Predatory lending refers to unethical practices conducted by lending organizations during a loan origination process that are unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent. While there are no internationally agreed legal definitions for predatory lending, a 2006 audit report from the office of inspector general of the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) broadly defines predatory lending as "imposing unfair and abusive loan terms on borrowers", though "unfair" and "abusive" were not specifically defined.[1] Though there are laws against some of the specific practices commonly identified as predatory, various federal agencies use the phrase as a catch-all term for many specific illegal activities in the loan industry. Predatory lending should not be confused with predatory mortgage servicing which is mortgage practices described by critics as unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent practices during the loan or mortgage servicing process, post loan origination.

One less contentious definition of the term is proposed by an investing website as "the practice of a lender deceptively convincing borrowers to agree to unfair and abusive loan terms, or systematically violating those terms in ways that make it difficult for the borrower to defend against".[2][3] Other types of lending sometimes also referred to as predatory include payday loans, certain types of credit cards, mainly subprime,[4] or other forms of (again, often subprime) consumer debt, and overdraft loans, when the interest rates are considered unreasonably high.[5] Although predatory lenders are most likely to target the less educated, the poor, racial minorities, and the elderly, victims of predatory lending are represented across all demographics.[6][7] The continued occurrence of predatory lending can be viewed as a litmus test for the effectiveness of philanthropic lending that aims to foster entrepreneurship.[8] Where such philanthropic lending initiatives (microfinance) are widely available, loan sharks and other predatory lenders should not continue to thrive.[9]

Predatory lending typically occurs on loans backed by some kind of collateral, such as a car or house, so that if the borrower defaults on the loan, the lender can repossess or foreclose and profit by selling the repossessed or foreclosed property. Lenders may be accused of tricking a borrower into believing that an interest rate is lower than it actually is, or that the borrower's ability to pay is greater than it actually is. The lender, or others as agents of the lender, may well profit from repossession or foreclosure upon the collateral.

Predatory lending is often compared to (but not to be confused with) loan sharking, however a key the difference between the two is that loan sharks do not seriously attempt to operate within the law.[citation needed]

Abusive or unfair lending practices

There are many lending practices which have been called abusive and labeled with the term "predatory lending". There is a great deal of dispute between lenders and consumer groups as to what exactly constitutes "unfair" or "predatory" practices, but the following are sometimes cited:

OCC Advisory Letter AL 2003-2 describes predatory lending as including the following:

Predatory lending towards minority groups

Because many minority communities have been excluded from loans in the past, they are and have been more vulnerable to deception. Oftentimes, they are targeted because of these vulnerabilities.[13] Organizations and agencies including ACORN,[14] HUD,[15] the American Civil Liberties Union,[16] United for a Fair Economy[17] and more prove that predatory loans are disproportionately made in poor and minority neighborhoods. Brokers and lenders preyed on these neighborhoods with the knowledge that these people were often denied for loans and the demand for loans were high. Lenders called these neighborhoods never-never land. This created the subprime predatory lending world.

Subprime lenders specialize in B, C, and D paper.[18] Predatory lending is the practice of overcharging a borrower for rates and fees, average fee should be 1%, these lenders were charging borrowers over 5%.[19]

Consumers without challenged credit loans should be underwritten with prime lenders. In 2004, 69% of borrowers were from subprime lending. The 2007 mortgage drop and economy fail were from over lending.[20]

Organizations such as AARP, Inner City Press, and ACORN have worked to stop what they describe as predatory lending. ACORN has targeted specific companies such as HSBC Finance, successfully forcing them to change their practices.[21]

Some subprime lending practices have raised concerns about mortgage discrimination on the basis of race.[22] African Americans and other minorities are being disproportionately led to sub-prime mortgages with higher interest rates than their white counterparts.[23] Even when median income levels were comparable, home buyers in minority neighborhoods were more likely to get a loan from a subprime lender, though not necessarily a sub-prime loan.[22]

Other targeted groups

In addition, studies by leading consumer groups have concluded that women have become a key component to the subprime mortgage crunch. Professor Anita F. Hill wrote that a large percentage of first-time home buyers were women, and that loan officers took advantage of the lack of financial knowledge of many female loan applicants.[24][25] Consumers believe that they are protected by consumer protection laws, when their lender is really operating wholly outside the laws. Refer to 15 U.S.C. 1601 and 12 C.F.R. 226.

Media investigations have disclosed that mortgage lenders used bait-and-switch salesmanship and fraud to take advantage of borrowers during the home-loan boom. In February 2005, for example, reporters Michael Hudson and Scott Reckard broke a story in the Los Angeles Times about "boiler room" sales tactics at Ameriquest Mortgage, the nation's largest subprime lender. Hudson and Reckard cited interviews and court statements by 32 former Ameriquest employees who said the company had abused its customers and broken the law, "deceiving borrowers about the terms of their loans, forging documents, falsifying appraisals and fabricating borrowers' income to qualify them for loans they couldn't afford".[26] Ameriquest later agreed to pay a $325 million (~$470 million in 2022) predatory lending settlement with state authorities across the nation.

Disputes over predatory lending

Some subprime lending advocates, such as the National Home Equity Mortgage Association (NHEMA), say many practices commonly called "predatory," particularly the practice of risk-based pricing, are not actually predatory, and that many laws aimed at reducing "predatory lending" significantly restrict the availability of mortgage finance to lower-income borrowers.[27] Such parties consider predatory lending a pejorative term.[28]

Underlying issues

There are many underlying issues in the predatory lending debate:

Predatory borrowing

In an article in the January 17, 2008, New York Times, George Mason University economics professor Tyler Cowen described "predatory borrowing" as potentially a larger problem than predatory lending:[33]

"As much as 70 percent of recent early payment defaults had fraudulent misrepresentations on their original loan applications, according to one recent study. The research was done by BasePoint Analytics, which helps banks and lenders identify fraudulent transactions; the study looked at more than three million loans from 1997 to 2006, with a majority from 2005 to 2006. Applications with misrepresentations were also five times as likely to go into default. Many of the frauds were simple rather than ingenious. In some cases, borrowers who were asked to state their incomes just lied, sometimes reporting five times actual income; other borrowers falsified income documents by using computers."

Mortgage applications are usually completed by mortgage brokers or lenders' in-house loan officers, rather than by borrowers themselves, making it difficult for borrowers to control the information that was submitted with their applications.

A stated income loan application is done by the borrower, and no proof of income is needed.[34] When the broker files the loan, they have to go by whatever income is stated. This opened the doors for borrowers to be approved for loans that they otherwise would not qualify for, or afford. However, lawsuits and testimony from former industry insiders indicated that mortgage company employees frequently were behind overstatements of borrower income on mortgage applications.

Borrowers had little or no ability to manipulate other key data points that were frequently falsified during the mortgage process. These included credit scores, home appraisals and loan-to-value ratios. These were all factors that were under the control of mortgage professionals. In 2012, for example, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman reached a $7.8 million (~$9.88 million in 2022) settlement of allegations that a leading appraisal management firm had helped inflate real estate appraisals on a wide scale basis in order to help a major lender push through more loan deals. The attorney general office's lawsuit alleged that eAppraiseIT, which did more than 260,000 appraisals nationally for Washington Mutual, caved to pressure from WaMu loan officers to select pliable appraisers who were willing to submit inflated property valuations.[35]

Several commentators have dismissed the notion of "predatory borrowing", accusing those making this argument as being apologists for the lack of lending standards and other excesses during the credit bubble.[36]

Predatory servicing is also a component of predatory lending, characterized by unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent practices by a lender or another company that services a loan on behalf of the lender, after the loan is granted. Those practices include also charging excessive and unsubstantiated fees and expenses for servicing the loan, wrongfully disclosing credit defaults by a borrower, harassing a borrower for repayment and refusing to act in good faith in working with a borrower to effectuate a mortgage modification as required by federal law.[37]


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In many countries, legislation aims to control this, but research has found ambiguous results, including finding that high-cost mortgage applications can possibly rise after adoption of laws against predatory lending.[38]

United States

Many laws at both the Federal and state government level are aimed at preventing predatory lending. Although not specifically anti-predatory in nature, the Federal Truth in Lending Act requires certain disclosures of APR and loan terms. Also, in 1994 section 32 of the Truth in Lending Act, entitled the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act of 1994, was created. This law is devoted to identifying certain high-cost, potentially predatory mortgage loans and reining in their terms. Twenty-five states have passed anti-predatory lending laws. Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Carolina are among those states considered to have the strongest laws. Other states with predatory lending laws include: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. These laws usually describe one or more classes of "high-cost" or "covered" loans, which are defined by the fees charged to the borrower at origination or the APR. While lenders are not prohibited from making "high-cost" or "covered" loans, a number of additional restrictions are placed on these loans, and the penalties for noncompliance can be substantial.

See also


  1. ^ Challenges and FDIC Efforts Related to Predatory Lending June 2006 Report No. 06-011
  2. ^ "Predatory lending definition". Investor Dictionary.
  3. ^ "Cached copy of the Investor Dictionary definition before it was updated". Archived from the original on September 21, 2012.
  4. ^ "FDIC OIG: Challenges and FDIC Efforts Related to Predatory Lending, June, 2006".
  5. ^ "Loans to avoid at all costs". CBS Early Show. March 6, 2007
  6. ^ "Fannie Mae Overview of Predatory Lending" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 4, 2007.
  7. ^ "FTC'S Northeast Regional Office Hosts Forum on Predatory Lending". Federal Trade Commission. April 2, 2001.
  8. ^ Arp, Frithjof; Ardisa, Alvin; Ardisa, Alviani (2017). "Microfinance for poverty alleviation: Do transnational initiatives overlook fundamental questions of competition and intermediation?". Transnational Corporations. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. 24 (3): 103–117. doi:10.18356/10695889-en. S2CID 73558727. UNCTAD/DIAE/IA/2017D4A8.
  9. ^ Arp, Frithjof (11 January 2018). "Why do moneylenders still thrive when formal microfinance is widely available?". Banking and Finance. Scroll India.
  10. ^ a b c d e f "Article List | ACORN". Archived from the original on 2012-12-31. Retrieved 2020-10-21.
  11. ^ "Will My Mortgage Loan Be Sold? - Mortgage Professor".
  12. ^ "MEETING OF THE TASK FORCE ON JUDICIAL FORECLOSURE RULES" (PDF). November 7, 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-06-03.
  13. ^ Carr, James H. (2008). Segregation: The Rising Costs for America. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415965330.
  14. ^ " | Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now". Retrieved 2015-12-09.
  15. ^ "HUD Archives: Unequal Burden: Income and Racial Disparities in Subprime Lending in America". Retrieved 2015-12-09.
  16. ^ Burd-Sharps, Sarah; Rasch, Rebecca (2015). "Impact of the US Housing Crisis on the Racial Wealth Gap Across Generations" (PDF). American Civil Liberties Union. SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH COUNCIL.
  17. ^ "State of the Dream 2008: Foreclosed". United for a Fair Economy. Retrieved 2015-12-09.
  18. ^ Sirota PhD, David (2009). Real Estate Finance. La Crosse, Wi: DF Institute, Inc. p. 145. ISBN 978-1-4277-8593-0.
  19. ^ Sirota PhD, David (2009). Real Estate Finance. La Crosse, Wi: DF Institute. ISBN 978-1-4277-8593-0.
  20. ^ Engel, Kathleen (2011). The Subprime Virus. Oxford University Press. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-19538882-4.
  21. ^ "The Nation: Tax Refund Scheme Targets the Working Poor".
  22. ^ a b Study Finds Disparities in Mortgages by Race The New York Times By Manny Fernandez Published: October 15, 2007
  23. ^ "NAACP Fights Loan Discrimination". Archived from the original on October 17, 2007.
  24. ^ Women and the Subprime Crunch Archived 2011-08-10 at the Wayback Machine. Economica.
  25. ^ Hill, Anita (October 22, 2007). "Women and the subprime crunch". Boston Globe. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  26. ^ Mike Hudson and E. Scott Reckard, "Workers Say Lender Ran 'Boiler Rooms'," Los Angeles Times, Feb. 4, 2005.
  27. ^ National Home Equity Mortgage Association Report
  28. ^ "What the Heck is 'Predatory' Lending? - LewRockwell". Retrieved 2018-10-15.
  29. ^ "In Defense of Payday Lending".
  30. ^ "Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Do Financial Counseling Mandates Improve Mortgage Choice and Performance? Evidence from a Legislative Experiment, October 2009" (PDF).
  31. ^ River Glen Assoc., Ltd. v. Merrill Lynch Credit Corp., 295 A.D.2d 274, 275, 743 N.Y.S.2d 870, 871 (1st Dep’t 2002) ("[T]his Court has repeatedly held [that] an arm’s length borrower-lender relationship is not of a confidential or fiduciary nature and therefore does not support a cause of action for negligent misrepresentation").
  32. ^ Nymark v. Heart Fed. Savings & Loan Ass'n, 231 Cal. App. 3d 1089, 283 Cal. Rptr. 53 (1991) ("The relationship between a lending institution and its borrower-client is not fiduciary in nature").
  33. ^ Tyler Cowen (13 January 2008). "So We Thought. But Then Again . . ". New York Times.
  34. ^ Jack Guttentag (20 June 2005). "Stated Income Loans: Lie to Get A Better Rate?". Mortgage Professor.
  35. ^ "Schneiderman settles inflated appraisals case". September 28, 2012.
  36. ^ "The Big Picture".
  37. ^ "Predatory Servicing v. Predatory Lending by Peter Moulinos, Esq".
  38. ^ "St. Louis Federal Reserve Review, The Varying Effects of Predatory Mortgage Lending Laws on High-Cost Mortgage Applications" (PDF).

Further reading