When asked why he did not read over the loan documents before signing them, John Doherty explained: “I was anxious to get the money, I didn't bother about it.” In February 1910, the twenty-three-year-old railroad clerk walked into the offices of the Chesterkirk Company, a loan-sharking operation with offices in lower Manhattan. He was looking to borrow some money. Repayment was guaranteed by the only security Doherty had to offer: his prospective wages and, in his words, his “reputation.” After a brief investigation of Doherty's creditworthiness, the loan was approved. The office manager placed a cross in lead pencil at the bottom of a lengthy form and Doherty signed where indicated. He received $34.85 in exchange for his promise to repay the loan principal plus $10.15 in combined fees and interest in three months. The interest charged was significantly greater than the 6 percent per year allowed in New York State. Doherty's effective annualized interest rate, including fees, was over 100 percent.
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