FTC Tosses Payday Lender From Industry, Frees Debtors

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An online payday lending scheme operating under several different names was banned from the industry and debts owed to it wiped from the books, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said in a press release.

“These defendants hoodwinked people in financial need by charging much more than promised for payday loans,” Daniel Kaufman, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “We expect payday lenders to not only honor the terms of their deal but also to refrain from making a never-ending series of unexpected withdrawals from customers’ bank accounts, as these companies did.” 

The FTC said the owners and operators of Harvest Moon Financial, Gentle Breeze Online and Green Stream Lending — which also conducted business under other names — bilked customers out of millions. The settlement bans them from the lending industry and “provides that nearly all outstanding debt — made up entirely of illegal finance charges — held by the company will be deemed as paid in full.”

The settlement permanently banned the following individuals and their companies from making loans or extending credit: Takehisa Naito and Keishi Ikeda, along with their companies Lead Express, Inc.; Camel Coins, Inc.; Sea Mirror, Inc,; Naito Corp.; Kotobuki Marketing, Inc.; Ebisu Marketing, Inc.; Hotei Marketing, Inc.; and Daikoku Marketing, Inc. 

A $114.3 million judgment as part of the settlement was deferred because the defendants have no means to pay. The defendants also have to relinquish all corporate assets and almost all domestic personal assets, as well as several vehicles, for liquidation, with proceeds turned over to the FTC. 

An FTC report released earlier this month showed there were over 2.1 million fraud reports from consumers in 2020, with increases evident once the pandemic took hold. The latest Digital Fraud Tracker by PYMNTS explores the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning on cybersecurity.

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