Judge rejects tribal immunity in Plain Green case
Last updated 5/22/2016 at 4:17am
HELENA (AP) — A federal judge in Vermont has rejected Montana tribal officials' claims of sovereign immunity and said that he will hear a civil case alleging the tribe's online payday lending company illegally preys on poor borrowers.
U.S. District Judge Geoffrey Crawford's order Wednesday to proceed with the lawsuit against Plain Green LLC's leaders and non-Native American backers is a setback for lenders who use tribal sovereign immunity to offer high-interest short-term loans in states with laws that bar or cap such loans.
"It's a very important result for investigating when tribal immunity is appropriate and when it is not," said Matthew Byrne, the attorney for the two Vermont women who filed the lawsuit.
The women previously took out loans from Plain Green and are now suing the Chippewa Cree company's tribal leaders and its Texas-based backers, saying they conspired in a predatory lending scheme that charges excessive interest rates and directly accesses borrowers' bank accounts, among other allegations.