Uncategorized

ICYMI: NYT on legal challenges N.C. Justice Center attorney faced trying to shut down payday lenders

Over the weekend, the New York Times magazine had this article about pay-day lending, and how litigation efforts shaped up to shut down the industry that primarily feeds off of the working poor, in North Carolina.

The article prominetly featured Carlene McNulty, the director of litigation for the N.C. Justice Center, and her years of work of using the courts to shut down scrupulous lenders in the state. The payday industry is trying to get a foothold back in the state, with legislation introduced (but not passed) last year that would have allowed the high-interest loans back in the state.

From the article:

In 2003, Tonya Burke was living in North Carolina with her two children when she got into financial trouble. She had fallen $500 behind on her rent and utilities, and neither of her boys’ fathers was able to chip in. Then she needed to take time off from work when her younger son, who was only 8 months old, had to have emergency intestinal surgery. After his recovery, she started working for $11 an hour as a secretary, “but my paychecks weren’t enough to cover the back bills and the new ones too,” she says. “I was at a point in my life where I didn’t want to ask anyone else for help.” There was a payday lender across the street from her office. “It seemed like a good solution.”

Even though North Carolina made payday lending illegal in 2001, five lenders got around the law by affiliating with out-of-state banks to offer short-term, high-interest loans. So Burke was able to walk into a storefront owned by Nationwide Budget Finance and leave with a cashier’s check for $600. When the loan came due on her next payday, however, she couldn’t pay it and immediately began to fall behind on the fees. So she took out another loan to cover the first one. And then took out another to cover that one — and then another and another. Eventually she wound up with seven loans, each for only hundreds of dollars, but with annual interest rates of 300 to 500 percent. It wasn’t long before the lenders started calling, she says, threatening with jail if she couldn’t make her payments.

Worried for herself and her children, Burke eventually found her way to Carlene McNulty, a consumer rights lawyer at the North Carolina Justice Center. McNulty had heard about many cases of people who found themselves buried under the fees of payday loans. “Our Legislature said: ‘Payday lending is harmful to consumers. Get out of North Carolina!’ ” she told me. “But they were still here, just as if the law had never changed.”

Payday loans are often advertised as a short-term lift that helps keep the lights on or allows you to stay in school. But borrowers often become trapped in a debt spiral. According to a new report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the government’s financial watchdog, about 50 percent of initial payday loans play out into a string of 10 or more. “One could readily conclude that the business model of the payday industry depends on people becoming stuck in these loans for the long term,” the C.F.P.B.’s report said.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Check Also

UNC Board of Governors face protest, chooses new board chair and interim president

It was a busy day at the final ...

Top Stories from NCPW

  • News
  • Commentary

With just a few hours left until the crossover deadline, the state of North Carolina’s environment i [...]

On Monday morning, there was only one way left to save the Court of Appeals and a few hours with whi [...]

The political compromise that repealed HB2 was enough for the NCAA and ACC, both of which have retur [...]

Conference comes a day after new report lauds benefits of same-day registration The new line-up for [...]

How many times do we have to say it? Well, it’s worth repeating – especially in the aftermath of rec [...]

As the national pundits weigh in on President Trump’s first 100 days in office and the General Assem [...]

How the General Assembly is spending “crossover week” and what it ought to be doing The last week of [...]

To casual observers, the recent controversy surrounding public school class-size mandates in grades [...]

Featured | Special Projects

Trump + North Carolina
In dozens of vitally important areas, policy decisions of the Trump administration are dramatically affecting and altering the lives of North Carolinians. This growing collection of stories summarizes and critiques many of the most important decisions and their impacts.
Read more


HB2 - The continuing controversy
Policy Watch’s comprehensive coverage of North Carolina’s sweeping anti-LGBT law.
Read more