conduct, redress for affected consumers, a civil money penalty, and other relief.
The complaint is not a final finding or ruling that the defendants have violated the law.