Advertisement
  1. Business

Under scrutiny, online auto lender Marlin Financial stops making new loans

Marlin Financial, an online auto lender at the center of a Florida Attorney General investigation, is no longer taking new loans. Pictured is its website Oct. 2. | [Marlin Financial website screenshot, 2018]
Published Oct. 3, 2018

Marlin Financial has stopped taking new customers as state investigators scrutinize its business practices.

The online auto lender at the center of a Florida Attorney General investigation has a note on its website that it is "no longer accepting new loan applications" as of the end of September.

The company offered no further explanation and did not elaborate after the Tampa Bay Times contacted its attorney on Tuesday.

A Times investigation published Sept. 14 revealed that Marlin's loan practices apparently broke the law as it stuck consumers with much more debt than expected, charged interest rates above state limits and deprived some customers of access to items in their repossessed cars.

Read the investigation: Customers say Marlin Financial's auto loans are deceptive. Now the state is investigating

"We need to send a clear message that if you abuse consumers, you will be held accountable," U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, said Tuesday in a statement to the Times regarding Marlin's halt.

"A (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) investigation into Marlin Financial will shine an even brighter light on deceptive practices, protecting the people from fraud, and making victims whole again," he said.

Last week, Crist called for the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to look into Marlin following the Times' investigation. In a letter to the bureau's director, Mick Mulvaney, Crist said he was "disturbed" by the findings of the Times' report, and urged Mulvaney to investigate further for violations under federal law.

Previous coverage: Rep. Charlie Crist urges federal consumer watchdog to investigate Marlin Financial

Marlin is still an active company in Florida business records, and still has an active consumer finance company license with the Florida Office of Financial Regulation.

What's unclear is how current Marlin borrowers are affected now that the company is no longer taking on new business. Reached by phone Tuesday, Marlin's lawyer Allison Friedman said she did not know and did not respond to a request for comment.

Christina Bubel of Riverviewfiled a lawsuit in Hillsborough Circuit Court in May against Marlin Financial after taking out multiple loans with the company. Marlin's recent move has not affected her case yet, she said, but she is optimistic about the potential outcome.

"I feel a sense of accomplishment that they're not going to be able to hurt anyone else," she said.

Another question is what would happen to any liens Marlin has against borrowers cars if the firm decides to close up shop completely. Lynn Drysdale, lawyer at Jacksonville Legal Aid, said it's possible the liens could be transferred to a sister company, or done away with by court order if Marlin ceased all operations in the state.

Marlin currently has at least one sister company in Florida: Approved Financial. The firm, which advertises its car title loans online, is an active corporation in Florida and lists the same president — Jeremy Tolan — and office building as Marlin Financial in business records. It has no lending license with the state.

MORE: Get more business news here

Contact Malena Carollo at mcarollo@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. This Jan. 31, 2017 photo shows the entrance to SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla. JOHN RAOUX  |  AP
    Gustavo “Gus” Antorcha cited a “difference of approach.”
  2. Gas prices could surge over the coming days because of a sharp drop in Saudi Arabia’s oil production. Pictured is a man filling up his car. | [Times file photo]
    A weekend drone strike on an oil processing facility caused the kingdom to cut production in half.
  3. TECO Peoples Gas ranked highest among its peers in the South for J.D. Power customer satisfaction rankings. Pictured is the company's headquarters in Tampa in 2017. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times (2017)] URSO, CHRIS  |  Tampa Bay Times
    It ranked as the top utility for customer satisfaction among midsize utilities in the south.
  4. How do I pay back $80K in student loans on a $42K salary? GRADYREESE  |  Getty Images
    Pace yourself. There’s a lot to balance.
  5. Hernando County community news Tara McCarty
    News and notes on local businesses
  6. Holland America says the cruise ship Veendam, shown here at the dock in Tampa in 2005, will return to Port Tampa Bay from November 2020 through April 2021. (Times files) GOETHE, THOMAS M.  |  St. Petersburg Times
    The cruise line dropped Tampa in the spring, but said it might be back.
  7. United Auto Workers members picket outside the General Motors Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant in Hamtramck, Mich., early Monday, Sept. 16, 2019. Roughly 49,000 workers at General Motors plants in the U.S. planned to strike just before midnight Sunday, but talks between the UAW and the automaker will resume. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) PAUL SANCYA  |  AP
    Workers shut down 33 manufacturing plants in nine states across the U.S., as well as 22 parts distribution warehouses.
  8. H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute is the centerpiece of Project Arthur, an 800-acre corporate park that could include up 24 million square feet of office and industrial space on nearly 7,000 acres of what is now ranch land, but targeted for development in central Pasco. Times
    The H. Lee Moffitt facility is the centerpiece of an economic development effort in a proposed 800-acre corporate park.
  9. The inside of the former American Baptist Church of Beatitudes, located at 801 28th Ave N, is seen on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019 in St. Petersburg. The church is being converted into a three-bedroom home.  ALLIE GOULDING  |  Times
    Three property owners seek approval to landmark their properties: a closed school, a former church and a house built by noted St. Petersburg architect William B. Harvard
  10. Bubba's 33 recently broke ground on its first restaurant in Florida, which will open in Wesley Chapel in December. Pictured, left to right: Experience Florida's Sports Coast (Tourism) Director Adam Thomas, Bubba's 33 marketing director Crista Demers-Dean, Bubba's 33 managing partner Jeff Dean, Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore and North Tampa Bay Chamber CEO Hope Allen. Andy Taylor
    News and notes on local businesses
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement