Western Sky Financial Sued for Charging Interest Rates as High as 355%

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Western Sky Financial, a South-Dakota-based online lender that's become infamous for its sky-high interest rates, is finally being sued.

New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced Tuesday that his office has filed a lawsuit against Western Sky for charging rates that far exceed what is permissible under New York law. According to the Schneiderman lenders not licensed by the state of New York can't charge an annual interest rate greater than 16 percent. Western Sky charges interest rates as high as 355 percent.

Yes, you read that right: 355 percent.

You may have seen Western Sky's TV commercials, which play up the company's Native American heritage (it has ties to South Dakota's Cheyenne River Sioux tribe) and tout the fact that you can get up to $10,000 in one day without collateral. But eagle-eyed viewers who actually read the fine print will have noticed the shocking cost of that easy money: "The APR for a typical loan of $10,000 is 89.68%, with 84 monthly payments of $743.99." Do the math, and you realize that borrowers who take the $10,000 wind up paying back $62,495.16 over the life of the loan.



And that's not even the most exorbitant interest rate charged by the company: the New York Attorney General's office points to a sample loan of $1,000 which requires repayment of nearly $4,000 in just two years -- a 255 percent interest rate. By way of comparison, even less attractive credit cards tend to charge between 15 percent and 20 percent.

The one thing to be said in Western Sky's defense is that it makes no great effort to conceal the high cost of its loans, a fact acknowledged by the Better Business Bureau. Still, there's an argument to be made that loans of this type are inherently predatory. Western Sky even suggests in its commercials that its loans are "enough to pay off your payday advances." In other words, it's targeting people who are already buried in high-interest debt.

What Western Sky offers these indebted consumers is time: Unlike most payday lenders, its loan periods range anywhere from one to seven years, which means you can get your short-term lenders off your back and pay off your debts over a far longer period. Unfortunately, the cost of this breathing room is that you're ultimately paying many times what you owed in the first place.

And unfortunately, desperate consumers are indeed taking on these loans.

"Since 2010, the companies have made at least 17,970 loans to New York consumers, lending more than $38 million in principal," says the Attorney General's office in its statement. "New York consumers owed more than $185 million on these loans in finance charges alone."

The lawsuit, which also names CashCall Inc. and its affiliate, WS Funding LLC -- the companies which actually provide the loans -- seeks to stop the companies from offering loans to New York residents. It also wants them to cancel any currently outstanding loans, and repay borrowers any interest and fees charged above the legal limits, as well as any other illegal charges.

In a statement obtained by Bloomberg, the company insisted that as a Native American-owned company, it's subject only to the laws and jurisdiction of its tribe. Curiously, its website also says that its loans aren't available to residents of 22 states, including New York -- a statement that seems at odds with the Attorney General's contention that it had made loans to nearly 18,000 New York state residents.

In its own statement, Western Sky describe the charges as "without merit."

It's not clear if we'll see similar lawsuit from other states, most of which don't have New York's tough criminal usury laws. But it's good to see some push-back from at least one state capital on behalf of desperate consumers who have been stuck with outrageously expensive loans.

Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.

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190 Comments

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Charlotte Brooks

I took out a loan with Western Sky and they gave it to Delbert Services. I think Delbert Services is there new company they have high interest rates unbelievable.

February 08 2014 at 1:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jason Cabler

I believe these people are taking advantage of people to the highest degree. I also wrote an article about Western Sky not long ago that can provide additional info on the subject. Some of the comments I got from that article were difficult to read; a very sad commentary on the way they do business.
You can find the article here:

"Western Sky Personal Loans- Don't Let the Sky Fall on You"

http://www.cfinancialfreedom.com/western-sky-personal-loans/

October 23 2013 at 2:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
alphacenti

Did CashCall take over westernsky? I have and account with them now ridiculis interest

October 23 2013 at 12:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Patty Windom

I know of another company that needs to be sued as well. CASHCALL. I borrowed 3000.00 and over the course of the loan if I continued to pay would have been well over 25000.00. I reported them but no one did anything about them. So in the end I paid them what I borrowed and what I thought was fair for interest which I ended up paying almost 5000.00 and I told them to sue me for the rest. The interest is ridiculous. All they are out for is money not to help people. Should go after them for Fraud too.

October 05 2013 at 7:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
betty_brock

There isn't enough money to satisfy some people, craven. The taxpayer gives them billions and the right to run casinos in states that have no other gambling. The tribes around here are rich. I hope they lose the law suit.

August 15 2013 at 3:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
betty_brock

UGG

August 15 2013 at 3:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
susafe5ret

oh hell people, get over it. your goverment and your anglo culture has raped and pillaged this country, and our native lands for over 500 years. the debts incured by this goverment has never even been paid. so screw you and the mayflower you rowed in on.

August 15 2013 at 4:16 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
jragga

do they come after you with tomahawks when you can't pay? lol

i used to hate seeing their ad on t.v. with that indian music in the background.

who would be stupid enough to use this scam?

i think the only person who would need to use this would be a crackhead.

August 15 2013 at 2:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
CPA11973

the real problem is the fine print in the ads (and many other ads) which can't be read unless your standing a couple of inches from the TV.. there should be a law banning this.

August 15 2013 at 1:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to CPA11973's comment
merstockgto

I can see in the bottom of this commercial that the interest rate is 89% so it can be seen.

August 15 2013 at 1:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
chainsawd2

Wow, at least when the Mafia did stuff like this it was illegal, this is just today's version of "legal organized crime".

August 15 2013 at 12:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply