A scene from An Unlikely Solution, a film about the online lending industry in Indian Country. Still image: An Unlikely Solution
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Tribal lenders worried about 'mixed signals' from Trump administration

Tribal lenders cheered when the Trump administration started taking the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in a new direction but an appeal in a closely-watched case is generating some concerns.

In January, a federal judge ordered CashCall to pay $10.3 million in penalties to the federal agency. CashCall was determined to have violated consumer protection laws in connection with loans issued by Western Sky Financial, a defunct lending company that was based on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota.

Despite the apparent win for the CFPB, the agency is appealing, Reuters and The Los Angeles Times reported. That has the Native American Financial Services Association worried about the "mixed signals on tribal sovereignty" emerging from Washington, D.C.

To make matters more complicated, CashCall is also appealing, Reuters reported. At issue is whether the judge properly considered tribal sovereignty issues.

The case is now headed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. In a prior decision that was closely watched in Indian Country, the court held that tribes were not entitled to be treated as "co-regulators" under the federal law that created the CFPB.

After the U.S. Supreme Court refused to overturn the decision, the Trump administration announced it was withdrawing yet another closely-watched lawsuit against tribal lenders. And Mick Mulvaney, the "acting" director of the CFPB, promised that he wouldn't interfere with tribal sovereignty.

"Trump has now struck a mighty blow in favor of tribal sovereignty and self-determination," Gavin Clarkson, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation who is running for Congress, told Indianz.Com after the developments.

Western Sky shut down operations after facing federal and state enforcement actions. Though the firm was based on Cheyenne River, it was run by a tribal citizen, not the tribal government.

Other lending firms that have been targeted by the CFPB are operated by tribes.

Read More on the Story:
Appeal could jeopardize CFPB win in landmark tribal sovereignty case (Reuters April 11, 2018)
In surprise move, CFPB appeals judgment against CashCall slashed by judge (The Los Angeles Times April 5, 2018)

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