August 17, 2022. Judge M. Hannah Lauck of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia granted final approval in the last of a series of cases arising out of what Plaintiffs alleged was a predatory rent-a-tribe lending scheme run by Think Finance. Collectively, over almost five years of litigation, these settlements have returned close to $1 billion in monetary relief and debt cancellation to customers of Great Plains, Plain Green, and MobiLoans. Kelly Guzzo, PLC, Consumer Litigation Associates, P.C., and Tycko & Zavareei LLP were appointed as Class Counsel.
As part of the settlements granted final approval on August 16th, Defendants will pay $44,530,000 to be distributed to class members. This settlement brings total relief obtained on behalf of consumers to date to approximately $150 million in cash, and over $750 million in debt forgiveness, the largest collective settlements obtained against the predatory online tribal lending industry. Consumers will automatically receive the benefits under the settlement – no claim form is required.
In previous cases, plaintiffs settled with the tribal lender fronts, the company that ran the entire scheme, and hedge funds and others that participated. Through those cases, Think Finance and one of the tribal fronts went out of business, and plaintiffs won agreements to cancel all debts included within the settlement (namely all loans from Great Plains, Plain Green prior to June 1, 2016, and MobiLoans prior to May 6, 2017), as well as to delete all negative trade lines on credit reports, and other related non-monetary relief. “This settlement is the last chapter in a long line of cases seeking to hold accountable the primary participants in and beneficiaries of Think Finance’s predatory lending enterprise,” said Anna Haac, Partner and lead TZ attorney for this case. “It is the product of hard-fought litigation across the country that came close to trial after multiple appeals and extensive factual development and represents an excellent result for consumers. Ms. Haac explained the impact of these cases on one of the named plaintiffs: “One of our lead witnesses and named plaintiffs had to take out these loans to cover medical bills after her husband was diagnosed with a rare and potentially deadly blood condition that rendered him permanently disabled and unable to work. She depleted her life savings, sold their belongings, and started working two jobs to provide for her family while falling deeper into the debt trap that these predatory loans create. She is one of over a million consumers who were targeted by this lending scheme and have obtained relief through these lawsuits. And it is empowering to know that this is just one of the many cases TZ is litigating in our pursuit of meaningful impact and social change.”
The cases are Darlene Gibbs, et al., v. Mike Stinson, et al. (No.: 3:18-cv-676) and Darlene Gibbs, et al. v. Elevate Credit, Inc. (No.: 3:20-cv-632).