The payday lending industry spent $40,000 on an academic study from Arkansas Tech University that concluded the loans don’t add to a cycle of debt, according to records obtained from the university by the nonprofit Campaign for Accountability.

An industry representative also admitted in newly released emails that “very few (payday loan borrowers) actually pay their loans in cash on the due date.”

Payday lending shop next to 7-11 in Waianae. 21 march 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Payday lending companies say that they offer a much-needed service to consumers, and will go out of business if forced to lend at a 36 percent annual percentage rate. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The nonprofit issued a report Monday describing the financial relationship between a professor at Arkansas Tech and Consumer Credit Research Foundation, a trade group for the $46 billion payday lending industry. The trade group’s chairman edited the academic study and asked the professor to remove negative information.

The records request to Arkansas Tech was one of several that Campaign for Accountability made to universities. The Consumer Credit Research Foundation sued to prevent the release of emails exchanged with Kennesaw State University in Georgia. Officials at George Mason University in Virginia refused to share the requested documents.

Payday lending was a hot topic during Hawaii’s legislative session earlier this year. Legislators debated decreasing the 459 percent annual percentage rate cap to 36 percent in response to advocacy from a faith-based community group.

Philadelphia-based Dollar Financial Group Inc., which lobbied against the proposed rate cap, cited the George Mason University study in testimony before the Hawaii Legislature earlier this year. The study claims efforts to cap payday loan interest rates “almost invariably produce negative unintended consequences that vastly exceed any social benefits gained from the legislation.”

The proposal to drop the interest rate cap ultimately failed during end-of-session negotiations due to lack of support from House lawmakers.

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