Lawsuit loans can exceed judgments
Need money fast? Here's some news: Traditional loan sharks and pawnbrokers aren't the only groups looking to lure cash-strapped citizens into a loan with an unconscionable repayment agreement. If you are a plaintiff in a lawsuit, perform an Internet search and you'll find no shortage of lawsuit lenders willing to give you “quick and easy” cash within 24 to 48 hours.
But nothing is “quick and easy.” Frequently these lawsuit loans end up costing consumers nearly 100 percent of the loan in compounding interest and hidden fees over the course of a year. And, that's if you are one of the lucky ones. Interest and fees on lawsuit loans have been documented to be as high as 150 percent annually in some cases. And all too frequently for unsuspecting consumers awaiting settlements, these loans can far exceed any expected awarded judgment ... and demand a quick repayment.
Unfortunately, this type of predatory lending has become more commonplace, which is bad for consumers. These are not “no risk” loans as frequently advertised and, further, the practice puts a third party square into a legal proceeding when their only interest is the financial outcome, not justice.
Another concern is that these predatory lending practices may encourage litigation and discourage some settlements — both of which impact consumers and employers. While Texas continues to create jobs and lead our country's economy, we should continue to support policies that ensure our courts are used for justice, not greed.
Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas has been working for more than a decade to educate Texans about the cost and consequences of lawsuit abuses. And just like barratry, advertising scare tactics and class-action litigation, lawsuit lending is another practice that preys upon consumers when they are at their most vulnerable — and often at the expense of small business owners and their employees.
So what protections exist for consumers who have succumbed to the predatory practices of lawsuit lenders? Regrettably, not much. Lawsuit lenders, aka lawsuit loan sharks, continue to convince regulators their industry should not be subjected to state regulations, such as usury limits on interest rates that protect borrowers. By calling transactions investments rather than what they are — predatory loans — companies have been able to skirt state laws for years.
But this can change.
With the opening of the 83rd Texas Legislature, we have a window of opportunity to ensure that these unregulated lenders face the same proper disclosures and regulations as conventional lenders. It is imperative that reforms are put in place to properly safeguard consumers by enacting laws to prevent and prosecute predatory lending practices.
On this issue, businesses, consumer advocates, CALA and even many trial lawyers can all agree — it's time to take the bite out of lawsuit loan sharking.
San Antonian Chip Hough is president of Basic Industries, a Texas-based company that provides industrial and commercial maintenance and construction services. He is chairman of the Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas.