District Court issues judgment against debt-collection law firm
On January 11, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York entered a proposed stipulated final judgment and order against a defendant New York debt-collection law firm. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Bureau’s complaint alleged that between 2014 and 2016 the defendant initiated over 99,000 collection lawsuits in an attempt to collect debts by relying on “non-attorney support staff, automation, and both a cursory and deficient review of account files,” in violation of both the FDCPA and the Consumer Financial Protection Act. The Bureau alleged the lawsuits contained names and signatures of attorneys despite those attorneys “not being meaningfully involved in reviewing the merits of the lawsuits,” including not reviewing pertinent documentation related to the debts, such as account applications, billing statements, payment histories, and the terms and conditions governing an account. Moreover, the defendant allegedly did not perform reviews of the contracts related to debt sales, despite filing lawsuits on behalf of debt buyers that have been accused of unlawful debt collection practices.
In order to continue with debt-collection litigation, for each collection suit, the settlement requires the defendant to possess documents with specific information about the debt, including the name of the original creditor, evidence that the consumer authorized the debt, the chain of assignment supporting any sale of the debt, and a break-down of how the debt amount was calculated. The defendant must also certify that the attorney whose name appears on the complaint reviewed the supporting documentation and ensure the complaint is consistent with that documentation. Any pending lawsuit in which the defendant does not certify its compliance with the specific information and meaningful attorney review requirements must be voluntarily dismissed. The also order requires the defendant to pay a $100,000 penalty to the Bureau.