“The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a series of criminal charges against short-term lending companies, accusing the unrelated firms of violating the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act, a federal law passed with the intention of combating organized crime.” It says lenders have falsely claimed affiliation with American Indian tribal governments so as to evade regulation. [Ben Johnson, Heartland]
The forces of consumer financial regulation led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren have made it clear that they would like to ban “payday” lending (short-term, at high interest rates or fees). Yet history teaches that such lending — like gambling, late-night alcohol, and many other disapproved activities — is in such steady demand that short of government supervision of a population more intense than anything in living memory, the real choice is whether to tolerate an aboveboard legal market or to drive it into informal and sometimes illegal channels. In the latter circumstance, consumer remedies against bad actors may be non-existent, and extra-legal status and the absence of advertising may make it hard for borrowers to compare possible sources of loans. As for enforcement methods following non-payment of debt: “Driving [businesses] underground will very often make it worse,” Olson said. “It will mean outright violence, at worst, or extralegal sanctions for those who aren’t paying their debt. You might find you like extralegal sanctions less than you like things they can currently do, like ruining your credit rating.” More: Eric Boehm.