Washington, DC — Government watchdog Accountable.US released a report spotlighting what appears to be a potentially illegal shadow lobbying campaign that has been waged by high-cost lending company OppFi, likely aimed at Illinois’ 36% interest rate cap enacted last March against predatory payday, title, and other loans which disproportionately harm communities of color. At issue: since the consumer protection took effect, OppFi’s Senior Manager of Government Relations engaged in behavior remarkably similar to that of a lobbyist without being registered at the time according to state records, a potential violation of Illinois ethics law.

The high-cost lending industry is known for obscuring abusive fees from vulnerable borrowers. So it wouldn’t be a surprise if OppFi has been quietly engaged in unofficial lobbying activity trying to bring back triple-digit interest rates in Illinois -- which would hamstring the economic recovery. This predatory lender may think they have a case for pushing more Illinois families into the debt trap, but they must follow the law if they’re making it directly to lawmakers. If they break the rules, they should be held to account.”

Accountable.US president Kyle Herrig

Among the key findings: 

  • While OppFi halted its lending activity in Illinois after the cap took effect last year, OppFi’s Senior Manager of Government Relations boasted on social media last November of having a “phenomenal dinner” with the Illinois House Speaker. In early December, the operative posted that she hosted “dinner & dialogue” with three Illinois lawmakers, including a member of Senate Leadership and the Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus. And then two days later she posted about another “dinner & dialogue” with the Illinois House Speaker.
  • Last October, OppFi’s Senior Manager of Government Relations thanked the National Conference of State Legislatures for a trip to Ireland with over 50 state legislative leaders from across the country. The group has two Illinois legislators on its executive committee and at least two other connections to the Illinois legislature among its leadership, though it’s unclear if any Illinois legislators attended the Ireland trip. OppFi is a NCSL ‘Platinum Sponsor’.
  • Records show OppFi’s Senior Manager of Government Relations had already held multiple meetings with state lawmakers when the company appeared as a lobbying client of former Illinois Senate Majority Leader James F. Clayborne in an amended filing at the very end of 2021. However, no one from OppFi appears to have been registered to lobby in the state last year.

BACKGROUND: Accountable.US strongly opposed the Trump administration’s payday rule that rolled back the ability-to-pay standard and has since repeatedly urged Congress to pass a national 36% interest rate cap akin to Illinois’ law.

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