The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is moving forward its crackdown on unauthorized and abusive online lending activities, starting this year’s campaign with several individuals operating unregistered online lending applications.
In a joint operation on February 12, the combined forces of the SEC Enforcement and Investor Protection Department (EIPD) and the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) successfully implemented a warrant to search, seize and examine computer data in Cashtrees Lending Corporation’s office in Pasig City.
The Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 issued the search warrant against Cashtrees Lending for misuse of device penalized under Section 4(a)(5)(i)(ii) of Republic Act No. 10275, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, in operating unregistered online lending applications in violation of Republic Act No. 9474, or the Lending Company Regulation Act (LCRA).
The onsite digital forensic examination on the seized devices showed that the employees of Cashtrees Lending operated online lending applications such as Happylend, Rush Loan, Easy Money, Good Pocket, Dummy Loan, Lucky Star, Swipe Cash, 365 Cash, Home Peso, Mega Loan, Treecash and Goldpeso.
Cashtrees Lending is registered as a corporation and holds a certificate of authority to operate as a lending company. It operates registered online lending platforms such as Happylend, Creditcash and Cashmore.
However, majority of the online lending applications operated by Cashtrees Lending were unregistered. These include Goodpocket, Easymoney, 365 Cash and Rushloan, which have been the subject of cease and desist orders issued by the Commission.
Following the digital forensic examination, the PNP-ACG arrested 46 employees, including the manager of Cashtrees Lending for violating the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 and the LCRA.
On February 13, the SEC-EIPD and PNP-ACG filed with the Department of Justice an inquest complaint against the arrested employees of Cashtrees Lending for violating Section 4(a)(5)(i)(ii) of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 and the LCRA in relation to Section 6 of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
The SEC has been receiving numerous complaints against online lending applications (OLAs) for various violations of the LCRA and for abusive debt collection practices in violation of SEC Memorandum Circular No. 18, Series of 2019, which provides for the Prohibition on Unfair Debt Collection Practices of Financing Companies and Lending Companies.
In response, the Commission created a task force to handle complaints involving online lending operators and to take the appropriate measures to stop lending companies and their operators from engaging in abusive practices and activities.
The task force closely coordinates with other law enforcement agencies such as the PNP-ACG and the National Bureau of Investigation to crack down on illegal online lending applications.
The SEC regularly monitors lending and financing companies for their compliance with applicable laws, rules and regulations, as it seeks to protect borrowers from abusive, unethical, and illegal lenders.
To date, the Commission has canceled the licenses of 36 financing/lending companies due to various violations of applicable rules and regulations.
It has also revoked the certificate of registration of a total of 2,081 lending companies
for their failure to secure the requisite certificate of authority, pursuant to the LCRA.
In total, 72 online lending applications have been ordered to cease operations for lack of authority to operate as a lending or financing company.
In addition, the SEC has secured the convictions of 74 individuals for violation of the LCRA.
To see the list of licensed lending and financing companies and their registration status, please visit the Lending and Financing Companies corner on the SEC website at https://www.sec.gov.ph/lending-companies-and-financing-companies-2/lending-companies-and-financing-companies/.