A payday lending operation affiliated with a Native American tribe is liable for engaging in deceptive practices and violating federal law by failing to disclose loan terms, U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro in Las Vegas has ruled.
The decision, a victory for the Federal Trade Commission, stems from a case involving AMG Services Inc., a Kansas-based payday lender. The defendants included AMG, race car driver Scott Tucker, his now-deceased brother Blaine Tucker, four other people, three Internet-based lending companies and six related firms.
According to the FTC, more than $40 million that AMG and related companies collected from borrowers was transferred by Scott and Blaine Tucker to racing team Level 5 Motorsports for sponsorship fees.
In 2013, AMG, Tucker and most of the other defendants reached a partial settlement, though other claims moved forward.
In the latest ruling, Navarro - referring to a loan note disclosure document used in the payday loans under scrutiny - said "no reasonable fact finder could conclude that the document was not likely to mislead consumers." U.S. Magistrate Judge Cam Ferenbach had recommended Navarro rule for the FTC.
Blaine Tucker, 48, was found dead in March at a Leawood, Kan. shopping center. An autopsy confirmed suicide was the cause of death, the Kansas City Star reported.
In an April 2012 lawsuit, the FTC accused the defendants of deceptive practices, including failing to disclose the true costs of loans to borrowers and falsely threatening consumers with arrest or prosecutions if they failed to pay. It was one of two lawsuits brought by the FTC against a payday lender that claimed an affiliation with Native American tribes exempted them from state laws because of their sovereign status.
The defendants argued that they were exempt from FTC enforcement because of their tribe affiliation. They also claimed immunity from state legal proceedings. The FTC has stated that the connections to tribes often are tenuous. AMG is chartered under the laws of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma.