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Mariner Finance responds to Washington Post Story

Mariner Finance takes seriously its role of providing an important credit option to Americans who have limited access to consumer credit. The recent story in The Washington Post includes many misrepresentations about Mariner Finance that need to be addressed – we do so directly in the redliner of the article below.

Some important facts:

Mariner Finance is a licensed and regulated traditional installment lender that makes responsibly constructed installment loans (averaging over $3,000), with a fixed interest rate, limited fees, and fixed monthly installment payments over its term (typically 3 years on average). These loans can be prepaid at any time with no penalties. The pricing and other terms of our loans are clear-cut and transparent to the customer.
There are many people in the United States to whom banks won’t lend due to their higher risk; in other words, because lending to them brings higher losses than banks are willing to accept. Traditional installment loan companies like Mariner, which have been around for close to a century, responsibly serve these individuals. The vast majority of our customers repay their loans in full. When they do, we report that information to all three national credit bureaus, which has a positive impact on customers’ credit.
Mariner Finance has a self-imposed 36 percent APR cap (or the state limit, if lower) on all of its loans. Our rates are often lower than what is permitted by state law (which may have a higher rate cap or no cap at all) and are significantly lower than many other credit alternatives for our customers.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has recognized that traditional installment lenders like Mariner, which makes longer-term, fully amortizing, closed-end loans with capped APRs, are not payday or title lenders. In October 2017, under then-Director Richard Cordray, the CFPB finalized rules for that industry after several years of in-depth research. Those rules do not apply to traditional installment lenders like Mariner Finance —a reflection of the differences between our business and those covered by the rule.
The vast majority of our customers have a positive experience with Mariner, a fact reflected in our average customer satisfaction score of 4.8/5 on feefo, an independent consumer rating site. We also have a very low customer complaint ratio, and actively monitor all complaints and respond appropriately.
As acknowledged by the Washington Post article, the complaint ratio for our loans by mail product is very low, and including all manner of complaints we have only seen 0.02 percent of these loans result in a complaint. Like all of our loans, all of the terms of these loans are transparent and clearly disclosed to customers. The underwriting process used to determine to whom these products are marketed uses similar data and processes that credit card companies use in their marketing.
Still, the Washington Post article contains several anecdotes about purported Mariner Finance customers and employees that insinuate or allege actions that run contrary to Mariner’s practices and policies. We are committed to compliance with all state and federal regulations, and hold ourselves to a high standard of customer care. We take such allegations seriously and we are actively investigating those cases to determine if Mariner Finance policies, procedures, or training were violated or could be improved.
As we told the Post on the record, any insurance and ancillary products are optional to a customer. Our policies and procedures require our employees (and we train them) to properly explain these products to customers and the fact they are available at the customer’s option. Also, with respect to collection activities, every lender understands that customers face setbacks that can temporarily limit their ability to make payments, so empathizing with customers and working on a realistic repayment plan is far better for both parties than default or legal action. We are a relationship-based business, and our focus is on maintaining clear and open lines of communication with our customers. We only initiate legal action as a last resort, when a customer has defaulted, appears to have the ability to repay, and efforts to work with the customer toward alternative solutions have not been successful.
For all these reasons, the portrait of Mariner Finance painted by the Washington Post is not one recognized by our customers and colleagues, and readers deserve to know the truth. Mariner Finance is proud to be a part of the traditional installment lending industry, providing a responsible credit option for Americans largely underserved by banks and other lenders.
UPDATE: Washington Post Editors Correct Article
Prior to publication of the Washington Post’s article, we repeatedly asked the reporter for the opportunity to review and assess claims made about our company by his sources. Those requests were ignored, and as a result, the lead anecdote of the story – and the only case in which a named customer provides a disparaging account of specific Mariner Finance business practices – was based on false and incomplete information. After we demonstrated this to the Post, they issued an editor’s note and a clarification on July 27, 2018 acknowledging this fact:

Clarification: Huggins said he told the company by phone of his unemployment insurance policy and asked to be sent any required paperwork. He said he was informed that the loan payments would be “taken care of,” but didn’t initially receive any forms. A Mariner representative in April declined comment on the case. After publication of this story, the company said that it had no record of any call from him regarding unemployment and that Huggins had not filed an unemployment claim form with the company. Huggins said he was given the claim form in late May. On July 23, he said he had not yet filed the claim form, but planned to do so.

While we appreciate that the Post issued this correction, the update unfortunately introduces a new falsehood — the claim that “a Mariner representative in April declined comment on the case.” We told the Post’s editors that our first contact with their reporter wasn’t until May, and the Post admitted that the “Mariner representative” the correction refers to was an independent attorney, representing Mariner in this single matter, not a Mariner employee or a company representative able to offer comment on behalf of the entire company.