FTC Seeks $1.3B From Race Car Driver Over Payday Loans

By Hannah Sheehan

Law360, New York (January 20, 2016, 11:53 PM ET) — The Federal Trade Commission urged a Nevada federal judge Wednesday to order race car driver Scott Tucker to pay $1.3 billion in equitable monetary relief after two companies affiliated with Tucker and now owned by three Native American tribes agreed to a record $21 million settlement over unlawful payday loans.The FTC told the court that Scott Tucker and his now deceased brother Blaine ran a payday lending enterprise for over 10 years that deceived consumers by materially misstating the cost of loans issued by various companies with ties to the brothers, including AMG Services Inc. and MNE Services Inc., before transferring ownership to three Native American tribes.

“Even after nominally transferring the payday lending business to the three tribes, Scott Tucker and Blaine Tucker continued to control, participate in and benefit from the so-called ‘tribal’ payday lending operation,” the FTC said in a memorandum.

The agency, which is also seeking to permanently ban Scott Tucker from engaging in consumer lending activities, argued that the brothers are personally liable for the companies’ illegal lending and collection practices, claiming the pair had direct involvement and knowledge of the misconduct, as well as the authority to control it.

The FTC called the $1.3 billion sum conservative in view of the defendants’ failure to produce data on loans issued before 2008. The agency said it arrived at the figure by calculating the difference between the disclosed costs of loans issued by the Tuckers’ companies and the amount they actually took from borrowers, court documents show.

According to the memorandum, Blaine Tucker committed suicide on March 9, 2014, but the FTC said its claims survive against his estate. His widow and executor Nereyda Tucker has been substituted as a defendant by court order.

Two of the companies affiliated with the brothers, AMG Services and MNE Services, recently agreed to pay the FTC $21 million — which the FTC says is its largest-ever payday lending settlement — to end allegations that they charged customers undisclosed and inflated fees in violation of the FTC Act.

The FTC asserted that the payday lending companies violated the FTC Act by misleading customers on how much loans would cost. For example, a contract stated that a $300 loan would cost $390 to repay, but customers were then charged $975 in repayments, the agency said.

The FTC also alleged Truth In Lending Act violations for inaccurately disclosing annual percentage rates and loan terms.

The $21 million settlement will be paid into a fund administered by the FTC that will be used for equitable relief and consumer compensation, court documents show.

Counsel for the parties did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Scott Tucker is represented by Von S. Heinz of Lewis Roca Rothgerber LLP.

The FTC is represented by Nikhil Singhvi.

The case is FTC v. AMG Services Inc, et al.,  case number 2:12-cv-00536, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.