Persons of Interest

Payday loan critics love to tell these stories.

Not all of the people running payday lending institutions are backing financial literacy programs or creating scholarships. Some do more to give fuel to the fire of industry critics. Charles Seil, president of Pacific Checks Inc.—which operates in the Puget Sound area as Dollarwise—got drunk in the fall of 2006 while boating on Billy Clapp Lake in Central Washington. He lost control and rammed his boat into the shoreline, ejecting and killing a 6-year-old girl. He pleaded guilty to reckless watercraft homicide. Compounding his legal problems, he never notified the state Department of Financial Institutions of his conviction, in violation of state law. In January, the DFI recommended he be banned from check cashing and small loans for at least seven years. In 2005 the DFI opened an investigation into Jonathan Blake Goldberg, former president and CEO of Fast Cash Loans, after receiving more than 50 consumer complaints. When the investigation was concluded almost a year later, the DFI determined that the company used verbally abusive and harassing tactics to collect on loans, understated the loan APR on disclosure documents, didn't allow consumers to create a payment plan once they had taken on four or more loans as required by state law, and overcharged fees. Fast Cash was issued a $50,000 fine. Goldberg also paid a $30,000 fine and was banned from the industry for two years. But Moneytree and Bassford aren't plagued by those kinds of allegations. In 2006, the DFI received three complaints about the company. Two involved checks that were cashed after the issuer had put a stop payment on the checks. The final complaint was made by a man upset that his son, who was on Social Security and out of work, was able to get a loan. But state law does not make restrictions on who can receive a loan, so DFI cleared Moneytree of any wrongdoing. Individuals making complaints are not disclosed in DFI reports. Bassford individually has never been the subject of a DFI investigation. "Once the rules are there, rule No. 1 is follow the rules," he says. Instead, Bassford has received accolades from trade and business publications. Washington CEO magazine put Moneytree at No. 4 in its "Top 100 Companies to Work For" last year. Bassford says that all employees working more than 20 hours a week are eligible for medical, dental, and vision benefits.Laura Onstot

 
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