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?