STATES DISTRICT COURT
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
THE MONEY TREE, INC., a
COMPLAINT FOR CIVIL PENALTIES,
Plaintiff, the United States of America, acting upon the notification and authorization given to the Attorney General by the Federal Trade Commission ("Commission"), for its Complaint alleges that:
1. Plaintiff brings this action under Sections 5(a), 5(m)(1)(A), 9, 13(b), and 16(a) of the Federal Trade Commission Act ("FTC Act"), 15 U.S.C. §§ 45(a), 45(m)(1)(A), 49, 53(b), and 56(a), and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act ("ECOA"), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1691-1691f, to obtain monetary civil penalties and injunctive and other relief for defendants' violations of the ECOA.
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
2. This court has jurisdiction over this action under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1337(a), 1345, and 1355, and under 15 U.S.C. §§ 45(m)(1)(A), 49, 53(b), 56(a), and 1691(c).
3. Venue in the Middle District of Georgia, Thomasville Division, is proper under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1391(b-c) and 1395(a), and under 15 U.S.C. § 53(b).
4. As used in this Complaint:
5. Defendant The Money Tree, Inc. ("Money Tree"), is a corporation organized and doing business under the laws of the State of Georgia with its principal office and place of business located within the Middle District of Georgia at 114 South Broad Street, Bainbridge, Georgia 31717. In the course and conduct of its business, defendant Money Tree has also done business as "Money To Lend, Inc." and "Money To Lend."
6. Defendant Vance R. Martin is the president and sole shareholder of Money Tree. Individually or in concert with others, defendant Vance R. Martin has formulated, directed, and controlled the acts and practices of Money Tree, including the acts and practices set forth herein. His business address is the same as that of the corporate defendant. In connection with the matters alleged herein, Vance R. Martin has transacted business in the Middle District of Georgia.
7. Defendant Money Tree makes installment loans to consumers. Defendant Vance R. Martin, in the ordinary course of Money Tree's business, regularly participates in Money Tree's decision to extend credit to consumers. Defendants are therefore "creditors" as that term is defined by Section 702(e) of the ECOA, 15 U.S.C. § 1691a(e), and are, therefore, subject to the provisions of the ECOA and its implementing Regulation B, 12 C.F.R. Part 202.
8. Since approximately October 1991, on numerous occasions, defendants have discriminated against applicants who derive all or part of their income from a public assistance program by, inter alia:
9. Defendants' practices described in Paragraph 8 violate Section 701(a)(2) of the ECOA, 15 U.S.C. § 1691a(2), and Sections 202.4, 202.6(b)(1), 202.6(b)(2), and 202.6(b)(5) of Regulation B, 12 C.F.R. §§ 202.4, 202.6(b)(1), 202.6(b)(2), and 202.6(b)(5).
10. Defendants have engaged in the practices described in Paragraph 8 with the knowledge required under Section 5(m)(1)(A) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. § 45(m)(1)(A).
11. Since approximately October 1991, on numerous occasions, defendants have discriminated against elderly applicants who were not eligible for credit-life or credit-disability insurance because of their age, by discouraging applications from, refusing to extend credit to, or offering credit on less favorable terms to such elderly applicants on the basis of their age, thereby violating Section 701(a)(1) of the ECOA, 15 U.S.C. § 1691(a)(1); and Sections 202.4, 202.5(a) and 202.7(e) of Regulation B.
12. Defendants have engaged in the practices described in Paragraph 11 with the knowledge required under Section 5(m)(1)(A) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. § 45(m)(1)(A).
PRAYER FOR RELIEF
13. Section 5(m)(1)(A) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. § 45(m)(1)(A), authorizes the Court to award civil penalties of not more than $10,000 for each violation of the ECOA and Regulation B.
14. Each credit transaction during the five years preceding the filing of this Complaint in which defendants have failed to comply with the requirements of the ECOA and Regulation B, as alleged in Paragraphs 8 and 11, constitutes a separate violation for the purpose of assessing monetary civil penalties.
15. Section 13(b) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. § 53(b), authorizes the Court to issue permanent injunctions against defendants' violations of the ECOA and Regulation B, as well as ancillary equitable relief.
WHEREFORE, plaintiff requests that this Court, pursuant to 15 U.S.C. §§ 45(a)(1), 45(m)(1)(A), 49, and 53(b) and to the Court's own equity powers: