The New York Department of Financial Services is leading a multi-state investigation that could snag a Silicon Valley startup backed by Andreessen Horowitz and rapper Nas, The Post learned.
The investigation, backed by 10 other state banking regulators and Puerto Rico, will focus on a new generation of online lenders charging people potentially usurious rates for cash before their paychecks, regulators said in a news release on Monday. Tuesday.
And one of the companies they are studying is Earnin, a Silicon Valley star valued at about $ 1 billion who recently attracted financial support from Nas, the Queensbridge, NY rapper, behind “NY State of Mind,” a source with knowledge of the investigation. he told The Post.
“Earnin is a community that is creating a fairer financial system that supports each other,” Nas said when announcing his “support and investment” in the company in June.
The rapper, whose real name is Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, did not return a request for comment on the investigation.
“High-cost payroll loans are closely scrutinized in New York, and this investigation will help determine if these payroll advance practices are usurious and hurt consumers,” said Linda Lacewell, superintendent of the New York Department of Financial Services. York.
Regulators from Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas have also joined the investigation.
Requests for documents have been sent to Earnin and 10 other companies, a source said.
The movement arises from a previous DFS probe in Earnin following a March report in The Post on how the company appears to circumvent loan laws by labeling interest as tips, which are optional but highly recommended. These “tips” can result in annual percentage rates of more than 400 percent for a single cash advance.
“This is a completely new model, so we look forward to and welcome inquiries from regulators such as the New York Department of Financial Services,” according to a company statement.
The company has been preparing to fight regulatory and press scrutiny for months, including the hiring of the former head of the DFS, according to former employees and a trove of internal communications obtained by The Post.
In April, Earnin CEO Ram Palaniappan hired Ben Lawsky, the former DFS superintendent who now runs a regulatory consulting group, to help the company respond to the agency, according to documents and a former employee.
Palaniappan met with Lawsky on the night of July 8, before the company sent an information packet to DFS for independent investigation, according to a person briefed on the matter.
Palaniappan also met with Jim Messina, the former campaign manager for President Obama’s re-election campaign who now runs his own strategic communications company, internal documents show. A source with direct knowledge of the talks said the meeting was to discuss Messina’s help with the upcoming regulations.
Earnin is not a Messina Group customer, a spokesperson said.
Palaniappan also sought help in Silicon Valley.
On April 17, an investor from the tech hedge fund Coatue Management introduced Palaniappan to Emil Michael, the former Uber chief commercial officer who was kicked out of the company after suggesting they should unearth critical journalists and who was accused of suppressing records of rape victim in India, documents show. Later, Michael was removed as a defendant in the lawsuit after arguing that he was not involved in the searches.
“Building something new often requires thinking about how to manage regulation and I thought I would be one of the most experienced people in solving this kind of problem. Any advice you can give will be greatly appreciated! “Rahul Kishore, Coatue’s manager, wrote in the introductory email.
The two have spoken at least once, on May 21, for about half an hour, according to internal records. Michael recommended that he speak with another Uber regulatory executive during the call, according to another person familiar with the call.
Representatives for Lawsky, Michael and Coatue were not immediately available for comment.