October 4, 2022

Loan Sharks “Salvation” For Many At 2,437% Interest Rates

Loan Sharks: The New Subprime Lenders With A Twist – They Expect To Get Repaid – And Why A Loan At 2,437% Interest Makes Sense

For every loser, there is a winner.  Since the demise of the subprime lending industry, loan sharks have been reaping profits by lending to the same foolish crowd that used to be the target of subprime lenders.

In this country, the new subprime lenders are called payday lenders, who operate legally.  In Britain, the new subprime lenders simply call themselves, well, loan sharks and operate without the courtesy of government sanction.  The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article on loan sharking in the UK that should have been titled – “Why The Foolish Can’t Be Protected From Themselves”.

In a recent report, the U.K. think tank New Local Government Network said it expects the number of people with debts to loan sharks to jump to more than 200,000 in Britain this year, from an estimated 165,000 in 2006. A confluence of indebtedness, poverty and the diminished availability of regulated subprime credit are creating the conditions in which many are borrowing “from nefarious sources,” the report says.

But perhaps no country in the world was more addicted to debt than the U.K. By the end of 2008, the average British household had a debt-to-income ratio of 180% compared with 140% for the average U.S. family, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

That is coming back to haunt the U.K. The number of individual insolvencies rose by almost 30% year-to-year to 33,073 in England and Wales in the second quarter of 2009, the highest level since records began in 1960.

New Lending Lessons For British Borrowers

Apparently, over leveraged U.K. borrowers took every nickel they could from lenders foolish enough to lend to them, oblivious to rate or terms.  The actions of these borrowers could almost be viewed as rational since the money they borrowed and spent that they couldn’t pay back is now being absolved in bankruptcy courts with little repercussions from now defunct lenders.   U.K. borrowers who now have to deal with unlicensed loan sharks are shocked to learn that the loan sharks actually expect to be paid back – or else.

Some consumers are going to loan sharks to fund purchases for items including new televisions, overseas vacations or expensive clothing.

In mid-2007, Donna Ockerby, a 45-year-old auxiliary nurse in Manchester in northern England, turned to a local loan shark after her hours were cut at work. She borrowed £700 from Johnny “Boy” Kiely to help pay for a wedding dress.

Mr. Kiely, who charged interest rates of up to 2,437%, was jailed earlier this summer for five years for offenses including blackmail and illegal money lending. Ms. Ockerby now lives in a one-bedroom apartment on government benefits. She was moved out of her childhood home by police to protect her. Ms. Ockerby, who says she is on antidepressants, says the decisions to borrow from a loan shark ruined her life.

I’m sorry Ms. Ockerby but you are a financial idiot who deserved to pay the market rate of 2,437% interest.  Did you ever hear of “if you can’t afford it don’t buy it”?  What was the problem with buying or renting a used wedding dress for a fraction of the cost?  Johnny “Boy” Kiely risked his capital, is now in jail and out his £700.  Johnny “Boy” did not ruin your life – you did.

Payday Lenders – Predators or Saviors?

Payday Lenders Serve The Financially Inept

One of the fastest growing lending businesses in the country has been “payday lending”.  Without the hassle of a credit check or application, a payday lender will give an employee a cash advance to carry him over to his next paycheck.  There has been huge consumer demand for payday loans as reflected by the growth of  payday storefronts to 25,000 today from zero in 1990.  Convenient locations and quick easy cash entice consumers to take a one week loan on a $300 paycheck for a $50 fee.

Payday lenders argue that the credit losses, overhead costs and the complexity of  administering millions of small loans require them to charge high fees to stay in business.   When Pennsylvania capped interest based fees on payday loans, the payday lenders disappeared from the State.

Responsible Lending.org has characterized payday lending as predatory and forcing borrowers into a vicious cycle where each loan is paid off with another loan resulting in huge fees to the borrower.  Effective annual interest rates can exceed 800%.

A full three quarters of loan volume of the payday lending industry is generated by borrowers who, after meeting the short-term due date of the loan, must re-borrow before their next pay period

Repeat borrowing of what is marketed as a short-term loan of a few hundred dollars has long been documented, but this report verifies for the first time how quickly most payday lending customers must turn around and re-borrow after paying off their previous loan.

Payday lenders generate loan volume by making a payday loan due in full on payday and charging a sizeable fee—now nearly $60 for an average $350 loan. This virtually guarantees that low-income customers will experience a shortfall before their next paycheck and need to come right back in the store to take a new loan. This churning accounts for 76 percent of total loan volume, and for $20 billion of the industry’s $27 billion in annual loan originations.

Payday lenders argue that they are lenders of last resort and provide vital credit that cannot be obtained elsewhere.  If payday lenders cease operating, how would those who had relied on the payday loan get by?

North Carolina provides an example of how consumers fared after payday lending was closed in 2006.   Here are the results of a study done by the Center for Community Capital:

Researchers concluded that the absence of storefront payday lending had no significant impact on the availability of credit for households in North Carolina.  The vast majority of households surveyed reported being unaffected by the end of payday lending.  Households reported using an array of options to manage financial shortfalls, and few are impacted by the absence of a single option  – in this case, payday lending.

More than twice as many former payday borrowers reported that the absence of payday lending has had a positive rather than negative effect on their household.

Payday borrowers gave first-hand accounts of how payday loans are easy to get into but a struggle to get out of.

Nearly nine out of ten households surveyed think that payday lending is a bad thing.

As was the case with aggressive no income and sub prime mortgage lending, many people will borrow money despite onerous fees and high rates.   Financially desperate consumers giving up 15% of their next paycheck to have money a week early are clearly not helping their financial situation.  The government cannot prevent people from making foolish financial decisions, but in the case of payday lending,  tougher regulation seems necessary to protect the financially inept.

Ironically, despite the high fees charged by payday lenders,  it turns out that investors fared no better than the payday borrowers.  Earnings have generally been trending downwards and stock prices have declined significantly.  New State or Federal fee restrictions on the payday lending industry would crush loan growth and profits.  Investors in QCCO and AEA are likely to face continued disappointing returns.

qcco

aea

Disclosures:  No positions.