Silicon Valley FinTech “Earnin” may need to buckle up for a bumpy ride.

Silicon Valley FinTech “Earnin” may need to buckle up for a bumpy ride.

by The CAB Man Texas on September 11, 2019

The New York Times ran a bit of an “expose” on “Earnin,” an online lending FinTech that may need to buckle up for a bumpy ride…

It seems like each week there is a new Silicon Valley FinTech anti-payday loan venture that is launched with millions in funding and all the slick PR you can buy. There is a formula to the launches, and most have the disruptor mindset but at first glance to many observers, it is clearly a well disguised online payday loan business. It was stated in the Post’s article that Earnin has an $800 million valuation – how much of that do you think came from being hyped by the media? Funny thing is, much of the media that promotes these startups don’t do their homework and would tell you they despise the payday industry if you asked them. Imagine that!

Earnin has been around for several years now and the “tip” model they use is now coming into question. They don’t charge a fee for the loan they just say “tip us if you liked it” or something along those lines. The New York Post says Earnin “has been scrambling to escape regulatory heat over concerns that it has been doing illegal payday lending in the Big Apple.”. It was surprising to read that the tips being collected were $14/$100 per week.  That comes to $28/$100 for two weeks. In Texas the average fee range per $100 borrowed is $20-$25/$100 so that tip is really popping up on some radars now. When you calculate the APR on $28/$100 that is getting into the 600%+ APR range which will typically cause a left leaning liberal with consumer advocacy on their mind to simultaneously combust.  
Now, the New York Department of Financial Services appears to be one of those who are very hot under the collar over Earnin doing transactions with New Yorkers. As well, 11 other states are investigating Earnin for violating usury laws. New York sent a subpoena to Earnin in March, shortly after that the tip feature was turned off for New Yorkers. Earnin is now having to explain the switch off, and that loan amounts were not driven down by poor tippers which looks very bad. There were some leaks from former employees apparently. In one of those leaks “Earnin also considered going after perceived enemies. One employee suggested the company hire a private investigator to look into The Post reporter who had written the story” about them. Whoa – this is getting good!

We’ll see how it all plays out, Earnin seems to be getting lined up for a major hit on the chin for other FinTech lending disruptors with similar shell game models. Those who are out in front as Earnin has been, often times are going to have to survive the legal battles to prove out the model while others who are not quite so visible, lay low and quietly ride out the process.

Here is a link to read more from the New York Post:

This blog post was written by Michael Brown, President of CAB Consulting and the Texas Organization of Financial Service Centers. He can be reached at 214-293-8676, or

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