The last time we wrote about the number 125% it was in the context of the return of that old Subprime 1.0 staple home loans that cover more than the purchase price of the home (because one must always have some leftover cash for improvements), i.e. 125% loan-to-value mortgages. Today 125% comes back and again it is in the context of subprime, only this time it is about the second coming of the credit bubble when, as Bloomberg writes, a certain group of distinguished individuals is now offering loans to troubled Americans at the whopping annual interest rate of 125%.
Which group of distinguished individuals? The same group that helped make The Wolf of Wall Street into a cult classic: the people who were trained by that born again scammer par excellence Jordan Belfort.
From an office near New York’s Times Square, people trained by a veteran of Jordan Belfort’s boiler room call truckers, contractors and florists across the country pitching loans with annual interest rates as high as 125 percent, according to more than two dozen former employees and clients. When borrowers can’t pay, Naidus’s World Business Lenders LLC seizes their vehicles and assets, sometimes sending them into bankruptcy.
If the phrase predatory lending comes to mind it is because this is precisely what it is:
"This is the new predatory lending,” said Mark Pinsky, president of Opportunity Finance Network, a group of lenders that help the poor. “And the predators, just as they did in the mortgage market, have gotten increasingly aggressive.”
Subprime business lending -- the industry prefers to be called “alternative” -- has swelled to more than $3 billion a year, estimates Marc Glazer, who has researched his competitors as head of Business Financial Services Inc., a lender in Coral Springs, Florida. That’s twice the volume of small loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration.
Naturally, since these are the kinds of loans that ordinary Americans who don't have defaults and a horrible credit rating would never touch, the probability of repayment is virtually nil. Which means that the probability of default on the new subprime loans is assured, and as such all that is happening is yet another case of credit money assisted wealth transfer: from the very poor to the very aggressive, and increasingly wealthy. In other words, what the Fed has done for Wall Street, subprime 2.0 is doing for its far shadier, and criminal some would say, subsector.
The name of the company that makes the loans is almost too cheese to fit into its own ironic meme:
Naidus, 48, chief executive officer of World Business Lenders, declined to be interviewed. Marcia Horowitz, a spokeswoman at public relations firm Rubenstein Associates Inc., said the company explains loan terms in plain English and takes steps to ensure that borrowers understand.
“World Business Lenders’ sales and marketing techniques, as well as the interest rates it charges and the default rates it experiences, are generally consistent with those throughout the industry,” Andy Occhino, general counsel for the company, wrote in a May 21 letter. “In serving the underserved small-business community along Main Street USA, World Business Lenders complies with all applicable laws and endeavors to ensure a positive experience for its customers.”
To be sure World Business Leaders (or WBL in short) are just that, and much more - you see they are pure humanitarians by nature:
Horowitz, the spokeswoman for World Business Lenders, said the company works with borrowers to avoid defaults.
“If the default cannot be cured, World Business Lenders enforces its rights under the loan documents, including the recovery of the pledged collateral,” she said.
The good news is that at least someone has collateral, unlike all those countries in Europe where the loan itself is the collateral repledged back with the central bank (several times).
Sadly, the only reason why WBL exists is simple: they supply a product that is in great demand...
“While I am not real thrilled about some of the prices being charged, in some cases businesses need to get something done in a hurry and it makes sense,” said William Dennis, who directs the research foundation at the National Federation of Independent Business. “It may not be the world’s best choice, but at least it’s your choice.”
Brokers are popping up around the country to originate loans on behalf of lenders including OnDeck and World Business Lenders. The companies pay fees to the brokers of about $6,000 for finding people willing to take a $50,000 loan, according to current and former brokers, most of whom asked not to be identified to preserve their job prospects.
... a demand that would not exist if the economy was truly, as some of the more humorous economists out there allege, recovering.
As for what the insiders think of their business model, it is the same as what the outsides would have to say:
“Our industry is absolutely crazy,” said Steven Delgado, who left World Business Lenders last year to become an independent loan broker. “There’s lots of people who’ve been banned from brokerage. There’s no license you need to file for. It’s pretty much unregulated.”
David Glass, 39, was still on probation for insider trading when he co-founded Yellowstone Capital LLC, a New York-based brokerage and lender that originated $200 million in loans last year, including for OnDeck.
He said he learned to sell in the 1990s at Sterling Foster & Co., a Long Island firm where he got his friend a job interview that inspired “Boiler Room,” a movie that portrayed a college dropout’s foray into high-pressure stock sales. Glass said he coached actor Vin Diesel on cold-calling for the film. “A natural,” Glass said.
How will all of this end?
World Business Lenders put up job listings seeking former brokers, and they came. A February orientation schedule provided by a former employee shows that training is run by Bryan Herman, who got his start under Stratton Oakmont Inc.’s Belfort, the con man portrayed in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Herman later ran his own boiler room in the 1990s and avoided jail by informing on other brokers when he was charged with fraud in 1998, court records show. Another salesman was released from prison in 2010 after serving about a year for penny-stock fraud
Herman has paid for his crimes, according to his lawyer, Marty Kaplan.
“It’s really like saying Bill Clinton smoked dope in college,” Kaplan said. “Who cares?”
Indeed: who cares. Certainly not the Fed, for whose erudite members this too will be a perfectly normal occurrence and hardly a signal that something is horribly wrong with its centrally-planned, Frankenstein economy.