Western Sky Financial, LLC v. GeorgiaAnnotate this Case
In cases consolidated for review, the issues presented for the Supreme Court involved the scope of the State’s authority to regulate so-called “payday loans” pursuant to OCGA 16-17-1, et seq., known as the Payday Lending Act. Pursuant to the statute, the State filed suit alleging that CashCall, Inc. (“CashCall”), Delbert Services Corporation (“Delbert Services”), Western Sky Financial, LLC (“Western Sky”), and Martin A. Webb (collectively “Defendants”) violated OCGA 16-17-2 (a) by engaging in a small-dollar lending enterprise that collected illegal usurious interest from Georgia borrowers. Defendants operated outside the State of Georgia and their dealings with Georgia borrowers occurred telephonically or over the Internet, and when a loan is funded, the funds are transferred to the borrower via electronic transfer to the borrower’s bank account. The State sought civil penalties and injunctive and other equitable relief. Defendants filed motions to compel arbitration and to dismiss the action. The trial court referred the case to a special master who recommended the case be dismissed, but the trial court rejected the special master’s recommendation and denied Defendants’ motion to dismiss, finding that the State’s claim was not barred by the language of OCGA 16-17-1 (d). Because the trial court found a substantial likelihood that the State would prevail on the merits of the claim at trial, and found a substantial threat existed that the State would suffer irreparable injury in that there might not be sufficient funds available to satisfy a judgment should the State prevail at trial, the trial court ordered Defendants to deposit a $15 million sum into the court’s registry and to make quarterly deposits of any additional amounts that could be collected from Georgia borrowers in the future. The trial court, however, agreed to stay the granted relief during an appeal, upon the Defendants’ deposit of an additional $1 million into the escrow account created following entry of the consent order requiring the deposit of $200,000. In a separate order, the trial court denied the State’s motion to add as defendants J. Paul Reddam and WS Funding, LLC (“WS Funding”). Defendants filed a notice of appeal and the State filed a notice of cross-appeal. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed the order denying Defendants’ motion to dismiss, affirmed the modification of the injunction order, and reversed the order denying the State’s motion to add defendants.