District Court puts hold on CFPB’s $2.7 billion request in telemarketer case
On June 7, the U.S District Court for the District of Utah denied the CFPB’s motion for an award of monetary and injunctive relief, assessment of civil money penalties, and final judgment in an action taken against a group of Utah-based credit repair telemarketers and their affiliates (collectively, “defendants”). As previously covered by InfoBytes, the CFPB sued the defendants in 2019 for allegedly committing deceptive acts and practices in violation of the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) and the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) by charging consumers a fee for credit repair services when they signed up for the services through telemarketing, and then monthly thereafter. Certain defendants also allegedly made false and misleading claims guaranteeing, or ensuring the high-likelihood, that loans or rent-to-own housing offers would be available through affiliates after signing up for credit repair services when the products were not available. In March, the court granted the Bureau’s motion for partial summary judgment, ruling in favor of the agency on claims that the defendants violated the TSR’s prohibitions against charging upfront fees for credit repair services.
According to the June 7 order, the Bureau asked the court to award more than $2.7 billion in monetary relief, justifying the amount as “either a ‘refund of moneys’ or, alternatively, as legal (as opposed to equitable) ‘restitution.’” The Bureau also requested civil money penalties of $35.2 million and $17.6 million against different defendants, as well as extensive injunctive relief. Defendants argued that the maximum civil money penalty should fall within the range of $1 and $17.6 million as their alleged conduct “did not merit the maximum Tier 1 penalty,” and that, in any event, “the Tier 1 daily limit in the statute should apply to the aggregate penalty amount imposed on all [d]efendants collectively.” Defendants also asked the court to deny the requested injunction or clarify its requirements.
In denying the Bureau’s motion, the court wrote that “outstanding issues of fact” preclude it from entering the agency’s requested relief at this time. “Given the existence of these factual disputes, the court finds it will be most efficient to consolidate further discussions of relief with final pretrial proceedings,” the court said, denying the agency’s request without prejudice.