Wright’s location was one of 32 in Oklahoma operated by Noble and its affiliated companies. Together, they have filed at least 16,834 lawsuits against their customers since the beginning of 2009, according to ProPublica’s analysis of Oklahoma court records, the most of any lender in the state.
Such suits are common in Oklahoma: ProPublica tallied more than 95,000 suits by high-cost lenders in the past five years. The suits amounted to more than one-tenth of all collections suits in 2011, the last year for which statewide filing statistics are available.
Anthony Gentry is president and chief executive of the privately held Noble and its affiliated companies, which operate more than 220 stores across 10 states under various business names. In a written response, he offered several reasons why his companies might sue more than other lenders.
His companies focus on lending to customers who are currently working, he said, and therefore have wages that can be garnished under court orders. Under federal law, one-quarter of a person’s wages may be eligible for garnishment as long as they are above the threshold of $ per week. (Federal benefits such as Social Security are off-limits.) Some states further restrict how much can be seized, but Oklahoma is not one of them.
By contrast, Texas payday loans SC Loris, where Noble is based, largely prohibits wage garnishments and bars installment lenders that sue from passing court costs on to borrowers. Noble operates 67 stores in Texas, but the company files no suits there, Gentry said in his response. He argued, however, that the primary reason for the lack of suits in Texas wasn’t the inability to seize a debtor’s wages or pass on costs, but rather the strong economic standing of the state.
His companies do what they can to avoid filing suit, he wrote, but, ultimately, it’s the customers who are responsible: The loan information is fully disclosed to the borrower, they leave the branch office with money in hand and knowing their payment expectations.
Lewis, the former Tower employee, said he was struck by how routine filing suit against customers and seizing a portion of their wages can be. It destroys people’s lives. To work there, he said, you have to be very thick-skinned.
Ability to Repay
Your ability to repay current and proposed obligations is critical in the decision to approve a loan. We determine your ability to repay by reviewing the following:
- Gross income 2 and any additional available income 3
- Monthly obligations and debts such as mortgage/rent payments, vehicle loans and credit cards
- Debt-to-income ratio 4
We obtain and review a credit report on all members requesting a loan. We use your report to observe past performance on SECU loans and other credit obligations as an indication of your willingness to repay future obligations.
If your credit report indicates credit blemishes, 5 we may be able to make a loan to help improve your credit report or make your debts more affordable by restructuring or consolidating existing debt. We may also be able to help new borrowers establish a credit record.
We assess the value of the collateral securing a loan (e.g., home or vehicle) to determine the collateral’s value in relation to the requested loan amount (i.e., loan-to-value ratio or LTV). Some loan products ount offered based on the collateral value.
You can also assign funds in your share or Share Term Certificate accounts at the Credit Union as collateral for some loans. 6
If we are unable to approve your loan request, you are entitled to and will receive an explanation of the reasons for denial. When possible, we may offer an alternative to your request. If you would like to improve your qualifications for future loan requests, we are available to assist with reviewing your credit report and budgeting through our Financial Counseling services.
You may also request to have the Member Loan Review Committee review your denied application. The Member Loan Review Committee is the final decision-making body for all loan requests. They provide an impartial decision in the best interest of the entire membership to assure our members that loan requests receive equitable and full consideration.