In my most recent article, I described how installment lender World Acceptance Corporation illustrates the risks and rewards of investing in the alternative finance industry. On the one hand, the company embodies many of the industry’s best traits, such as rapid growth, high returns on investment, and pricing power. On the other hand, the company’s main business line of installment lending has come under increasing competition. Moreover, it has been accused of building its entire business upon the misbehavior of improper lending.
Most seriously, World Acceptance Corporation is currently under investigation by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB. The company received a Civil Investigative Demand, or CID, from the CFPB in March 2014 asking for information about the company’s business practices. Some short sellers believe this investigation will lead to severe penalties, or even bankruptcy. On the other hand, it is possible that regulators will only give the company a slap on the wrist, such as a small fine, or let the company off altogether.