上周五，Lending Club宣布将把更多贷款风险转移给它的合作银行Web Bank上，以此作为降低向银行支付费用的回报。其目标是在抢在相应的法律措施之前行动，防范法律风险。一部分分析者认为该行动不会影响到其客户，而也有人认为这种风险转移从长远看损害了投资者利益。在Lending Club的业务模式下，首先由贷款者在网站上提出贷款申请，然后在犹他州盐湖城的Web Bank的协助下，这些贷款被打包出售给投资者。然而，收债公司Madden v. Midland Funding, LLC认为将贷款出售给非银行机构和个人的做法必须遵守所在州对于利率上限的规定。该公司将Lending Club告上了最高法庭。
"我们认为，在新的业务结构下，平台将会更好地为借款人提供全国范围内的信贷资金，也能够为投资者提供更好的安全性。"Lending Club的创始人和首席执行官Renaud Laplanche在一次新闻发布会上如是说道。
投资者对于这一消息的反应比较平淡，该公司的股价周五收盘下跌0.5%。上一周对于大多数网络借贷公司来说都是十分难熬的。周三，小企业网络借贷公司On Deck在公布第四季度令人失望的财报之后，股价下跌20%。Lending Club的股价该周下跌了5%。
太平洋证券研究部副总经理Josh Beck称：“这一举措对于Lending Club来说是具有正面意义的，应当会帮助该公司规避法律风险，而且可以帮助Lending Club将其业务框架与行业中其他机构的区分开来。不过，新的业务框架对Lending Club的财务收入和该平台上借款者的利率影响非常小。”
Beck还说，他预计Lending Club的举动将进一步鼓励其他消费者贷款平台，如P2P贷款平台Prosper Marketplace，采取类似的行动。而非消费者贷款平台，如On Deck，则不会受到相同程度的影响。
紧接着，Loan Depot公司也作出了相似的反应，该公司推迟了原计划与11月份进行的IPO，同样是由于市场条件。LoanDepot声称，对最高法院在这一案件的判决中发现自身与Cross River银行的关系可能造成的风险感到担忧。
LendingClub Corp.'s recent restructuring may save the company the headache of playing catch up on coming legal changes. And it may inspire other online lenders to strike preemptively.
LendingClub said Friday it would transfer more of the risk on its loans to its banking partner WebBank in exchange for paying higher fees to the bank. The move is aimed at getting ahead of possible legal action that could affect the company's practices, with some analysts arguing the move won't affect consumers and others saying the risk shift could hurt them long term.
Under LendingClub's model, consumers apply for loans on the site, which are then sold to investors, with the loan facilitated through Salt Lake City, Utah-based WebBank. A ruling made in Madden v. Midland Funding, LLC, a debt collector, said that loans sold to non-banks have to follow state rules, which can have caps on how much interest is charged. The ruling made it to the Supreme Court on appeal.
But LendingClub isn't waiting for that higher-court decision. The company has already shifted more of the loan responsibility to its WebBank affiliate. In fact, Lending Club said the Madden case does not apply directly to its business model but that it hopes to ease any potential concerns with this move.
"We believe this new structure will strengthen the foundation of our program to provide borrowers the ability to access affordable credit on a nationwide basis and to provide investors with greater certainty," Renaud Laplanche, Lending Club founder and CEO, said in a press release.
Investor reaction was muted with the stock closing down 0.5% Friday, after a tough week for most online lending companies. On Wednesday, shares of OnDeck , an online lender for small businesses, fell 20% after the company reported fourth-quarter results that included disappointing guidance. Shares of Lending Club are down 5% on the week.
Josh Beck, vice president of equity research at Pacific Crest Securities, said he believes the move is a positive for Lending Club and should help it clear regulations.
"I think it really helps distinguish Lending Club and the framework they use to originate loans from some of the others in the ecosystem," Beck said.
Beck believes this new framework will have "a very immaterial impact" on Lending Club's finances and the interest rates charged to borrowers on the site.
Lauren Saunders, associate director at the National Consumer Law Center, said she's concerned this change could encourage a work-around for "rent-a-bank" models so that payday lenders could continue to charge higher interest rates.
"It's just a tweak to try to keep a business model that can potentially be dangerous for consumers," Saunders said, acknowledging that LendingClub's proclaimed average loan interest rate of 12.6% would be a competitive rate for consumers within this segment.
Beck said he expects LendingClub's move to inspire other consumer lending companies, such as Prosper Marketplace, Inc., a private peer-to-peer lender, to take similar action. Non-consumer lending platforms, such as OnDeck, will not be impacted to the same degree, he said.
Other online consumer lenders have listed this ruling as a possible risk to future business. Elevate, an online lender, postponed its initial public offering (IPO) in January due, it said, to difficult market conditions. It listed the Madden v. Midland case going to the Supreme Court in its prospectus as a potential risk to the company if the court finds that Elevate's practices fall under this ruling.
The delayed debut followed a similar move by LoanDepot, which postponed its IPOin November due to market conditions. LoanDepot also said it worried about added risk if the court found its relationship with Cross River Bank fell under the case law.
But fears of a winding down or end to online lenders are overstated, National Consumer Law's Saunders said.
"I think these things have ebbs and flows and when you have new models there's always a sorting out period," she said.