On April 13, 2020, The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (“WI DFI”) released a guide titled “Emergency Guidance on Prohibited Debt Collection Practices,” along with a cautionary, interpretive letter issued from the WI DFI to a debt collector meant to serve as an example of impermissible practices. The perceived intent of the guide is to encourage debt collectors to act reasonably during the current pandemic, and also to warn of the debt collection practices that are prohibited by the Wisconsin Consumer Act. Read more
The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a District Court’s decision and issued a significant opinion in Van Hoven v. Buckles & Buckles, P.L.C., __ F.3d __, 2020 WL 239290 (6th Cir. Jan. 16, 2020). In Van Hoven, the court held that due to the unsettled interpretation of the law it was not improper to add court cost to the balance of a wage garnishment filed with the court and that the inclusion of previous court costs associated with previous garnishments, although not permissible, may be subject to the bonafide error defense which must be further reviewed by the lower court. To quote the Court, “Just as a lawyer does not ‘misrepresent’ the facts by making a factual contention later proved wrong, a lawyer does not ‘misrepresent’ the law by advancing a reasonable legal position later proved wrong.” Id., at p. 9. The Court went on to say “Legal contentions must be objectively baseless, not just later proved wrong, to be actionable under the [FDCPA].” Id. The Van Hoven holding is consistent with precedent from other Circuits and encourages creditors’ counsel to advance reasonable interpretations of unsettled law. The National Creditors Bar Association (which KWA is a proud member of) filed an amicus brief in support of reversal and has published a more in-depth article. To review their article, please visit: NCBA Member Bulletin, “Court Rules in Favor of NCBA Member Firm.”
A basic premise of debt collection law is that a creditor cannot collect a debt from someone whom does not owe that debt. However, what if one were to flip that premise? What if a person whom didn’t owe a debt filed suit under the FDCPA against a law firm which previously filed an “in rem” foreclosure action and named that person as a party in the foreclosure action? Read more
Judge Nugent issued his final ruling in Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Weltman, Weinberg, & Reis Co., LPA on July 25, 2018. This decision was a big win for Weltman and the creditors’ bar generally. In this case, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) argued that Weltman violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) by sending letters to debtors on its letterhead, under the theory that the letters constituted an implicit representation that an attorney had been meaningfully involved in the file, when in fact no attorney had been so involved. The Court held that Weltman did not violate the FDCPA in sending demand letters on its letterhead because attorneys were meaningfully involved in the handling of the files on which letters were sent. Read more
The case brought against Weltman, Weinberg, & Reis (“WWR”) by the Consumer Federal Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) moved one step closer to resolution, if not clarity, this month. Senior U.S. District Judge Donald Nugent will issue a verdict after considering the jury’s conclusions of fact, which were returned on two questions:
- Did WWR’s initial demand letters contain “false, deceptive, or misleading representations or means”? The jury concluded that they did.
- Did the CFPB prove that WWR’s attorneys were not meaningfully involved in the debt collection process? The jury concluded that it did not.
A majority of federal court circuits have adopted the least-sophisticated consumer standard in analyzing Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) claims. The least-sophisticated consumer standard is to ensure that the FDCPA protects gullible as well as shrewd consumers. Creditor Rights advocates have had to contend with this standard, which essentially lowers the burden for a consumer, for years. Although the standard provides deference to the consumer, it is still fairly objective; it merely asks whether the least sophisticated consumer would have been misled by the actions of the debt collector. Read more
A bill that was recently introduced in the House of Representatives would exempt debt collection attorneys from the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) “when taking certain actions.” The Bill, which was introduced by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) and co-sponsored by Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), is described as a technical fix that does not erode the consumer protections afforded by the FDCPA. Read more
Over the past five years, debt collection agencies and law firms have had to struggle with the question of whether or not to leave voicemail messages for debtors. The source of this quagmire, and its potential consequences, lay in the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), and its interpretation by Federal Courts since 2007. It should be noted at the outset that under federal law, communications from an original creditor does not fall under the rubric of the FDCPA. However, individual state laws may have their own requirements for communications from original creditors. This article only addresses voicemail messages left by collection agencies, law firms or third party collection entities on your behalf. Read more
Congress enacted the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (“FDCPA”) on September 20, 1977 to protect consumers by eliminating abusive debt collection practices. At that time, the only modes of communication in debt collection were land-line telephones and U.S. Mail (now known as “snail mail”). Steve Jobs had just invented the first Apple I personal computer, the first cellular network had not yet been installed in the United States and Mark Zuckerberg (the “co-founder” of Facebook) was not yet born. For those of you familiar with the text and application of the FDCPA, it is painfully clear that Congress did not anticipate the emergence of new technologies utilized in the consumer collection of debts. Case law addressing the use of voicemail messages confirms this conclusion. Read more
Sometime in June 2012, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decided that a law firm could be liable, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), for stating the wrong identity of the mortgage owner in a foreclosure complaint. In effect, the Sixth Circuit held that a pre-assignment foreclosure filing could violate the FDCPA. Read more