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Businessman testifies about ‘pay day’ loans at congressional committee

Robert Sherrill testifies about pay day loans before a Congressional committee. (Source: U.S. Congress)

Robert Sherrill testifies about pay day loans before a Congressional committee. (Source: U.S. Congress)

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) – Pay day loans are expected to have new regulations about how and where they can operate in Nashville by April, but a small business owner from Nashville is making the argument for small pay day loans on Capitol Hill.

Some people call the pay day loans are scams, but Robert Sherrill testified before Congress why scaling back loans could actually hurt more people than it would help.

“I got a phone call and was asked ‘Would you like to go to Washington and tell your story?’ and I was like ‘Wow!’” said Sherrill, president of Imperial Cleaning Systems.

Sherrill said he grew up in the projects with no money, dropped out of high school in ninth grade and went to prison, all before his 30th birthday.

That seems like another lifetime for Sherrill.

A few years ago when he was released from prison, the only lender that would approve a $250 loan was Advance Financial.

He paid that loan off in two weeks, then took another loan for his industrial cleaning business.

Imperial Cleaning Systems now has 20 employees and makes over $400,000 a year.

Last week Advance Financial asked Sherrill to testify on its behalf in front of a congressional committee deciding whether to support tougher regulations on the short-term, high-interest loan industry.

“I’m on the ground. You need it,” testified Sherrill. “When the odds are stacked against you and you don’t have anyone to call, what do you do? Has anyone here ever experienced that feeling because it’s not a good feeling.”

Sherrill’s blunt, honest and meaningful message was applauded by the committee.

“It was crazy. They all were like ‘We’re proud of you. You have a success story. It needs to be told,’” said Sherrill.

Now he’s spreading his message to everyone who has ever fallen on hard times, had trouble starting a business or getting a job because no one knows that struggle better than Sherrill.

“I grew up in the projects, went to prison and lived the street life,” said Sherrill. “Now to cross over and to be legit and run a legit company, I believe I have more of a message and understanding about various issues than the average person.”

The debate over how to regulate the small-dollar, high-interest loan industry is heating up locally too.

Metro Councilman Jeff Syracuse has filed a bill seeking to limit the number of “flex loan” stores operating the same area in Nashville.