Skip to main content
Menu Icon Menu Icon
Close

InfoBytes Blog

Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

CFPB, seven State AGs file suit against debt-relief company

Federal Issues CFPB State Attorney General Colorado Delaware Illinois Minnesota New York North Carolina Wisconsin Debt Relief

Federal Issues

On January 19, the CFPB and seven state attorneys general (Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, and Wisconsin) announced a lawsuit against a debt-relief company, its subsidiaries, and its two individual owners (defendants) for allegedly facilitating an unlawful debt relief service. According to the complaint, the company used third parties to solicit consumers with large debts and direct them to contact defendants. The company then, allegedly, advised consumers to enroll in their debt-relief service that will negotiate reduced payoff amounts with consumers’ creditors and represent consumers. Additionally, individual defendants implicated in the action created law firms paired with one of the company’s subsidiaries, which performed little to no work on behalf of consumers, while non-attorney negotiators from the company were tasked with renegotiating a consumer’s debt. The CFPB and the AGs alleged that the company charges fees ($84 million since 2016) before and during the service, that left consumers with additional debt, lower credit scores, lawsuits with creditors, and had none of their original debts settled or reduced.

Among other things, the CFPB claimed the company violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) by (i) charging advance fees before a consumer has made at least one payment under a debt settlement plan; (ii) collecting fees after settling some of a consumer’s debts when the fees are not proportional to the amount of debt defendant successfully settled or based on a fixed percentage of the amount saved; and, (iii) supporting its subsidiary law firms that the company knew or knowingly avoided knowing engaged in abusive acts or practices. The complaint sought permanent and preliminary injunctive relief, redress for consumers, and a civil money penalty. On January 11, the court granted the Bureau’s request for a temporary restraining order.