U.S. payday lending probe targets Philadelphia-area businessman: records

Fri Oct 2, 2015 1:37pm EDT
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By Nate Raymond

(Reuters) - A Philadelphia-area businessman and a member of an indigenous group in Canada are the targets of a U.S. investigation involving the payday lending industry, according to court records.

Charles Hallinan, the operator of several online payday lending companies, and Randall Ginger, a hereditary chief of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation in British Columbia, are targets of a federal grand jury investigation, according to a Sept. 18 court ruling.

The investigation was detailed in a decision by U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick in Philadelphia that required two law firms to produce documents in the probe.

The decision, originally filed under seal, was accessed by Reuters on Thursday through a public docket. After Reuters made inquiries, the ruling became unavailable.

It is unclear at what stage prosecutors are in the investigation. It is also possible charges will ultimately never be brought.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger in Philadelphia said she could neither confirm nor deny the probe. Hallinan's lawyer declined to comment. A lawyer for Ginger did not respond to requests for comment.

The probe comes as U.S. authorities scrutinize payday lenders, which provide small extensions of credit that borrowers agree to repay in a short time, such as when they next receive a paycheck.

Payday lenders say they help strapped-for-cash consumers. Critics say their loans leave borrowers with lots of debt due to high interest rates, fees and loan rollovers.   Continued...