Otoe-Missouria Tribe defends online loan business amid scrutiny

The office of American Web Loans in Red Rock, Oklahoma, owned by the Otoe-Missouria Tribe. Photo by Jane Daugherty.

Internet lending has been good for the Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Oklahoma despite legal and political pressure from state and federal agencies.

The tribe operates American Web Loans and at least one other online lender. Chairman John Shotton said the business has proven to be successful.

“Short-term lending on the Internet for us has been one of the most successful ventures we’ve been involved in since gaming,” Shotton told Business Week. “The profits were immediate and they were substantial.”

The tribe has not disclosed how much it makes from the operation. A document filed in federal court indicated more than $100 million in annual revenues.

Former chairman Charles Moncooyea, who helped negotiate the deal to get into the business, said the tribe only sees 1 percent of those fees. Shotton, however, said that wasn't true.

The tribe has faced legal and regulatory actions across the nation due to high interest rates on its loans. The state of New York issued a cease and desist order that led to a federal court case.

The tribe withdrew its lawsuit after losing a decision before the an order that the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. The legal fees were being paid by the Native American Financial Services Association, Business Week reported.

“We’re confident that our model stands up, and we’re in the right,” Shotton told Business Week. “We’re not out here hiding from anybody.”

Get the Story:
Payday-Loan Fortune Backed by Medley Found Behind Indian Casino (Business Week 11/24)

2nd Circuit Decision:
Otoe-Missouria Tribe v. NY State Department of Financial Services (October 1, 2014)

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