MOBILE, Ala.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–On October 8, 2019, Earl P. Underwood of the Mobile, Alabama, law firm Underwood & Riemer, LLC, and Steven P. Gregory of the Gregory Law Firm, P.C., in Birmingham, Alabama, announced that Mobile resident and registered nurse Lillian Easley has filed a lawsuit in federal court in the Southern District of Alabama against Hummingbird Funds, d/b/a Blue Trust Loans, and other defendants for violations of the usury laws of Alabama and all other states in which the defendants make usurious loans, and for violations of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
The Complaint alleges that the defendants operate an internet lending scheme in which they charge borrowers over 600 percent on small loans. The defendants, according to the Complaint, operate what has come to be called the “rent-a-tribe” scheme, where the high-cost lender, operating online, associates with a Native American tribe in an attempt to insulate itself from federal and state law by “renting” the tribe’s sovereign legal status and its general immunity from suit under federal and state laws.
As stated in the Complaint, the defendants are not licensed to make loans in Alabama, and the relationship between the actual lender and the Native American Tribe is insufficient to permit the real lender to avail itself of tribal immunity.
“In any event,” noted Steven Gregory, one of the attorneys representing Ms. Easley in her case, “a lender which fails to register as required by Alabama law and charges over ten times the legal rate of interest on a small loan cannot expect to do so with impunity, no matter what sort of tribal immunity it claims. Ms. Easley is a hard-working registered nurse in the Mobile area who owes such substantial sums on her student loans that she occasionally has to resort to a short-term loan in order to make ends meet while staying current on her student loan payments and other obligations. These defendants are taking advantage of hard-working people like Lillian Easley while violating the laws of Alabama and other states.”
In April of 2019, the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals held in a similar case that tribal sovereign immunity did not bar the lawsuit because plaintiffs may sue tribal officers based on violations of state and substantive federal law occurring outside tribal lands. The appellate court also held that the arbitration clauses in the loan agreements were unenforceable and unconscionable.
The Easley lawsuit states causes of action for violations of the Alabama Small Loan Act, Alabama Code § 5-18-1, and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961–1968. The lawsuit prays that the Defendants’ lending practice will be found void and that the court will order all interest collected on each such loan to be returned to the borrowers. The complaint also requests an award of actual damages, treble damages, and costs, and for an award of attorneys’ fees based on the relief provided to the class and/or paid from any common fund created for the benefit of the class.
You can learn more about the unlawful loans lawsuit by contacting counsel listed below or by reviewing information on the websites of the two law firms which represent the plaintiff: https://www.gregorylawfirm.us/ and https://alalaw.com/.
About Underwood & Riemer
Our firm’s primary focus is on protecting the rights of individuals who have suffered mistreatment and abuses from banks, mortgage lenders and servicers, debt collectors, credit card companies and other types of financial entities. We also represent individuals who have been wronged or injured in automobile accidents, by defective products, prescription drugs or defective medical devices.
About the Gregory Law Firm
The Gregory Law Firm assists people and businesses in resolving disputes through litigation, mediation, arbitration, negotiation, and collaborative law. The firm has over 28 years of experience litigating complex matters such as class and derivative actions and mass torts and has appeared on a number of occasions before the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. Mr. Gregory is an experienced mediator and arbitrator and is a lifetime member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum.
Alabama State Bar Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 7.2 (e), requires the following language in all attorney communications: No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.