A federal appeals court is set to hear arguments in a lawsuit accusing a tiny Native American tribe of conducting a loan scheme, in Michigan.
At least five individuals from Virginia state they borrowed from BigPictureLoans.com after receiving an appealing loan pitch. The Richmond Times-Dispatch accounts the lawsuit alleges that Virginia’s usury laws were breached by Big Picture by charging annual percent rates.
Even the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is being asked to determine whether the loan operation is the expansion of the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, that has sovereign immunity against lawsuits, or whether the tribe is essentially a front for outsiders controlling and profiting from the company.
The judge held that the tribe’s order of Bellicose Capital — which it rebranded as Ascension Technologies LLC’s intention — was to protect outsiders from liability.
A spokesman for the tribe said that Ascension and Large Picture were formed under the tribe’s laws and run by the tribe. The spokesman said income from the business accounts and is used to pay for government services like schooling and health care.
“It is a case concerning tribal sovereign immunity along with two particular tribal stuff: Big Picture and Ascension. As arms of this Tribe, they’re immune from lawsuit. … This situation must be ignored,” the tribe’s lawyers argued in court documents.
They argue in court records that enforcing consumer protection legislation has become more difficult with the advent of”tribal payday lending approaches, in which non-tribal creditors affiliate with tribes to attempt to profit from their immunity”
The attorneys general said the relationships which Big Picture Loans and Ascension Technologies promise to have with the tribe”are only the latest version of decades-old efforts to avoid coverage of District of Columbia and country laws.”