Oportun’s homepage. Photograph: Oportun.com
“The number is astounding,” said Noah Zinner, a consumer attorney at Bay Area Legal Aid. “Why are you suing people in small claims? Why are you suing people during a pandemic?”
Oportun filed thousands of lawsuits as the pandemic led to widespread unemployment. Photograph: Damian Dovarganes/AP
But suing customers in small claims courts has been a consistent practice for Oportun. At a time when debt collection lawsuits represent the single most common type of civil litigation in America, Oportun stood as a leader in California, deluging Los Angeles county with more than 15,000 lawsuits last year, or one for every 667 residents in a county of over 10 million.
It’s difficult to determine how much small claims judgments affect Oportun’s bottom line. The company boasted $600m in revenues last year – more than 90% of that from the interest rates customers pay on their loans.
The vast majority of Oportun’s customers fall behind on payments. At the end of 2018, Oportun collected nearly $8.2m in late fees from over 545,000 loans, roughly 75% of its customer portfolio, which numbered more than 743,000 active customers at the end of April.
That’s what happened to David Barrera, an Oportun customer of two years who was served papers in June.
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