Forward-Looking Information and Risk Factors

Forward-Looking Information and Risk Factors


             We make forward-looking statements here and in other materials we file with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) or otherwise make public. In our Report on Form 10-K filed with the SEC on April 2, 2018, both Item 1, “Business,” and Item 7, “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” contain forward-looking statements.  In addition, our senior management might make forward-looking statements to analysts, investors, the media and others. Statements with respect to expected revenue; income; receivables; income ratios; net interest margins; long-term shareholder returns; acquisitions of financial assets and other growth opportunities; divestitures and discontinuations of businesses; loss exposure and loss provisions; delinquency and charge-off rates; the effects of account actions we may take or have taken; changes in collection programs and practices; changes in the credit quality and fair value of our credit card loans and fees receivable and the fair value of their underlying structured financing facilities; the impact of actions by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”), Federal Reserve Board, Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) and other regulators on both us, banks that issue credit cards and other credit products on our behalf, and merchants that participate in our point-of-sale finance operations; account growth; the performance of investments that we have made; operating expenses; the impact of bankruptcy law changes; marketing plans and expenses; the performance of our Auto Finance segment; our plans in the U.K.; the impact of our credit card receivables on our financial performance; the sufficiency of available capital; the prospect for improvements in the capital and finance markets; future interest costs; sources of funding operations and acquisitions; growth and profitability of our point-of-sale finance operations; our entry into international markets; our ability to raise funds or renew financing facilities; share repurchases or issuances; debt retirement; the results associated with our equity-method investee; our servicing income levels; gains and losses from investments in securities; experimentation with new products and other statements of our plans, beliefs or expectations are forward-looking statements. These and other statements using words such as “anticipate,” “believe,” “estimate,” “expect,” “intend,” “plan,” “project,” “target,” “can,” “could,” “may,” “should,” “will,” “would” and similar expressions also are forward-looking statements.  Each forward-looking statement speaks only as of the date of the particular statement.  The forward-looking statements we make are not guarantees of future performance, and we have based these statements on our assumptions and analyses in light of our experience and perception of historical trends, current conditions, expected future developments and other factors we believe are appropriate in the circumstances.   Forward-looking statements by their nature involve substantial risks and uncertainties that could significantly affect expected results, and actual future results could differ materially from those described in such statements. Management cautions against putting undue reliance on forward-looking statements or projecting any future results based on such statements or present or historical earnings levels.

             Although it is not possible to identify all factors, we continue to face many risks and uncertainties. Among the factors that could cause actual future results to differ materially from our expectations are the risks and uncertainties described under “Risk Factors” set forth in Part I, Item 1A in our Report on Form 10-K filed with the SEC on April 2, 2018, and the risk factors and other cautionary statements in other documents we file with the SEC, including the following:

  • the availability of adequate financing to support growth;
  • the extent to which federal, state, local and foreign governmental regulation of our various business lines and the products we service for others limits or prohibits the operation of our businesses;
  • current and future litigation and regulatory proceedings against us;
  • the effect of adverse economic conditions on our revenues, loss rates and cash flows;
  • competition from various sources providing similar financial products, or other alternative sources of credit, to consumers;
  • the adequacy of our allowances for uncollectible loans and fees receivable and estimates of loan losses used within our risk management and analyses;
  • the possible impairment of assets;
  • our ability to manage costs in line with the expansion or contraction of our various business lines;
  • our relationship with (i) the merchants that participate in point-of-sale finance operations and (ii) the banks that issue credit cards and provide certain other credit products utilizing our technology platform and related services; and
  • theft and employee errors.

             Most of these factors are beyond our ability to predict or control. Any of these factors, or a combination of these factors, could materially affect our future financial condition or results of operations and the ultimate accuracy of our forward-looking statements. There also are other factors that we may not describe (because we currently do not perceive them to be material) that could cause actual results to differ materially from our expectations.

             We expressly disclaim any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law.



             An investment in our common stock or other securities involves a number of risks. You should carefully consider each of the risks described below before deciding to invest in our common stock or other securities. If any of the following risks develops into actual events, our business, financial condition or results of operations could be negatively affected, the market price of our common stock or other securities could decline and you may lose all or part of your investment.

             Investors should be particularly cautious regarding investments in our common stock or other securities at the present time in light of uncertainties as to the profitability of our business model going forward and our inability to achieve consistent earnings from our operations in recent years.

Our Cash Flows and Net Income Are Dependent Upon Payments from Our Investments in Receivables

             The collectibility of our investments in receivables is a function of many factors including the criteria used to select who is issued credit, the pricing of the credit products, the lengths of the relationships, general economic conditions, the rate at which consumers repay their accounts or become delinquent, and the rate at which consumers borrow funds.  Deterioration in these factors would adversely impact our business.  In addition, to the extent we have over-estimated collectibility, in all likelihood we have over-estimated our financial performance. Some of these concerns are discussed more fully below.

             Our portfolio of receivables is not diversified and primarily originates from consumers whose creditworthiness is considered sub-prime. Historically, we have invested in receivables in one of two ways—we have either (i) invested in receivables originated by lenders who utilize our services or (ii) invested in or purchased pools of receivables from other issuers. In either case, substantially all of our receivables are from financially underserved borrowers—borrowers represented by credit risks that regulators classify as “sub-prime.” Our reliance on sub-prime receivables has negatively impacted and may in the future negatively impact, our performance. Our various past and current losses might have been mitigated had our portfolios consisted of higher-grade receivables in addition to our sub-prime receivables.

             Economic slowdowns increase our credit losses. During periods of economic slowdown or recession, we experience an increase in rates of delinquencies and frequency and severity of credit losses. Our actual rates of delinquencies and frequency and severity of credit losses may be comparatively higher during periods of economic slowdown or recession than those experienced by more traditional providers of consumer credit because of our focus on the financially underserved consumer market, which may be disproportionately impacted.

             We are subject to foreign economic and exchange risks. Because of our operations in the U.K., we have exposure to fluctuations in the U.K. economy. We also have exposure to fluctuations in the relative values of the U.S. dollar and the British pound. Because the British pound has experienced a net decline in value relative to the U.S. dollar since we commenced our most significant operations in the U.K., we have experienced significant transaction and translation losses within our financial statements.

             Because a significant portion of our reported income is based on management’s estimates of the future performance of receivables, differences between actual and expected performance of the receivables may cause fluctuations in net income. Significant portions of our reported income (or losses) are based on management’s estimates of cash flows we expect to receive on receivables, particularly for such assets that we report based on fair value. The expected cash flows are based on management’s estimates of interest rates, default rates, payment rates, cardholder purchases, servicing costs, and discount rates. These estimates are based on a variety of factors, many of which are not within our control. Substantial differences between actual and expected performance of the receivables will occur and cause fluctuations in our net income. For instance, higher than expected rates of delinquencies and losses could cause our net income to be lower than expected. Similarly, levels of loss and delinquency can result in our being required to repay lenders earlier than expected, thereby reducing funds available to us for future growth. Because all of the credit card receivables structured financing facilities are now in amortization status—which for us generally means that the only meaningful cash flows that we are receiving with respect to the credit card receivables that are encumbered by such structured financing facilities are those associated with our contractually specified fee for servicing the receivables—recent payment and default trends have substantially reduced the cash flows that we receive from these receivables.

             Due to our relative lack of historical experience with Internet consumers, we may not be able to evaluate their creditworthiness. We have less historical experience with respect to the credit risk and performance of receivables owed by consumers acquired over the Internet. As a result, we may not be able to target and evaluate successfully the creditworthiness of these potential consumers. Therefore, we may encounter difficulties managing the expected delinquencies and losses and appropriately pricing products.

We Are Substantially Dependent Upon Borrowed Funds to Fund Receivables We Purchase

             We finance receivables that we acquire in large part through financing facilities. All of our financing facilities are of finite duration (and ultimately will need to be extended or replaced) and contain financial covenants and other conditions that must be fulfilled in order for funding to be available. Moreover, some of our facilities currently are in amortization stages (and are not allowing for the funding of any new loans) based on their original terms.  The cost and availability of equity and borrowed funds is dependent upon our financial performance, the performance of our industry generally and general economic and market conditions, and at times equity and borrowed funds have been both expensive and difficult to obtain.

             If additional financing facilities are not available in the future on terms we consider acceptable—an issue that has been made even more acute in the U.S. given regulatory changes that reduced asset-level returns on credit card lending—we will not be able to purchase additional receivables and those receivables may contract in size.

Our Financial Performance Is, in Part, a Function of the Aggregate Amount of Receivables That Are Outstanding

             The aggregate amount of outstanding receivables is a function of many factors including purchase rates, payment rates, interest rates, seasonality, general economic conditions, competition from credit card issuers and other sources of consumer financing, access to funding, and the timing and extent of our receivable purchases.

             Despite our recent purchases of credit card receivables, our aggregate credit card receivables contracted over the last several years. The amount of our credit card receivables is a product of a combination of factors, many of which are not in our control. Factors include:

  • the availability of funding on favorable terms;
  • our relationships with the banks that issue credit cards;
  • the degree to which we lose business to competitors;
  • the level of usage of our credit card products by consumers;
  • the availability of portfolios for purchase on attractive terms;
  • levels of delinquencies and charge offs;
  • the level of costs of acquiring new receivables;
  • our ability to employ and train new personnel;
  • our ability to maintain adequate management systems, collection procedures, internal controls and automated systems; and
  • general economic and other factors beyond our control.

             Reliance upon relationships with a few large retailers in the point-of-sale finance operations may adversely affect our revenues and operating results from these operations.  Our five largest retail partners accounted for over 50% of our outstanding point-of-sale receivables as of December 31, 2017.  Although we are adding new retail partners on a regular basis, it is likely that we will continue to derive a significant portion of this operations’ receivables base and corresponding revenue from a relatively small number of partners in the future.  If a significant partner reduces or terminates its relationship with us, these operations’ revenue could decline significantly and our operating results and financial condition could be harmed.

We Operate in a Heavily Regulated Industry

             Changes in bankruptcy, privacy or other consumer protection laws, or to the prevailing interpretation thereof, may expose us to litigation, adversely affect our ability to collect receivables, or otherwise adversely affect our operations. Similarly, regulatory changes could adversely affect the ability or willingness of lenders who utilize our technology platform and related services to market credit products and services to consumers. While the new Presidential Administration and the congressional majorities in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives support reducing regulatory burdens, the prospects for significant modifications are uncertain.  Also, the accounting rules that apply to our business are exceedingly complex, difficult to apply and in a state of flux. As a result, how we value our receivables and otherwise account for our business is subject to change depending upon the changes in, and, interpretation of, those rules. Some of these issues are discussed more fully below.

             Reviews and enforcement actions by regulatory authorities under banking and consumer protection laws and regulations may result in changes to our business practices, may make collection of receivables more difficult or may expose us to the risk of fines, restitution and litigation. Our operations and the operations of the issuing banks through which the credit products we service are originated are subject to the jurisdiction of federal, state and local government authorities, including the CFPB, the SEC, the FDIC, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the FTC, U.K. banking and licensing authorities, state regulators having jurisdiction over financial institutions and debt origination and collection and state attorneys general. Our business practices and the practices of issuing banks, including the terms of products, servicing and collection practices, are subject to both periodic and special reviews by these regulatory and enforcement authorities. These reviews can range from investigations of specific consumer complaints or concerns to broader inquiries. If as part of these reviews the regulatory authorities conclude that we or issuing banks are not complying with applicable law, they could request or impose a wide range of remedies including requiring changes in advertising and collection practices, changes in the terms of products (such as decreases in interest rates or fees), the imposition of fines or penalties, or the paying of restitution or the taking of other remedial action with respect to affected consumers. They also could require us or issuing banks to stop offering some credit products or obtain licenses to do so, either nationally or in selected states. To the extent that these remedies are imposed on the issuing banks that originate credit products using our platform, under certain circumstances we are responsible for the remedies as a result of our indemnification obligations with those banks. We also may elect to change practices that we believe are compliant with law in order to respond to regulatory concerns. Furthermore, negative publicity relating to any specific inquiry or investigation could hurt our ability to conduct business with various industry participants or to generate new receivables and could negatively affect our stock price, which would adversely affect our ability to raise additional capital and would raise our costs of doing business.

             If any deficiencies or violations of law or regulations are identified by us or asserted by any regulator, or if the CFPB, the FDIC, the FTC or any other regulator requires us or issuing banks to change any practices, the correction of such deficiencies or violations, or the making of such changes, could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations or business. In addition, whether or not these practices are modified when a regulatory or enforcement authority requests or requires, there is a risk that we or other industry participants may be named as defendants in litigation involving alleged violations of federal and state laws and regulations, including consumer protection laws. Any failure to comply with legal requirements by us or the banks that originate credit products utilizing our platform in connection with the issuance of those products, or by us or our agents as the servicer of our accounts, could significantly impair our ability to collect the full amount of the account balances. The institution of any litigation of this nature, or any judgment against us or any other industry participant in any litigation of this nature, could adversely affect our business and financial condition in a variety of ways.

             We are dependent upon banks to issue credit cards and provide certain other credit products utilizing our technology platform and related services. We acquire receivables generated by banks from credit cards that they have issued and other products, and their regulators could at any time limit their ability to issue some or all of these products that we service, or to modify those products significantly. Any significant interruption of those relationships would result in our being unable to acquire new receivables or help develop other credit products.  It is possible that a regulatory position or action taken with respect to any of the issuing banks might result in the bank’s inability or unwillingness to originate future credit products in collaboration with us. In the current state, such a disruption of our issuing bank relationships principally would adversely affect our ability to grow our investments in the point-of-sale and direct-to-consumer receivables.

             Changes to consumer protection laws or changes in their interpretation may impede collection efforts or otherwise adversely impact our business practices. Federal and state consumer protection laws regulate the creation and enforcement of consumer credit card receivables and other loans. Many of these laws (and the related regulations) are focused on sub-prime lenders and are intended to prohibit or curtail industry-standard practices as well as non-standard practices. For instance, Congress enacted legislation that regulates loans to military personnel through imposing interest rate and other limitations and requiring new disclosures, all as regulated by the Department of Defense. Similarly, in 2009 Congress enacted legislation that required changes to a variety of marketing, billing and collection practices, and the Federal Reserve adopted significant changes to a number of practices through its issuance of regulations. While our practices are in compliance with these changes, some of the changes (e.g., limitations on the ability to assess up-front fees) have significantly affected the viability of certain credit products within the U.S. Changes in the consumer protection laws could result in the following:

  • receivables not originated in compliance with law (or revised interpretations) could become unenforceable and uncollectible under their terms against the obligors;
  • we may be required to credit or refund previously collected amounts;
  • certain fees and finance charges could be limited, prohibited or restricted, which would reduce the profitability of certain investments in receivables;
  • certain collection methods could be prohibited, forcing us to revise our practices or adopt more costly or less effective practices;
  • limitations on our ability to recover on charged-off receivables regardless of any act or omission on our part;
  • some credit products and services could be banned in certain states or at the federal level;
  • federal or state bankruptcy or debtor relief laws could offer additional protections to consumers seeking bankruptcy protection, providing a court greater leeway to reduce or discharge amounts owed to us; and
  • a reduction in our ability or willingness to invest in receivables arising under loans to certain consumers, such as military personnel.

Material regulatory developments may adversely impact our business and results from operations.

Our Automobile Lending Activities Involve Risks in Addition to Others Described Herein

             Automobile lending exposes us not only to most of the risks described above but also to additional risks, including the regulatory scheme that governs installment loans and those attendant to relying upon automobiles and their repossession and liquidation value as collateral. In addition, our Auto Finance segment operation acquires loans on a wholesale basis from used car dealers, for which we rely upon the legal compliance and credit determinations by those dealers.

             Funding for automobile lending may become difficult to obtain and expensive. In the event we are unable to renew or replace any Auto Finance segment facilities that bear refunding or refinancing risks when they become due, our Auto Finance segment could experience significant constraints and diminution in reported asset values as lenders retain significant cash flows within underlying structured financings or otherwise under security arrangements for repayment of their loans.  If we cannot renew or replace future facilities or otherwise are unduly constrained from a liquidity perspective, we may choose to sell part or all of our auto loan portfolios, possibly at less than favorable prices.

             Our automobile lending business is dependent upon referrals from dealers. Currently we provide substantially all of our automobile loans only to or through used car dealers. Providers of automobile financing have traditionally competed based on the interest rate charged, the quality of credit accepted and the flexibility of loan terms offered. In order to be successful, we not only need to be competitive in these areas, but also need to establish and maintain good relations with dealers and provide them with a level of service greater than what they can obtain from our competitors.

             The financial performance of our automobile loan portfolio is in part dependent upon the liquidation of repossessed automobiles. In the event of certain defaults, we may repossess automobiles and sell repossessed automobiles at wholesale auction markets located throughout the U.S. Auction proceeds from these types of sales and other recoveries rarely are sufficient to cover the outstanding balances of the contracts; where we experience these shortfalls, we will experience credit losses. Decreased auction proceeds resulting from depressed prices at which used automobiles may be sold would result in higher credit losses for us.

             Repossession of automobiles entails the risk of litigation and other claims. Although we have contracted with reputable repossession firms to repossess automobiles on defaulted loans, it is not uncommon for consumers to assert that we were not entitled to repossess an automobile or that the repossession was not conducted in accordance with applicable law. These claims increase the cost of our collection efforts and, if correct, can result in awards against us.

We Routinely Explore Various Opportunities to Grow Our Business, to Make Investments and to Purchase and Sell Assets

             We routinely consider acquisitions of, or investments in, portfolios and other assets as well as the sale of portfolios and portions of our business. There are a number of risks attendant to any acquisition, including the possibility that we will overvalue the assets to be purchased and that we will not be able to produce the expected level of profitability from the acquired business or assets. Similarly, there are a number of risks attendant to sales, including the possibility that we will undervalue the assets to be sold. As a result, the impact of any acquisition or sale on our future performance may not be as favorable as expected and actually may be adverse.

             Portfolio purchases may cause fluctuations in our reported Credit and Other Investments segment’s managed receivables data, which may reduce the usefulness of this data in evaluating our business. Our reported Credit and Other Investments segment managed receivables data may fluctuate substantially from quarter to quarter as a result of recent and future credit card portfolio acquisitions.

             Receivables included in purchased portfolios are likely to have been originated using credit criteria different from the criteria of issuing bank partners that have originated accounts utilizing our technology platform. Receivables included in any particular purchased portfolio may have significantly different delinquency rates and charge-off rates than the receivables previously originated and purchased by us. These receivables also may earn different interest rates and fees as compared to other similar receivables in our receivables portfolio. These variables could cause our reported managed receivables data to fluctuate substantially in future periods making the evaluation of our business more difficult.

             Any acquisition or investment that we make will involve risks different from and in addition to the risks to which our business is currently exposed. These include the risks that we will not be able to integrate and operate successfully new businesses, that we will have to incur substantial indebtedness and increase our leverage in order to pay for the acquisitions, that we will be exposed to, and have to comply with, different regulatory regimes and that we will not be able to apply our traditional analytical framework (which is what we expect to be able to do) in a successful and value-enhancing manner.

Other Risks of Our Business           

             We are a holding company with no operations of our own.  As a result, our cash flow and ability to service our debt is dependent upon distributions from our subsidiaries.  The distribution of subsidiary earnings, or advances or other distributions of funds by subsidiaries to us, all of which are subject to statutory and could be subject to contractual restrictions, are contingent upon the subsidiaries’ cash flows and earnings and are subject to various business and debt covenant considerations.

             Unless we obtain a bank charter, we cannot issue credit cards other than through agreements with banks. Because we do not have a bank charter, we currently cannot issue credit cards ourselves. Unless we obtain a bank or credit card bank charter, we will continue to rely upon banking relationships to provide for the issuance of credit cards to consumers. Even if we obtain a bank charter, there may be restrictions on the types of credit that the bank may extend. Our various issuing bank agreements have scheduled expiration dates. If we are unable to extend or execute new agreements with our issuing banks at the expirations of our current agreements with them, or if our existing or new agreements with our issuing banks were terminated or otherwise disrupted, there is a risk that we would not be able to enter into agreements with an alternate issuer on terms that we consider favorable or in a timely manner without disruption of our business.

             We are party to litigation. We are defendants in certain legal proceedings which include litigation customary for a business of our nature. In each case we believe that we have meritorious defenses or that the positions we are asserting otherwise are correct. However, adverse outcomes are possible in these matters, and we could decide to settle one or more of our litigation matters in order to avoid the ongoing cost of litigation or to obtain certainty of outcome. Adverse outcomes or settlements of these matters could require us to pay damages, make restitution, change our business practices or take other actions at a level, or in a manner, that would adversely impact our business.

             We face heightened levels of economic risk associated with new investment activities.  We have made a number of investments in businesses that are not directly related to our traditional servicing and receivables financing activities to, or associated with, the underserved consumer credit market.  In addition, some of these investments that we have made and may make in the future are or will be in debt or equity securities of businesses over which we exert little or no control, which likely exposes us to greater risks of loss than investments in activities and operations that we control.  We make only those investments we believe have the potential to provide a favorable return.  However, because some of the investments are outside of our core areas of expertise, they entail risks beyond those described elsewhere in this Report.  As occurred with respect to certain such investments in 2012 and 2011, these risks could result in the loss of part or all of our investments.

             Because we outsource account-processing functions that are integral to our business, any disruption or termination of that outsourcing relationship could harm our business. We generally outsource account and payment processing, and in 2017, we paid Total System Services, Inc. $4.7 million for these services. If these agreements were not renewed or were terminated or the services provided to us were otherwise disrupted, we would have to obtain these services from an alternative provider. There is a risk that we would not be able to enter into a similar agreement with an alternate provider on terms that we consider favorable or in a timely manner without disruption of our business.

             If we are unable to protect our information systems against service interruption, our operations could be disrupted and our reputation may be damaged. We rely heavily on networks and information systems and other technology, that are largely hosted by third-parties to support our business processes and activities, including processes integral to the origination and collection of loans and other financial products, and information systems to process financial information and results of operations for internal reporting purposes and to comply with regulatory financial reporting and legal and tax requirements. Because information systems are critical to many of our operating activities, our business may be impacted by hosted system shutdowns, service disruptions or security breaches. These incidents may be caused by failures during routine operations such as system upgrades or user errors, as well as network or hardware failures, malicious or disruptive software, computer hackers, rogue employees or contractors, cyber-attacks by criminal groups, geopolitical events, natural disasters, failures or impairments of telecommunications networks, or other catastrophic events.  If our information systems suffer severe damage, disruption or shutdown and our business continuity plans do not effectively resolve the issues in a timely manner, we could experience delays in reporting our financial results, and we may lose revenue and profits as a result of our inability to collect payments in a timely manner. We also could be required to spend significant financial and other resources to repair or replace networks and information systems.

             Unauthorized or unintentional disclosure of sensitive or confidential customer data could expose us to protracted and costly litigation, and civil and criminal penalties.  To conduct our business, we are required to manage, use, and store large amounts of personally identifiable information, consisting primarily of confidential personal and financial data regarding consumers across all operations areas. We also depend on our IT networks and systems, and those of third parties, to process, store, and transmit this information. As a result, we are subject to numerous U.S. federal and state laws designed to protect this information. Security breaches involving our files and infrastructure could lead to unauthorized disclosure of confidential information.

             We take a number of measures to ensure the security of our hardware and software systems and customer information. Advances in computer capabilities, new discoveries in the field of cryptography or other developments may result in the technology used by us to protect data being breached or compromised. In the past, banks and other financial service providers have been the subject of sophisticated and highly targeted attacks on their information technology. An increasing number of websites have reported breaches of their security.

             If any person, including our employees or those of third-party vendors, negligently disregards or intentionally breaches our established controls with respect to such data or otherwise mismanages or misappropriates that data, we could be subject to costly litigation, monetary damages, fines, and/or criminal prosecution.  Any unauthorized disclosure of personally identifiable information could subject us to liability under data privacy laws.  Further, under credit card rules and our contracts with our card processors, if there is a breach of credit card information that we store, we could be liable to the credit card issuing banks for their cost of issuing new cards and related expenses. In addition, if we fail to follow credit card industry security standards, even if there is no compromise of customer information, we could incur significant fines.  Security breaches also could harm our reputation, which could potentially cause decreased revenues, the loss of existing merchant credit partners, or difficulty in adding new merchant credit partners.

             Internet and data security breaches also could impede our bank partners from originating loans over the Internet, cause us to lose consumers or otherwise damage our reputation or business.  Consumers generally are concerned with security and privacy, particularly on the Internet.  As part of our growth strategy, we have enabled lenders to originate loans over the Internet. The secure transmission of confidential information over the Internet is essential to maintaining customer confidence in such products and services offered online.

             Advances in computer capabilities, new discoveries or other developments could result in a compromise or breach of the technology used by us to protect our client or consumer application and transaction data transmitted over the Internet.  In addition to the potential for litigation and civil penalties described above, security breaches could damage our reputation and cause consumers to become unwilling to do business with our clients or us, particularly over the Internet. Any publicized security problems could inhibit the growth of the Internet as a means of conducting commercial transactions. Our ability to service our clients’ needs over the Internet would be severely impeded if consumers become unwilling to transmit confidential information online.

             Also, a party that is able to circumvent our security measures could misappropriate proprietary information, cause interruption in our operations, damage our computers or those of our users, or otherwise damage our reputation and business.

             Regulation in the areas of privacy and data security could increase our costs.  We are subject to various regulations related to privacy and data security/breach, and we could be negatively impacted by these regulations. For example, we are subject to the safeguards guidelines under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. The safeguards guidelines require that each financial institution develop, implement and maintain a written, comprehensive information security program containing safeguards that are appropriate to the financial institution’s size and complexity, the nature and scope of the financial institution’s activities and the sensitivity of any customer information at issue. Broad-ranging data security laws that affect our business also have been adopted by various states. Compliance with these laws regarding the protection of consumer and employee data could result in higher compliance and technology costs for us, as well as potentially significant fines and penalties for non-compliance.  Further, there are various other statutes and regulations relevant to the direct email marketing, debt collection and text-messaging industries including the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.  The interpretation of many of these statutes and regulations is evolving in the courts and administrative agencies and an inability to comply with them may have an adverse impact on our business.

             In addition to the foregoing enhanced data security requirements, various federal banking regulatory agencies, and at least 48 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, have enacted data security regulations and laws requiring varying levels of consumer notification in the event of a security breach.

             Also, federal legislators and regulators are increasingly pursuing new guidelines, laws and regulations that, if adopted, could further restrict how we collect, use, share and secure consumer information, which could impact some of our current or planned business initiatives.

             Unplanned system interruptions or system failures could harm our business and reputation.  Any interruption in the availability of our transactional processing services due to hardware and operating system failures will reduce our revenues and profits. Any unscheduled interruption in our services results in an immediate, and possibly substantial, loss of revenues. Frequent or persistent interruptions in our services could cause current or potential consumers to believe that our systems are unreliable, leading them to switch to our competitors or to avoid our websites or services, and could permanently harm our reputation.

             Although our systems have been designed around industry-standard architectures to reduce downtime in the event of outages or catastrophic occurrences, they remain vulnerable to damage or interruption from earthquakes, floods, fires, power loss, telecommunication failures, computer viruses, computer denial-of-service attacks, and similar events or disruptions. Some of our systems are not fully redundant, and our disaster recovery planning may not be sufficient for all eventualities. Our systems also are subject to break-ins, sabotage, and intentional acts of vandalism. Despite any precautions we may take, the occurrence of a natural disaster, a decision by any of our third-party hosting providers to close a facility we use without adequate notice for financial or other reasons, or other unanticipated problems at our hosting facilities could cause system interruptions, delays, and loss of critical data, and result in lengthy interruptions in our services. Our business interruption insurance may not be sufficient to compensate us for losses that may result from interruptions in our service as a result of system failures.

             Climate change and related regulatory responses may impact our business.  Climate change as a result of emissions of greenhouse gases is a significant topic of discussion and may generate federal and other regulatory responses.  It is impracticable to predict with any certainty the impact on our business of climate change or the regulatory responses to it, although we recognize that they could be significant.  The most direct impact is likely to be an increase in energy costs, which would adversely impact consumers and their ability to incur and repay indebtedness.  However, we are uncertain of the ultimate impact, either directionally or quantitatively, of climate change and related regulatory responses on our business.

Risks Relating to an Investment in Our Securities

             The price of our common stock may fluctuate significantly, and this may make it difficult for you to resell your shares of our common stock when you want or at prices you find attractive. The price of our common stock on the NASDAQ Global Select Market constantly changes. We expect that the market price of our common stock will continue to fluctuate. The market price of our common stock may fluctuate in response to numerous factors, many of which are beyond our control. These factors include the following:

  • actual or anticipated fluctuations in our operating results;
  • changes in expectations as to our future financial performance, including financial estimates by securities analysts and investors;
  • the overall financing environment, which is critical to our value;
  • the operating and stock performance of our competitors;
  • announcements by us or our competitors of new products or services or significant contracts, acquisitions, strategic partnerships, joint ventures or capital commitments;
  • changes in interest rates;
  • the announcement of enforcement actions or investigations against us or our competitors or other negative publicity relating to us or our industry;
  • changes in GAAP, laws, regulations or the interpretations thereof that affect our various business activities and segments;
  • general domestic or international economic, market and political conditions;
  • changes in ownership by executive officers, directors and parties related to them who control a majority of our common stock;
  • additions or departures of key personnel; and
  • future sales of our common stock and the transfer or cancellation of shares of common stock pursuant to a share lending agreement.

             In addition, the stock markets from time to time experience extreme price and volume fluctuations that may be unrelated or disproportionate to the operating performance of companies. These broad fluctuations may adversely affect the trading price of our common stock, regardless of our actual operating performance.

             We are not currently in compliance with the minimum public float requirement of the NASDAQ Global Select Market.  If our common stock is delisted from NASDAQ, the market price and liquidity of our common stock and our ability to raise additional capital would be adversely impacted.  Our common stock is currently listed on the NASDAQ Global Select Market (“NASDAQ”).  Continued listing of a security on NASDAQ is conditioned upon compliance with various continued listing standards.  On February 20, 2018, we received a letter from NASDAQ notifying us that, for the last 30 consecutive business days, we had not met the $15 million minimum market value of publicly held shares continued listing standard.  As provided in the NASDAQ rules, NASDAQ provided 180 calendar days, or until August 20, 2018, to regain compliance.  In order to do so, the market value of our publicly held shares must be $15 million or more for a minimum of ten consecutive business days at any time prior to August 20, 2018.  During this period, our common stock will continue to trade uninterrupted on NASDAQ.

             If we do not regain compliance with the minimum public float requirement by August 20, 2018, we may transfer our common stock listing to The NASDAQ Capital Market, provided we meet the continued listing requirements for that market.  If we fail to regain compliance with the minimum public float requirement and are not eligible for listing on The NASDAQ Capital Market, we will receive notice of delisting from NASDAQ, which notice may be appealed at that time.  If our common stock is delisted, the liquidity of our common stock would be adversely affected and the market price of our common stock could decrease.  The delisting of our common stock from NASDAQ also would make it more difficult for us to raise additional capital.

             Future sales of our common stock or equity-related securities in the public market, including sales of our common stock pursuant to share lending agreements or short sale transactions by purchasers of convertible senior notes, could adversely affect the trading price of our common stock and our ability to raise funds in new stock offerings.  Sales of significant amounts of our common stock or equity-related securities in the public market, including sales pursuant to share lending agreements, or the perception that such sales will occur, could adversely affect prevailing trading prices of our common stock and could impair our ability to raise capital through future offerings of equity or equity-related securities. Future sales of shares of common stock or the availability of shares of common stock for future sale, including sales of our common stock in short sale transactions by purchasers of our convertible senior notes, may have a material adverse effect on the trading price of our common stock.

             We have the ability to issue preferred stock, warrants, convertible debt and other securities without shareholder approval. Our common stock may be subordinate to classes of preferred stock issued in the future in the payment of dividends and other distributions made with respect to common stock, including distributions upon liquidation or dissolution. Our articles of incorporation permit our Board of Directors to issue preferred stock without first obtaining shareholder approval. If we issue preferred stock, these additional securities may have dividend or liquidation preferences senior to the common stock. If we issue convertible preferred stock, a subsequent conversion may dilute the current common shareholders’ interest. We have similar abilities to issue convertible debt, warrants and other equity securities.

             Our executive officers, directors and parties related to them, in the aggregate, control a majority of our common stock and may have the ability to control matters requiring shareholder approval. Our executive officers, directors and parties related to them own a large enough share of our common stock to have an influence on, if not control of, the matters presented to shareholders. As a result, these shareholders may have the ability to control matters requiring shareholder approval, including the election and removal of directors, the approval of significant corporate transactions, such as any reclassification, reorganization, merger, consolidation or sale of all or substantially all of our assets and the control of our management and affairs. Accordingly, this concentration of ownership may have the effect of delaying, deferring or preventing a change of control of us, impede a merger, consolidation, takeover or other business combination involving us or discourage a potential acquirer from making a tender offer or otherwise attempting to obtain control of us, which in turn could have an adverse effect on the market price of our common stock.

             The right to receive payments on our convertible senior notes is subordinate to the rights of our existing and future secured creditors. Our convertible senior notes are unsecured and are subordinate to existing and future secured obligations to the extent of the value of the assets securing such obligations. As a result, in the event of a bankruptcy, liquidation, dissolution, reorganization or similar proceeding of our company, our assets generally would be available to satisfy obligations of our secured debt before any payment may be made on the convertible senior notes. To the extent that such assets cannot satisfy in full our secured debt, the holders of such debt would have a claim for any shortfall that would rank equally in right of payment (or effectively senior if the debt were issued by a subsidiary) with the convertible senior notes. In such an event, we may not have sufficient assets remaining to pay amounts on any or all of the convertible senior notes.

             As of December 31, 2017, Atlanticus Holdings Corporation had outstanding: $244.0 million of secured indebtedness, which would rank senior in right of payment to the convertible senior notes; $118.4 million of senior unsecured indebtedness in addition to the convertible senior notes that would rank equal in right of payment to the convertible senior notes; and no subordinated indebtedness. Included in senior secured indebtedness are certain guarantees we have executed in favor of our subsidiaries.  For more information on our outstanding indebtedness, See Note 9, “Notes Payable,” to our consolidated financial statements included herein.

             Our convertible senior notes are junior to the indebtedness of our subsidiaries. Our convertible senior notes are structurally subordinated to the existing and future claims of our subsidiaries’ creditors. Holders of the convertible senior notes are not creditors of our subsidiaries. Any claims of holders of the convertible senior notes to the assets of our subsidiaries derive from our own equity interests in those subsidiaries. Claims of our subsidiaries’ creditors will generally have priority as to the assets of our subsidiaries over our own equity interest claims and will therefore have priority over the holders of the convertible senior notes. Consequently, the convertible senior notes are effectively subordinate to all liabilities, whether or not secured, of any of our subsidiaries and any subsidiaries that we may in the future acquire or establish. Our subsidiaries’ creditors also may include general creditors and taxing authorities. As of December 31, 2017, our subsidiaries had total liabilities of approximately $323.5 million (including the $244.0 million of senior secured indebtedness mentioned above), excluding intercompany indebtedness. In addition, in the future, we may decide to increase the portion of our activities that we conduct through subsidiaries.

Note Regarding Risk Factors

The risk factors presented above are all of the ones that we currently consider material. However, they are not the only ones facing our company. Additional risks not presently known to us, or which we currently consider immaterial, also may adversely affect us. There may be risks that a particular investor views differently from us, and our analysis might be wrong. If any of the risks that we face actually occurs, our business, financial condition and operating results could be materially adversely affected and could differ materially from any possible results suggested by any forward-looking statements that we have made or might make. In such case, the trading price of our common stock or other securities could decline, and you could lose part or all of your investment.  We expressly disclaim any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law.