In Williams v. Big Picture Loans, LLC, Civil Action No. 3:17-cv-461, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 135397, at *3-5 (E.D. Va. July 19, 2021), Judge Payne certified a class action against a payday lender.
The facts surrounding this lawsuit have been recounted by the Court on numerous occasions. See, e.g., MEM. OP., ECF No. 944. The facts of this case are, therefore, presumed known, and it suffices here to provide only a brief summary. This case is one of four similar, but distinct, actions “arising out of a so-called ‘Rent a Tribe’ scheme allegedly orchestrated by Matt Martorello (‘Martorello’), members of his family, companies that he controls, and investors who allegedly funded the scheme (the ‘Martorello Defendants’)” along with two “entities formed under the tribal laws of the Lac View Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians (‘LVD’),” i.e., “Big Picture Loans, LLC (‘Big Picture’) and Ascension Technologies, Inc. (‘Ascension’) (collectively sometimes referred to as the ‘Tribal Defendants’).” Williams v. Big Picture Loans, LLC, 3:17-cv-461, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 216792, 2020 WL 6784352, at *1-2 (E.D. Va. Nov. 18, 2020) (Payne, J.). The term “Rent-a-Tribe” refers to the practice of so-called payday lenders partnering with Native American tribes “in an effort to cloak the payday lenders in the sovereign immunity of Native American tribes, and, in so doing, to preclude enforcement of the interest rate caps in state usury laws.” See MEM. OP. at 4, ECF No. 944. Plaintiffs are all Virginia citizens who took out small-dollar high-interest loans from one of two LVD-affiliated entities (i.e., Red Rock or its successor Big Picture). Plaintiffs’ basic argument is that the loans from these entities were made in violation of Virginia’s usury laws, and Martorello, who is not a member of any [*5] Native American tribe, was both the de facto head and primary beneficiary of the LVD’s lending operations. PLS.’ MEM. IN SUPP. OF RENEWED MOT. FOR CLASS CERTIFICATION OF CLAIMS AGAINST DEF. MATT MARTORELLO (“Prelim. Approval Mem.”) at 27, ECF No. 968.