State Sen. Rick Brinkley is under personal attack after sharing his concerns about predatory lenders who affiliate themselves with small Oklahoma-based tribes. A group called The Native American Fair Commerce Coalition (NAFCC) has staged an aggressive public relations blitz attacking Brinkley. He recently spoke out against predatory lending practices in an investigative news story by CBS News and the Center for Public Integrity (CPI).
“I know it isn’t just me—this so-called ‘fair commerce coalition’ is prepared to go after anyone who tries to expose these lenders by labeling critics as being opposed to tribal sovereignty,” said Brinkley, R-Owasso. “This group is trying to deflect the conversation away from the facts of what they are doing and change the conversation to be about tribal sovereignty. They want to attack the messenger instead of dealing with the issues that have generated over 2,000 consumer complaints and a CBS News investigation.”
The CBS Evening News featured a cancer victim who borrowed $250 from an online company called 500 Fast Cash to keep his electricity from being turned off. The borrower thought he could pay the loan off for $325, but ended up paying $700 before he closed out his accounts. Nevertheless, the victim told CBS he continued to be harassed by the company, which is one of seven online lending businesses owned by the Miami and Modoc tribes. According to the investigation, the interest rate he was charged was 476 percent, but some people are charged rates as high as 1800 percent. In addition there are company policies which don’t stop the fees even after the consumer has paid the amount due on the loan.
“This doesn’t just hurt the poor—it hurts local businesses, too. If someone is paying $1,100 for a $200 loan, that other $900 is not being spent in businesses in their communities and that hurts our economy. We all pay the price for these unethical business practices,” noted Brinkley.
Brinkley said there are hundreds of tribally-owned businesses in Oklahoma which will never generate a single consumer complaint, because they are run openly and ethically—but said that is not the case with online businesses like those investigated by CPI and CBS.
“Nearly 30 percent of the complaints filed by US consumers against pay day lenders are filed against 7 pay day lenders in Miami, Oklahoma, which has a population of about 12,000,” explained Brinkley. “That would be a red flag for anyone. Traditional pay day lenders in no way generate complaints of that magnitude—in fact most in Oklahoma have never had a single complaint filed against them.”
Brinkley also refuted claims by the Fair Commerce Coalition that he didn’t understand the pay day lending industry. He was interviewed for the CBS investigation as part of his job as an employee of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Eastern Oklahoma, a non-profit organization which seeks to build trust between businesses and consumers.
“It is interesting that they chose to attack me personally as a Senator rather than deal with the basis of the consumer complaints and the CBS investigation. These personal attacks are just a way to deflect the conversation away from the truth,” Brinkley said.
To view the investigative report by CBS and the Center for Public Integrity, click here.