U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is calling for the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to investigate Marlin Financial, saying he was "disturbed" by a recent Tampa Bay Times' investigation into the online auto finance company.
In a letter Tuesday afternoon, Crist asked Mick Mulvaney to investigate Marlin, which has operated across Florida, for potential "unfair, deceptive and abusive practices" and other possible violations of federal law.
"Should any of the outrageous behaviors reported by the Tampa Bay Times violate federal consumer financial protection laws, I urge you to hold the company accountable and make its victims whole," he said.
An investigation by the Times found that Marlin customers felt forced into purchasing an optional product that can push the interest rate on the company's loans far beyond state limits. In one case, a Temple Terrace customer's rate was three times the legal limit. Customers also complained of not being given a chance to get their belongings from their repossessed cars, which is a violation of state law. The Florida Attorney General is currently investigating Marlin.
Crist is the second public official to take an interest in Marlin as a result of the Times' investigation. Mike Fasano, Pasco County tax collector, last week cautioned businesses about doing business or interacting with the lender.
"You, of course, can do business with whomever you may choose," he said. "However, once you read the attached article, you may want to think long and hard if this is a company you want to do become involved with."
By all appearances, Marlin is still operating in Florida. Its website is still active and allows visitors to submit information to apply for a loan. Business records filed with the state also show the lender's status as "active." Its consumer finance company license with the Florida Office of Financial Regulation is also listed as currently active.
One of Marlin's sister companies is also still present in the state. Approved Money Inc. — also called Approved Financial Inc. in business records — and Marlin both operate under eTech360 (also called eTechnologies), a "specialty finance company" according to job postings on LiveCareer.com.
Approved operates in Florida and lists Jeremy Tolan as its president. Tolan is also president of Marlin, and Illinois business records show that his brother, Joshua Tolan, is president of eTechnologies. Approved is listed as an active corporation in Florida that came to the state in 2015. OFR does not currently show any lending licenses for it.
Contact Malena Carollo at email@example.com or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo.