How Does Legal Enforceability Affect Consumer Lending? Evidence from a Natural Experiment
54 Pages Posted: 19 May 2016 Last revised: 21 Feb 2023
Date Written: August 2, 2017
We use a natural experiment — an unexpected judicial decision — to study how the legal enforceability of debt contracts affects consumer lending. In May 2015, a federal court unexpectedly held that the usury laws of three states — New York, Connecticut, and Vermont — applied to certain loans that market participants had assumed were exempt from those statutes. The case introduced substantial uncertainty about whether borrowers affected by the decision were under any legal obligation to repay principal or interest on their loans. Using proprietary data from three marketplace lending platforms, we use a difference-in-differences design to study the decision’s effects. We find no evidence that borrowers defaulted strategically as a result of the decision. However, the decision reduced credit availability for higher-risk borrowers in affected states. And secondary-market data indicate that the price of notes backed by above-usury loans issued to borrowers in affected states declined, particularly when those borrowers were late on their payments.
Keywords: usury law, strategic default, consumer lending, marketplace lending, Madden v. Midland
JEL Classification: D12, G18, G21, G38, D18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation