An online business started two years ago by the tribal government at Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation — that gained national attention — is nearly shut down as its replacement is off to a booming start.
Neal Rosette, chief executive officer of First American Capital Resources LLC and Plain Green Loans LLC at Rocky Boy, said the Chippewa Cree Tribe’s first foray into online lending, PDL Ventures, will be completely out of operation soon. The tribe has ended its relationship with the parent company, and once outstanding loans are paid off, business will be done, he said.
The newest online lending company at Rocky Boy, Plain Green Loans, is designed to provide small, short-term loans rather than payday loans, at a much lower rate. The loans still have a high rate — 360 annual percentage rate interest for a first-time, six-month loan, compared to rates from payday loans that can run more than 1,000 APR.
The tribe also extensively researched how to set up Plain Green Loans as a sovereign entity, owned by the Chippewa Cree Tribe although not a branch or department of the government.
That issue was a major question in PDL Ventures, with some experts across the nation speculating that the tribe had agreed to list the business as tribally owned in order to provide the benefits of sovereignty and immunity to the lender.
In 2009, Rosette and Tribal Attorney Dan Belcourt said the Chippewa Cree Tribe had started the business in the spring of that year. Several names were tried, with PDL Ventures — an abbreviation of payday loans — finally being the name used. Rosette said other businesses already were in operation using that name, creating additional confusion.
Part of that confusion was on complaints to the Better Business Bureau. By October 2009, more than 110 complaints were attributed to the Rocky Boy business, although Rosette said he believed many of those were for other businesses using the same name as the Chippewa Cree Tribe business.
Rosette said this fall that some confusion still may arise. Other companies also may be using PDL as part of a business name.
Rocky Boy’s PDL Ventures does still have an Internet presence. The payday loan website www.spotonloans.com lists PDL Ventures, a “wholly Native American owned” business, at the bottom of its main page, with a Box Elder mailing address listed on the contact page.
Rosette said that is due to loans still outstanding in the PDL Ventures account.
The company that had created and maintained the websites at Rocky Boy and at other locations went out of business, and the tribe has no contract with the new company that bought its interests, he said.
Rosette said the Chippewa Cree Tribe already has ended its connection with that payday loan operation, but still is listed because some loans from PDL Ventures have not yet been paid off. Once those loans are completed — Rosette said probably within a month or so — PDL Ventures will be taken off that listing, he said.
Some confusion still exists in other areas. The Better Business Bureau continues to link PDL Ventures with a group of businesses against which the Federal Trade Commission has filed an action.
The action requests an injunction and return of moneys from several business, which the complaint alleges operated as a common enterprise, including Payday Financial and Red River Ventures, and organizer and manager Martin Webb.
According to the complaint, the businesses illegally requested garnishment of wages to repay loans made by the company.
The FTC action does not name PDL Ventures, although the Better Business Bureau has linked the company to businesses that are named, including Red River Ventures. The Chippewa Cree Tribe representatives in 2009 denied any connection to those businesses.