Jones & Hill - March 2019

Katherine N. Payne and Arthur Coates v. Marriott Employees Federal Credit Union


Plaintiffs Katherine N. Payne and Arthur Coates filed a civil action suit against Marriott Employees Federal Credit Union (MEFCU) in January. They argued that MEFCU did not comply with the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), and that they failed to disclose all information relevant to fees associated with “miniloans.” Miniloans are a type of loan available for any Marriott employee who needs quick access to $500. There are two fees associated with miniloans through MEFCU: the finance charge and the annual percentage rate (APR). MEFCU calculates the finance charge as $29.23 and the APR as 18 percent. However, neither of these fees takes into account the application fee. Normally this would not be an issue, since application fees are intended to cover the cost of credit checks, credit investigations and approvals. However, two key factors evidenced by the plaintiff revealed that MEFCU only charges the application fee to approved applicants, and that they do not run credit checks, credit investigations or appraisals. This means that this application fee had no purpose, and it should have been included as a part of the finance charge and APR calculations. MEFCU tried to argue that there was no evidence for the plaintiff’s claims, but the court rejected that argument in light of the substantial evidence provided by the plaintiff. Along with rejecting this argument, the court also rejected a motion made by MEFCU to dismiss the plaintiff’s claim that their applications and agreements made clear which security interests it would acquire.

While the application had clear instruction regarding security interests, the agreements did not. It was not clearly spelled out for either plaintiff where they would give security interest. This did not fulfill the clear disclosure of security interests required by TILA, so the court upheld the plaintiffs’ argument. The court ruled in favor of the defendant when it came to the plaintiffs’ desire to seek damages, however. MEFCU’s argument against awarding damages to the plaintiff had a solid legal precedent. In order for the plaintiff to recover damages, they would need to plead detrimental reliance. For that to be possible, they would need to at least prove that in borrowing from MEFCU, they acted to their detriment in a way that would be easily foreseeable. The plaintiff did not present any facts that would lead to this conclusion, so the court dismissed their claim.



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