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Election Signals Anti-Regulation Sentiment

The GOP victory in yesterday’s mid-term elections probably will not translate into any immediate relief for the consumer financial services industry. But if you are looking for any sign of where things might be heading, know that voters handily rejected many candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the unofficial founder of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, stumped for this election cycle. Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts Attorney General, spent the last few years promulgating some of the most restrictive debt collection regulations in the nation. Warren was a frequent campaign companion, but it didn’t help Coakley in the end, she lost her bid…

Consumer Baits Collector to Violate FDCPA, Files Suit

If I did not read this opinion I never would have believed it. In one of the greatest examples of baiting a collector into a violation of the FDCPA, a plaintiff in Missouri decided he was not going to wait for a collector to call him and instead called the collector himself to induce a 1692c(a)(2) violation. According to the opinion, “In mid-June 2014 plaintiff retained an attorney to represent him regarding his debts, including those which defendants are attempting to collect from him. Shortly after retaining legal counsel plaintiff phoned defendant MRG to ask about the debt and to inform…

Eleventh Circuit Clarifies Prior Express Consent Under TCPA, Reverses Mais

With its decision in Crawford v. LVNV Funding, LLC still leaving a bad taste in the collection industry’s mouth, the Eleventh Circuit has provided some solace to the financial services industry with its decision in Mais v. Gulf Coast Collection Bureau, Inc., No. 13-14008 (11th Cir. Sept. 29, 2014).  The key holding was the reversal of the district court’s interpretation of “prior express consent” under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Plaintiff sued the medical service provider and its debt collection agent for making autodialed or prerecorded calls to his cellular telephone in violation of the TCPA.  His wife had given his cellular telephone…

‘Four-Second Review’ Decision Cited in Meaningful Involvement Class Action

Following on the heels of a June 30 decision finding that a New Jersey law firm violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because its attorneys spent four seconds reviewing a pleading, a complaint seeking class certification has been filed against the same firm, citing findings of fact from the adverse court opinion. The complaint, filed in New Jersey state court last month, was removed to the federal District of New Jersey last week. The complaint is available here. The complaint focuses on a May 2014 settlement letter, which it alleges was not prepared by attorneys and was sent before an “attorney exercised professional judgment by…

En Banc Hearing Sought in FDCPA Case, Crawford v. LVNV

Last month’s 11th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that allowed a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act claim to be made against a bankruptcy proof of claim filed on out-of-statute debt will get a rehearing if a petition filed by LVNV Funding, LLC is granted. An Outlier Decision Crawford caused a stir when it was issued a few weeks ago because it upset a well-settled body of law that prohibited such FDCPA claims. And although en banc requests are often denied, when a decision conflicts with an established body of law there is a better chance it will be granted. That may be what happens here.…

NJ Court Holds No FDCPA Violation for Filing Suit on Time-Barred Debt

Filing a lawsuit to collect a time-barred debt does not violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act according to a June 30 decision from a New Jersey state trial court. The decision, Midland Funding v. Thiel, involved a collection action to recover the unpaid balance of a Home Depot credit card. The law firm representing the creditor filed suit under New Jersey’s six-year limitation period for contracts, which has been applied to countless credit card debts. The trial court dismissed the claim reasoning that this particular credit card could only be used to make purchases at Home Depot. Four Year Limitations…

TCPA Victory May Expand Scope of Vicarious Liability Claims

Companies that hire vendors to place automated calls to cell phones may find themselves at greater risk for Telephone Consumer Protection Act troubles following a decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Thomas v. Taco Bell Corp. The recent decision follows a May 2013 ruling from the Federal Communications Commission in In re Dish Network, LLC, that applied an expanded view of liability for a vendor’s conduct (also known as “vicarious liability”). Widening the TCPA Trap for Vendor Conduct What the FCC said in In re Dish Network, LLC  is that TCPA liability is not limited to the “classical” theory of a company’s responsibility for its vendor’s wrongdoing, the theory being that a company is…

11th Circuit Holds Filing a Proof of Claim on Time-Barred Debt Violates FDCPA

Addressing what it termed “a deluge [that] has swept through U.S. bankruptcy courts of late” the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Crawford v. LVNV Funding, LLC  held that filing a proof of claim on time barred debt is conduct that violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). Background The last payment on the underlying debt was made in 2001 and subject to Alabama’s three year statute of limitations. The debtor filed for relief under the Bankruptcy Code in 2008 during which the current owner of the debt filed a proof of claim. Neither the debtor nor the Chapter…

FDCPA Decision Challenges Lawyers

New Jersey lawyers, who file lawsuits to collect debts, face significant risk of lawsuits themselves from the very persons they sue on behalf of their clients. A June 30 decision by a New Jersey federal district court found a law firm violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) because its attorneys did not spend sufficient time reviewing its pleadings or examining documents. Daniel Bock, Jr. allegedly had broken his promise to pay a debt and his creditor hired a New Jersey law firm to obtain payment. The firm sued to recover the debt and Bock soon after settled, paying…

CFPB Orders Realty Company to Pay $500,000 RESPA Fine

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has ordered RealtySouth, the largest real estate firm in Alabama, to pay a civil monetary penalty of $500,000 for mortgage disclosure violations. The CFPB has charged the company with illegally steering purchasers to use its affiliated company, TitleSouth LLC, for title and closing services. The penalty, along with other injunctive relief, are contained in a consent order under which RealtySouth neither admits nor denies the CFPB’s allegations. The CFPB says the company violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, when it encouraged its agents and in some cases required them to use TitleSouth in real estate…

FTC’s Recent Enforcement Action Sets New Debt Collection Standards

Auto lenders are in the cross-hairs of federal regulators. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently announced it is drafting a larger nonbank participant rule for auto lenders. In the meantime, the Federal Trade Commission announced yesterday the filing of a stipulated order imposing a civil monetary penalty and injunctive relief against a subprime auto lender. Big Penalty, Restitution, Restrictions The Federal Trade Commission announced yesterday that Consumer Portfolio Services, Inc. will pay a civil monetary penalty of $5.5 million arising from its servicing and collection of consumer motor vehicle loans. In addition to the monetary penalty, the lender agreed to make certain changes to…

There’s Guidance in CFPB’s Supervisory Highlights Report

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s May 22 Supervisory Highlights report offers a rare glimpse into the CFPB’s thoughts on its first two years of supervision of nonbank entities, particularly debt buyers and debt collectors. Although the report contains several of the bureau’s standard talking points (data integrity in debts sales, for example) it does reveal new issues that have drawn the regulator’s attention and new guidance on pre-existing areas of concern. Compliance Management Systems It’s hard to believe, but according to the bureau some credit reporting agencies had no compliance management systems in place. Where it found a CMS, there were several instances uncovered where neither…