Posner cites Wright

Geoffrey Manne —  5 February 2010

I’m sure it’s an honor just to be nominated.

A recent opinion from Judge Posner cites our very own Josh Wright (Joshua D. Wright & Todd J. Zywicki, “Three Problematic Truths About the Consumer Financial Protection Agency Act of 2009,” Lombard Street, Sept. 14, 2009, available here) (by the way, the essay has drawn a few comments, my favorite of which is definitely the one titled, “are you stupid or scumbags[?]”).

The opinion is vaguely interesting touching as it does on the propriety of short-term, high-interest loans, but the holding rests on an analysis of the commerce clause so is pretty well beyond my ken.

At issue is an Indiana statute that purports to apply Indiana’s restrictive usury laws to consumer contracts executed outside the state, but with creditors that have advertised or solicited sales within Indiana.  The Indiana usury statute at issue constrains consumer loan interest to terms under which “the ceiling is the lower of 21 percent of the entire unpaid balance, or 36 percent on the first $300 of unpaid principal, 21 percent on the next $700, and 15 percent on the remainder,” with an exception for payday loans.  Such terms would preclude payday loans if they weren’t excepted under the statute and does preclude car title loans of the sort at issue in the case.  The court rules that the restriction on out-of-state transactions is impermissible under the constitution and strikes down the Indiana law.

The interesting part (to me) of the case, and the part where Josh (and Todd) are cited, is where Posner discusses the law and economics and related scholarship of car title and payday loans.  He doesn’t really come down on one side or another in this debate except to aver that Indiana has a colorable interest in protecting its citizens from “predatory lending,” if it so chooses.  It seems to me that he gives too much credit to the behavioral-economics-based arguments on the “predatory lending is, well, predatory” side of the debate, but he really doesn’t wade into the debate.  Nevertheless, Josh and Todd get their mention (Todd actually gets a couple of mentions) in this section, and kudos to them (and to FinReg21, where their essay appears) for drawing Posner’s attention.

Geoffrey Manne

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