State Shielding Owners of Payday Loan Shops from Public Scrutiny

That Sioux Falls paper lost an open-records case yesterday. Last year, Division of Banking director Bret Afdahl reversed prior practice and declined to make public the applications showing who owns payday lending stores, title loan shops, and other cash advance businesses. That Sioux Falls paper appealed to the Office of Hearing Examiners on May 27, 2015. Hearing examiner Cathleen Duenwald has finally ruled that ownership of a loan sharking outfit needs to be kept secret:

Cash advance businesses are required to submit an annual application in order to receive a money lending license from the state. The application requires the disclosure of chief business executives, directors and individuals who own 10 percent or more of a business. The Argus Leader argued the information was public.

But Duenwald said that Afdahl was correct in withholding the information, saying his decision protects the public interest.

“The information identifying bank investors and owners may do harm to a person or business as well as the bank in which they have invested,” Duenwald wrote [Jonathan Ellis, “Ruling: Owners of Cash-Advance Businesses Not Public,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2016.06.27].

I’m trying to figure out the threshold that protects owners of loan shark stores from public disclosure. Like every other business, North American Title Loan has to reveal its principal officers (Kenneth R. Wayco of Alpharetta, Georgia) on its annual report. My ownership of my house and land is public information, available to anyone who visits the courthouse. Court documents make public who owns what property, which we must know to who is responsible for nuisances or injuries that occur on that property.

Do we really not have a right to know with whom we are doing business?


25 Responses to State Shielding Owners of Payday Loan Shops from Public Scrutiny

  1. Hearing Examiner Catherine Duenwald is the daughter of former GOP Party state Senator Jay Duenwald. She used to fly around on the state plane with the Governor to GOP Party political events. Of course there was always an official meeting planned around whichever Lincoln Day they were attending to justify the use of the state plane.

  2. mike from iowa

    Less information and less knowledge protects the public interest how?

  3. mike from iowa

    Ror-that information just screams for a public audit of this woman and her office.

  4. Mfi – I’m sure the AG’s office will get right on that investigation.

  5. Darin Larson

    ‘may do harm”– what harm? the harm of being known as a loan shark or being associated with loan sharks?

    Can’t they take this to circuit court?

  6. I’m hopeful an appeal is in order.

    On a side note – Cory you obviously like to be taken seriously… don’t you find it a bit childish to continually cite the Argus Leader as “that Sioux Falls paper”. You don’t have to like them and you don’t have to stoop to their level, but proper citation is proper citation and it is only fair to give credit where it is due.

  7. So much for Republican transparency.

  8. David Newquist

    Darin gets to the point from that sentence, ““The information identifying bank investors and owners may do harm to a person or business as well as the bank in which they have invested.” Just what harm does public knowledge of business owners inflict, if the businesses are honest? In making rulings that affect the public, isn’t it required to explain one’s thinking? This is exactly the kind of subterfuge that enables and encourages the EB-5 and MCEC scandals. The state government becomes an overt sponsor of fraud and predation.

  9. It feels a bit disingenuous to refer to a business as a “loan sharking outfit” in one breath and then close the piece asking “don’t we have a right to know with whom (nice job avoiding that stranded preposition) we are doing business?” as if you had any intent to do so. If someone intended to bring suit against the parties in question, they could obtain the information. Just be honest about why you really want the information. It has nothing to do with checking out the bona fides of the people you actually intend to do business with.

  10. mike from iowa

    The powers that be have a convenient way to prevent curious citizens (see Cory) from matching campaign contributions to businesses that may have given to pols and those pols who decide legislation in favor of contributors.

  11. mike from iowa

    Dicta- why does Cory have to answer to you? Cory blogs in the public interest. When government starts hiding relevant information-that is not in the public interest. Cory does investigative work. Consider him a consumer watchdog.

    There are any number of legitimate reasons to make this information public. Foremost would be to prevent more corruption which is already rampant in Dakota’s one party wingnut world.

  12. Cory doesn’t have to answer me, and I’m not sure where you thought I intimated he had to.

    As to relevant information: relevant to what, or whom? You discuss political contributions, but SDCL 12-27-19 requires any organization attempting to donate 10k or more to file a statement before the Ballot Question Committee, which requires in part:

    Before contributing more than ten thousand dollars in the aggregate to a ballot question committee pursuant to § 12-27-18, an organization shall provide to the ballot question committee a sworn written statement made by the president and treasurer of the organization declaring and affirming, under the penalty of perjury, the following:
    (1) The name and street address of every person who owns ten percent or more of the organization, has provided ten percent or more of the organization’s gross receipts, including capital contributions, in the current or preceding year, or has provided ten percent or more of the funds being contributed to the ballot question committee; and
    (2) That no part of the contribution was raised or collected by the organization for the purpose of influencing the ballot question.
    A ballot question committee shall disclose in its applicable campaign financial disclosure statement or supplement statement all information received from an organization pursuant to this section. No ballot question committee may accept any contribution from an organization not preceded or accompanied by the statements required by this section.

    So, even if the information isn’t available through the licensure process, your concern is at least somewhat ameliorated by statutory requirements for political contributions.

  13. Sec, working on relevant statutory authority outside ballot questions and to individual candidates.

  14. From the secretary of state’s website:

    Any organization may not make a contribution to a candidate campaign committee or political party.

    Any contribution of $100 or more to advocating or non-advocating commercials require filings of communications statements that disclose the info you want per SDCL 12-27-16.

    What corruption are you referring to precisely?

  15. mike from iowa

    Individuals-say-the owner decides to contribute to a campaign as an individual, the public would not know if he owned a business with legislation pending in front of congress.

    Pols in South Dakota have proven over and over they can’t or won’t clean up the messes they have made. The public needs to be informed to hold pols responsible.

  16. “Individuals-say-the owner decides to contribute to a campaign as an individual, the public would not know if he owned a business with legislation pending in front of congress.”

    That’s a fair point, and one I hadn’t considered. I’d have to research before I respond in a meaningful way.

  17. The state plane! What a connection, Ror!

  18. Darin, yes, that Sioux Falls paper can appeal this ruling to circuit court. Let’s get some case law!

  19. Craig, think of “that Sioux Falls paper” as inoculation against anyone taking me too seriously… including myself. ;-)

    By the way, Dakota Free Press is owned entirely by me. Newspaper ownership is also entirely public, isn’t it?

  20. Dicta, you are darned particular! But fair point: I have no intention of doing handing payday lenders any money. However, me sequence of phrases has no intent to deceive. I make clear my assessment of what those businesses do, but then I adopt an editorial “we” to refer to us as a community, some members of which will surely do business with those entities. The public nature of a document does not hinge on the buying habits or intentions of a customer. We all have a right to view public documents. We all have a right to know with whom we are doing business or with whom we might do business.

    And hey, if I knew that you, Dicta, owned a payday-lending store, maybe I would come do business with you! :-)

  21. Roger Elgersma

    So the problem is purported to be that either the owner or the payday loan company would look bad. Well, payday loan companies are very unethical so they are already bad so obviously the owner does not want to look bad. But a good person would not invest in an unethical business so they are already bad. If the truth makes someone look bad then they were bad already. But how can knowing the owner make the payday lender receive harm from that knowledge. Well, only if the owner was such a scumbag that being associated with the lender would make even an unethical lender look even worse than they inherently already are. Now we are talking about people that should or could be in prison already if they were not so sly. When bad people and bad businesses are afraid of harm to their reputation, they should learn that the truth matters or they will continue in their bad ways. This is precisely the type of person that needs to lose in public opinion because they have obviously been to sly for the law to catch them doing blatant criminal activity already. When bad people whine about their reputations looking bad makes my callouses grow even thicker.

  22. Douglas Wiken

    I don’t suppose the state would like to release information on who paid a murderer to commit the crime. The statement from Duenwald is absurd. Incidentally, I wonder if she is or was related to Lloyd P. Duenwald who was a high school supt. in Wakonda and the next time I saw him, he was working in an office in the same building we had our SD:ASAP offices….but that was over 40 years ago.

    Some of the information of who actually owns payday lenders was available several years ago. At that time, some of the big banks operating in SD also owned the payday lenders. If that is still the case, it seems borrowers and bank patrons deserve to know why bank organizations support or oppose payday lenders.

    But, don’t worry. Nothing behind the curtain of crap.

  23. mike from iowa

    According to Duenwald’s obit, there is no mention of a Jay or Catherine.

  24. Douglas Wiken

    Mike. Thanks, I started looking for the obit and found it.
    http://www.plaintalk.net/local_news/transition/article_2eb809be-5630-56be-a429-6cdd7e1adbeb.html

    Duenwald taught a hunting course at Wakonda. It was in the evening and not a school course. We got a chance to talk to him then. He had some interesting stories about being in the air force over the Pacific. They were in a B-29 if my memory is correct yet. He and his plane mates had a wonderful idea on how to make money after the war was over. They loaded the plane with flowers from Hawaii thinking they would be in demand for celebrations of the war ending. I don’t remember what went wrong with the plan, some delay or problem and they ended up losing all the flowers. There were other stories, but I don’t remember them. After taking his course, I don’t think any of us ended up with hunting or gun accidents. Sorry about the diversion. The post just brought back a few memories.

  25. dicta-

    “Just be honest about why you really want the information. It has nothing to do with checking out the bona fides of the people you actually intend to do business with.”

    why so quick to defend these secrets that target victims of predatory lending, payday loans, title loans ect.? Who are you schilling for?