ATLANTA, GA – Attorney General Chris Carr today announced that the Office of the Attorney General’s multi-year legal battle against payday lenders Western Sky Financial, LLC, CashCall, Inc. and related entities has concluded in a settlement providing over $40 million in monetary relief to Georgia consumers.
“This settlement sends a strong message that our office will not tolerate unscrupulous lenders who prey on consumers by charging illegal interest and fees,” said Attorney General Carr. “Our team has been working diligently on this case since 2013, and we are proud that we were able to stop on-going collection efforts and provide refunds of illegally charged interest and fees to our citizens. This case should serve as a major warning for those looking to violate the laws designed to protect our Georgia consumers.”
The settlement comes on the heels of a October 31, 2016 ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court that out-of-state Internet lenders are subject to the State’s Payday Lending Act, which prohibits a lender from making loans of $3,000 or less unless the lender is licensed to lend in Georgia or under federal law. Georgia law caps the interest rate of such loans at 10%; however, Western Sky and its affiliates sold over 18,000 loans to Georgia borrowers bearing interest rates of 140% to 340%, and collected over $32 million in interest and fees from those consumers since 2010.
The settlement requires Western Sky and its affiliates to pay $23.5 million in consumer restitution, to cease all collections and to forgive all outstanding loans, which will provide an additional $17 million in loan relief to Georgia borrowers.
Additionally, the defendants must pay a $1 million civil penalty to the State and $500,000 as reimbursement for the State’s attorneys’ fees and costs. The defendants are also prohibited from engaging in any further lending activities that are not in compliance with Georgia law.
A consumer restitution fund is being established to administer payment of refunds to eligible consumers. Eligible consumers will receive notice of their refund from the fund administrator within 60 days. Additional details about the fund will be posted on www.GAWesternSkySettlement.com.
Among the numerous settlements reached in Western Sky-related cases to date, this settlement is the largest in the nation, representing a nearly dollar-for-dollar return of all illegal interest and fees paid by Georgia borrowers.
The Office of the Attorney General’s legal team was led by Counsel for Legal Policy Timothy Butler and Assistant Attorneys General Charlene Swartz, Monica Sullivan and Andrew Chesser.