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FTC sues merchant cash advance lender for UDAP

The Federal Trade Commission has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against Yellowstone Capital LLC and Fundry LLC, both New York limited liability companies; and Yitzhak D. Stern, also known as Isaac Stern, and Jeffrey Reece, individually and as officers of the two LLCs; seeking permanent injunctive and other equitable relief. Yellowstone and Fundry are providers of merchant cash advances, and used deception to lure small business customers, then regularly withdrew money from their accounts without consent even after the customers had repaid the money they owed, according to the Commission's complaint.

Merchant cash advances are a form of financing in which the defendants provide money to a small business up front in exchange for a larger amount repaid through daily automatic payments. The Commission alleges that the defendants unlawfully withdrew millions of dollars in excess payments from their customers' accounts, and took weeks or months to provide refunds when challenged by those customers.

In addition, the complaint alleges that for years Yellowstone deceived potential customers about the amount of money they would receive, with the amount shown on the contract not reflecting additional fees that would be deducted. According to the complaint, these fees totaled hundreds and even thousands of dollars, and were not revealed to business owners until, in some cases, after their contracts were signed, The FTC also alleges that the defendants relied on deceptive marketing to promote their services. Specifically, the complaint states that Yellowstone promised that business owners would not be required to provide collateral or be subject to a personal guaranty. These promises appeared in online ads and other forms of marketing, but in many instances Yellowstone’s contracts actually required business owners to be personally liable if their business failed to make repayments, as well as put the business and all of its property up as collateral.

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