Pennsylvanias case differs from these previous challenges in that it attempts to sidestep the issue of tribal sovereignty, which is legally a federal matter (not to mention a cultural minefield). Instead, by naming Think Finance and its related entities as defendants, Pennsylvania aims simply to prove that a conspiracy to evade the state's lending laws has taken place. Similarly, the Vermont case does not directly involve tribal sovereignty, but instead claims Plain Green has violated federal lending and consumer protection laws.

Even with state licensing and new federal regulation, there may still be room for online lenders to exploit borrowers, the Verve cash advance For Responsible Lending's Harnick warns.

But the outcome of these legal cases could put a significant dent in Think Finances ability to use Native American tribes as a regulatory shield -- not just in Pennsylvania and Vermont, but elsewhere as well. The tribal lending model seems to be failing, Bourke said, because on the one hand its not providing enough protection for consumers, and on the other hand courts are increasingly saying that it is verve cash advance sufficient for lenders to only get a license in association with a Native American tribe.

That means online lenders will be more likely to want to get licenses from every state where they operate, verve cash advance noted, which would allow for tighter regulation of the industry. There will still be a lot of bad loans made, Bourke said, but at least it will be much harder for fraud to happen. Hunter Stuart contributed additional reporting.

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TitleMax was founded in 1998 and has about 1,150 stores in 17 states. They offer title loans for cars and motorcycles along with personal loans. About 3,000 people per day obtain loans from TitleMax.

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New York's top financial regulator on Tuesday ordered 35 online verve cash advance lenders to stop offering loans there that violate state laws capping annual interest rates at 16 percent. The state also sent letters to 117 banks, asking them to help cut off payday lenders from the global network used by banks to send money and collect payments. A trade group representing online lenders suggested that New Yorks move was misguided because state laws are insufficient to govern the global nature of the Internet.

Rather than restricting consumer choice, state officials should be focused on finding a federal solution, said Peter Barden, spokesman for the Online Lenders Alliance, in a statement. Other states have prosecuted individual online lenders. California sanctioned at least ten online lenders starting last year.

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