FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 30, 2012
Belcourt, North Dakota – The Native American Lenders Alliance (NALA), today released a sweeping set of new best practices for its members who offer financial services across the United States. The new best practices mandate strict disclosure requirements for consumers – going above and beyond the obligations of traditional banks.
The Native American Lending Alliance (NALA) formed in 2011 to protect Native American sovereign rights and enable tribes to offer responsible financial alternatives. The alliance is made up of the Chippewa Cree in Montana, Tunica Biloxi in Louisiana, Turtle Mountain Chippewa Cree in North Dakota and the Alturas Rancheria in California. Together they’ve developed the comprehensive best practices to protect consumers’ rights and following them is a requirement of NALA membership.
“As the headlines grimly remind us every day, many Americans have been taken advantage of by traditional banks with hidden fees,” said Merle St. Claire, NALA Board Chairman. “With this initiative NALA sets itself – and every one of our members – apart. These mandates for our member companies are more transparent and exceed the standards of banks regulated by the federal government.”
A recent Zogby poll indicated that two-thirds of U.S. adults (64%) agree that since most banks do not offer short-term loans of less than $1,000 and overdraft fees can be extremely costly, alternative loans like installment services can provide a convenient option for those who need to access small amounts of cash for emergencies. Additional findings indicated that an overwhelming majority (88%) supported tribal sovereignty rights for Native Americans.
The vast majority of customers of tribal lenders have been victims of hidden fees and costs charged by traditional banks and now seek a more transparent alternative. Last year alone, banks charged consumers over $40 billion in overdraft fees at rates equal to over 3000% APR according to the FDIC.
Consumers are demanding better, cheaper options and NALA members are stepping in to fill that need while providing clear guidance to consumers who seek installment loan products.
NALA’s best practices, which are available on its website, outline responsible practices to protect and inform consumers. The primary elements of the new guidelines state that tribal lenders must:
• Afford consumers protections like those in the Truth in Lending Act, the Military Lending Act, and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act in addition to other consumer protections.
• Operate as a legitimate “arm of the tribe,” owned by, operated by, and benefitting federally recognized sovereign nations.
• Constantly work with consumer advocates to provide the highest quality product to all Americans.
• Demonstrate the positive economic impact tribal lenders can have on sovereign nations through social giving, education, employment and increased opportunity.
• Promote financial literacy tools and resources for consumers and Native Americans when possible.
“NALA and its member companies strive to provide the highest quality products to consumers and seek to reinvest proceeds to benefit the tribes,” said Chairman St. Claire, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. “Clearly, we have learned from the lessons of the gaming industry, which is helping to guide the actions of NALA to help consumers and tribal members alike.”
The Native American Lending Alliance (NALA) formed in 2011 to protect Native American sovereign rights and enable tribes to offer responsible financial alternatives. The alliance is made up of the Chippewa Cree in Montana, Tunica Biloxi in Louisiana, Turtle Mountain Chippewa Cree in North Dakota and the Alturas Rancheria in California. For more information, please visit our website at nativeamericanlending.org.