Consumer Bureau Keeps Court Win on Tribal Lender Probe

By Chris Bruce

The U.S. Supreme Court Dec. 11 declined to disturb a court ruling that ordered tribal lenders to comply with a probe by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

At issue was a civil investigative demand (CID) issued by the CFPB against three tribal lenders — Great Plains Lending, owned by the Otoe-Missouria Tribe, based mainly in Oklahoma; MobiLoans, owned by the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, and Plain Green Loans, owned by the Chippewa Cree Tribe in Montana. The CFPB launched an investigation into whether the lenders were engaged in unlawful acts or practices in connection with small-dollar loan products.

The lenders asked the Supreme Court to review a Jan. 20 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that upheld a district court decision ordering the lenders to comply with the CID. The justices turned away the petition without comment.

In its January ruling, the Ninth Circuit rejected the lenders’ argument that they aren’t subject to CFPB jurisdiction. In their petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, the lenders urged the court to hear the case for two reasons. It said the federal appeals courts are divided on how to apply federal laws with broad application to matters involving Indian tribes, even when those laws don’t specify whether they apply to tribes. The petition also said the Ninth Circuit should have held that the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) doesn’t apply to Indian tribes.

Great Plains didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. MobiLoans and Plain Green couldn’t be reached for comment. The lenders were represented by Neal Kumar Katyal, a partner in the Washington office of Hogan Lovells.

Case: Great Plains Lending, LLC v. Cons. Fin. Protection Bureau , U.S., 17-cv-00184, cert. den. 12/11/17 .

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Bruce in Washington at cbruce@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Ferullo at mferullo@bloomberglaw.com

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