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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Venture capitalists are slinking away from the payday lending space, one decade after rushing in.

Driving the news: LendUp, which had raised over $200 million from firms like Google Ventures, earlier this month stopped originating loans.

  • Axios has obtained a letter sent to shareholders, in which CEO Anu Shultes said that payday loans "are no longer acceptable solutions to critical stakeholders in our business and the community at large."
  • Since its 2012 founding, the Oakland-based company had originated more than $2 billion in consumer loans.

What happened: Payday lending has always been controversial. Advocates argue that it creates financial optionality for the unbanked and disenfranchised, while critics believe that it's too often predatory.

  • LendUp itself acknowledged the pitfalls of traditional payday lending, particularly once Google banned payday loan ads in 2016, claiming that its tech-enabled solutions were more consumer-friendly. Nonetheless, it was fined by regulators for payday lending violations.
  • Since then, the industry has been under a regulatory maelstrom. President Obama instituted new consumer protections that President Trump last year rescinded, only to have the Trump move overturned in June by Congress.

Corp history: LendUp began to show cracks in 2018, when it spun off a credit card unit that's now known as Mission Lane. Its founding CEO departed soon after, succeeded by Shultes.

  • Late last year it launched a "a digital banking and financial health platform" called Ahead Financials.
  • It would seem that original LendUp investors are basically left with stub equity in Mission Lane — which has since raised lots of funding, including follow-ons from some LendUp backers — and whatever comes of Ahead, which is technically a subsidiary of LendUp Global.
  • No LendUp investors contacted by Axios were willing to comment for this story. LendUp CEO Shultes also declined an interview request.

The bottom line: Venture capital has become more liberal in its definition of "acceptable" investments, as evidenced by deal activity in sectors like cannabis and gambling. But the pendulum sometimes swings the other way, knocking LendUp into an attempted pivot.

Go deeper

Democrats fail to change Senate rules to pass voting rights bill

Senate Majority Leader during a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democrats failed Wednesday night to change Senate filibuster rules to pass the voting rights bill, with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) voting with Republicans.

The big picture: The failed effort came after Senate Republicans blocked the voting rights measure from coming to a final vote earlier Wednesday.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court rejects Trump's attempt to shield documents from Jan. 6 committee

Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

The Supreme Court rejected on Wednesday night a bid by former President Trump to block the release of documents and records from his administration to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Why it matters: Trump asked the Supreme Court to step in and block the release of the documents last month after a panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously denied his attempt to prevent the committee from obtaining the materials.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden says Russia likely to invade Ukraine

President Biden addressed the brewing conflict between Russia and Ukraine during a press briefing Wednesday, saying of Russian President Vladimir Putin, "my guess is he will move in."

Why it matters: U.S. officials have issued a series of warnings about Russia's threatening military buildup on the border with Ukraine, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying in Kyiv earlier Wednesday that Russia could invade "on very short notice."