In August, Benjamin Lawsky, the first superintendent of New York’s Department of Financial Services, launched New York’s attack on Tribal lending companies, sending cease-and-desist letters to 35 payday lenders operating on Native lands. Lawsky's office additionally sent letters to more than 100 banks asking them to reconsider approving transactions from payday lenders. But tribal lenders are not subject to U.S. laws against high-interest loans, says John Shotton, chairman of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and chairman of the Native American Financial Services Association (NAFSA).
Again in late November, Lawsky sent subpoenas to 16 websites that market payday loans, The Wall Street Journal reported.
On November 15, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the New York State Department of Financial Services in their pending litigation with three federally-recognized Indian tribes and their lending enterprises. Afterward, Tex Hall, chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation and Chairman of the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association issued the following statement:
“We are outraged that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would engage in unnecessary and improper federal action to blatantly attack the sovereignty of our Indian Tribal Nations. Our tribes work tirelessly with Congress and the Administration to promote economic development opportunities for Indian country and our people. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s actions are a preemptive strike against tribes who have worked in good faith over the past year to establish a working relationship with the bureau and educate them on the complexities of tribal and sovereign law.
“As mandated by Executive Order 13175, all federal agencies must engage in meaningful consultation on issues that affect tribes’ right to self-government and self-determination. In its own meager Policy for Consultation with Tribal Governments that barely exceeds one page in length after excluding legal disclaimers, the CFPB has expressed its commitment to honor this federal-tribal relationship. Over the course of multiple meetings that tribes have had with the CFPB, CFPB personnel has repeatedly asserted that they understand the tribes’ concerns and would be responsive to them.
“Yet, in its brief filed only weeks ago in a New York federal court, the CFPB continues conduct to accomplish indirectly what it cannot do directly. Acknowledging in its brief that it is tasked with the enforcement of federal law, the CFPB then argues for 12 pages that the court should allow New York to enforce its state laws against the tribes. The law of this land is to the contrary – only Congress, not the CFBP, not the State of New York, has authority to abrogate tribal sovereignty. The CFPB misrepresents federal law and is now pursing administrative and judicial action that violates the law and the federal-tribal relationship. The CFPB is working with the states to shut down our businesses and E-Commerce.
“This behavior is truly shameful. It hurts Indian country deeply. It violates our trust. Finally, it undermines both the Agency’s – and President Obama’s – professed commitment to improve relations with our people. It is time for such conduct by an agency of our federal government to cease. I call on Indian Country to fight back!”
Tex Hall is an enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation. In November 2010, Chairman Hall was elected to a historic third term as Chairman, making him the longest-serving Chairman of the Tribe. He was previously elected twice, serving from 1998 to 2002 and 2002 to 2006. Tex Hall grew up on his family’s ranch in Mandaree, North Dakota, where he still lives and ranches. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Mary, ND, and his Master’s Degree in Education Administration from the University of South Dakota in Vermillion.