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Mortgage Servicers Continue to Ignore Deferment Protections for California Military under State Law

It should go without saying that the stress and worry of being deployed is high enough on its own. Add to that stress the concerns over mortgage loans, vehicle loans, credit cards, student loans, and leaving property in storage for several months. Fortunately, California law provides such protections to military reservists that goes much farther than the protections afforded by the Federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
For instance, California Military and Veterans Code 800 provides military reservists called to active duty very strong protections with respect to up to 6 months of deferment on mortgage loans, residential lease contracts, automobile loans, credit cards, and other consumer debts. During this time, no penalties can be assessed against the account for non-payment, the account cannot be reported as delinquent or negative to credit reporting agencies, and no foreclosure proceedings on a mortgage loan can be undertaken. These protections apply equally to the deployed servicemember’s spouse and dependents.
One way that the California law is stronger than the Federal law is that, unlike the Federal law, the State law does not require petitioning the courts to first obtain an order of deferment, because the protections are required to be given if the servicemember simply provides a letter to the creditor, sworn under penalty of perjury, specifically requesting such a deferment and includes a copy of the deployment orders therein. If the credit/loan obligation was incurred before the date of the deployment orders, then the protections are mandatory.
Unfortunately, however, we have seen a disturbing pattern over the years where out-of-state mortgage servicing companies fail to understand California laws in this regard and fail to honor and respect these State laws. But our firm is here to help, as we have extensive knowledge and experience in these laws. We even met with the Colonel who was integral in the writing and passing of these laws to gain a better understanding and insight into their application. This means you and your loved can trust in our ability to handle these claims and advocate on your behalf.
Recently, we filed two new lawsuits against such mortgage companies who just can’t seem to get it right. On November 8, 2018, we filed a lawsuit against Pacific Union Financial, LLC, which you can view by clicking HERE. On November 10, 2018, we filed a complaint against Selene Finance, LP, which you can view HERE.
In each case, the spouse left home during the servicemembers’ deployment has had to endure the completely unnecessary stress and aggravation of dealing with repeated false claims of delinquency and false claims of the amounts owed on each mortgage loan. During a time that is hard enough for the non-deployed spouse to be left home addressing all the family financial responsibilities alone, they were forced to endure more stress that they should have been able to trust would not have arisen. If you or a loved one are experiencing similar problems, please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss your rights and whether our firm can help protect you as well.

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WHAT TO DO WHEN BEING SUED BY A DEBT COLLECTOR

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on March 28, 2017

 

The National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA) has released a series of educational videos to help give basic information to individuals who are faced with debt collection efforts and debt collection lawsuits. The information in these videos is very beneficial, and is information that we are happy to discuss further with respect to any particular situation that you or a loved one may be facing.

Keep in mind that these videos were produced with a nation-wide audience in mind, and there may be laws in your particular state that must be analyzed to determine whether the debt collector has (or has not) violated your rights under your state laws.

We regularly handle debt collection defense cases, and we have strategies in our tool chest that may help you or your loved ones when faced with debt collection lawsuits.

Please watch these videos below, and feel free to call us for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

The first video is entitled: “Dealing with Debt Collectors”. Are you being illegally harassed? If you are having problems with debt collectors, watch this video to learn about your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and state laws.

The second video is called: “I received notice of a lawsuit, what should I do”. If a debt collector files a lawsuit against you to collect a debt, discover what to do next.

The third video is called: “Defending yourself in a lawsuit”. If you want to learn how to represent yourself, hear about common defenses against debt collectors, and gain knowledge of possible outcomes to your trial, then watch this video. NOTE: Our firm does not recommend representing yourself, as you will be facing an attorney with specialized education and training on how to argue their case against you. While it is your right to decide to represent yourself, we advise that you should have legal counsel on your side in order to not run into a legal minefield full of issues and problems that you may not anticipate.

The fourth video is called: “Was I served legal papers properly?” Learn about one of your key defenses. Determine if you were served papers properly.

The Fifth video is entitled: “I have a judgment against me.” If you lost your debt defense case (or did not know it even occurred) and your wages or bank account is being garnished, learn what you can do.

Each of these videos can be viewed on the NACA website, which also includes very helpful information regarding your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and basic information on steps you should take to protect yourself. You can find this webpage at the link below:

http://www.consumeradvocates.org/for-consumers/debt-collection

PLEASE NOTE: Nothing in the above is to be taken as legal advice and is only intended to serve as solicitation for a more in depth consultation. Proper legal advice can only be given after a full consultation to discuss all details of your particular circumstances in a confidential setting.

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STUDENT LOAN GIANT NAVIENT HIT WITH THREE GOVERNMENT LAWSUITS IN ONE DAY

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on January 25, 2017

 

s reported by the Washington Post on January 18, 2017 (the article can be read by clicking HERE), the student loan giant Navient was hit with three government lawsuits in one day for multiple consumer rights violations.

Danielle Douglas-Gabriel reported, “Among the most serious charges in the CFPB complaint is an allegation that Navient incentivized employees to encourage borrowers to postpone payments through forbearance, an option in which interest continues to accrue, rather than enroll them in an income-driven repayment plan that would avoid fees. As a result, the CFPB says Navient amassed $4 billion in interest charges to the principal balances of borrowers who were enrolled in multiple, consecutive forbearances from January 2010 to March 2015.”

With respect to the lawsuit brought by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, CFPB Director Richard Cordray said “Navient has systematically and illegally failed borrowers at every stage of repayment.”

State Attorney Generals of Illinois and Washington also filed a lawsuit that, in addition to pursuing similar claims as the CFPB with respect to servicing violations, also accuse Navient (through its former parent company, Sallie Mae) of peddling “’risky and expensive’ subprime private student loans that carried high interest rates and fees”. AG Madison stated, “Navient and Sallie Mae saddle students with subprime loans that Sallie Mae designed to fail.”

As quoted by Douglas-Gabriel, “The lawsuits are full of deeply disturbing allegations,” said Rohit Chopra, senior fellow at the Consumer Federation of America and the former student-loan point man at the CFPB. “If this is true, then the company’s actions may be responsible for some of the pileup of defaults that we’ve seen in recent years.”

Our firm at Semnar & Hartman, LLP has also recently filed suit against Navient. A copy of the Complaint can be read by clicking HERE. In this lawsuit, the consumer alleges that she paid off the loan with Navient in full, yet Navient proceeded to commit credit reporting violations by falsely reporting that the account had a current balance even after it had been paid in full, then falsely verified to Trans Union that the incorrect reporting was accurate, and also falsely reported to Experian that the account had been discharged in bankruptcy…. Thus, it appears that not even customers who pay their loans in full to Navient are free from their outrageous and abusive consumer violations.

If you also have concerns about the way you are being treated by Navient, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free and confidential consultation.

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WELLS FARGO RECEIVES MASSIVE $190 MILL. FINE FOR FRAUDULENTLY OPENING 1.5 MILL. FAKE ACCOUNTS

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on September 19, 2016

 

Just recently Wells Fargo agreed to a settlement with government agencies (The office of the Comptroller of Currency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Los Angeles City Attorney) to pay a civil penalty of $190 million over its disturbing history of opening fake accounts in customers’ names without the customers’ consent or authorization.

Government investigations have revealed that Wells Fargo pushed its branches to meet high sales quotas, and that a rampant scheme amongst several managers and employees resulted in accounts and credit cards being opened in customers’ names in order for the branches to meet the high quotas. A Wall Street Journal article that describes this history of this disturbing issue can be read by clicking HERE .

In May 2015, the Los Angeles City Attorney filed a lawsuit suit against Wells Fargo, alleging the bank pressured its employees to commit fraudulent acts, including opening accounts for people that don’t exist. The City Attorney filed its lawsuit under the California Unfair Business Practices Act and Unfair Competition Laws.

The CFPB and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency also opened investigations and found that bank employees illegally transferred money from legitimate accounts into unauthorized ones opened for customers without their approval.

More information about the investigation can be read in this CNN Money article, by clicking HERE

Per the Press Release issued by the CFPB:

“Spurred by sales targets and compensation incentives, employees boosted sales figures by covertly opening accounts and funding them by transferring funds from consumers’ authorized accounts without their knowledge or consent, often racking up fees or other charges. According to the bank’s own analysis, employees opened more than two million deposit and credit card accounts that may not have been authorized by consumers.”

“Wells Fargo employees secretly opened unauthorized accounts to hit sales targets and receive bonuses,’ said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Because of the severity of these violations, Wells Fargo is paying the largest penalty the CFPB has ever imposed. Today’s action should serve notice to the entire industry that financial incentive programs, if not monitored carefully, carry serious risks that can have serious legal consequences.”

A copy of the CFPB consent order can be read HERE

Wells Fargo now claims that it will eliminate all sales goals for credit cards, checking accounts, and other retail products starting January 1, 2016 as a measure of addressing these concerns. Additionally, approximately 5,300 employees have been fired over this rampant scheme of fraud. A Los Angeles Times article on Wells Fargo’s recent response can be read HERE.

However, despite the fine and employee terminations and promises of eliminating the aggressive sales tactics that resulted in the widespread scheme of fraud, some people are still outraged that no criminal proceedings are on the forefront. Newsman Ben Swann recently conducted a piece on this issue on his show Reality Check. Watch the video below:

We at Semnar & Hartman, LLP are experienced in handling these very issues on behalf of consumers. When an account is opened in a customers’ name without their consent or authorization, it is without a doubt an illegal account. And when that illegal account accrues fees and costs, but when those fees/costs are not paid because the customer is not aware of the account having been opened, there will inevitably be negative credit reporting and debt collection efforts.

Anyone who has been a victim of this scam deserves justice. We can help.

If you or a loved one have had this unfortunate experience, please do not hesitate to call us for a free and confidential consultation.

Please note, nothing herein is to be construed as legal advice, and is instead hyperbolic opinions on an issue of public concern. Proper legal advice can only be given after a full, and confidential, consultation takes place after a review of all of the client’s circumstances.

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THE DEBT BUYING INDUSTRY

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on August 20, 2016

 

Dealing with a debt buyer can often be a frustrating and stressful experience. In general, debt buyers purchase old debts for a small percentage of how much is owed, and then aggressively pursue collection efforts upon the balance (or large percentage thereof) in order to maximize their ability to profit upon the debt as much as possible. Many debt buyers give their collection agents bonuses and commission based upon the amount they collect, which gives the collection agent incentive to put significant pressure upon the consumer to pay. While this industry is a legitimate and legal industry, the manner in which they operate can easily violate consumer protection laws through misrepresentations about how much is owed, whether interest and collection costs can rightfully be added onto the principle, misrepresentations about potential lawsuits, and in the most extreme cases verbal abuse and personal attacks upon the consumer.

On June 5, 2016, John Oliver highlighted this industry and its flaws in his HBO show “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”, which can be viewed here:

his episode of Oliver’s show explains how easy it is for mistakes to be made, because the typical manner in which the debts are sold and bought is simply through Excel spreadsheets with just basic information about the consumer and how much is owed, which might not provide the debt buyer with sufficient information as to whether the debt is legally enforceable, is actually collectible, if prior payments had been made, and whether any legal stipulations had been included in the original loan agreement. Obviously, the debt buyer who purchases the debt for pennies on the dollar would want to engage in as little review of the account as possible, because the more effort that is put into review before collection means there is less profit to be made when compared to the effort being conducted. In short, quickly collecting as much as possible with as little effort as possible yields the most profitable return in favor of the debt buyer.

Oliver also highlights some of the more extreme and disturbing examples of how the debt buyers in this industry can harm consumers through harassment and oppressive conduct. At 7:02 of his episode, Oliver plays recordings of voicemails left by debt collection agents uttering threats of violence, threats of harassment, and even suggesting that one consumer should commit suicide because she/he is a loser. At 7:46, an undercover video is shown where a debt collection agent laughs and jokes about how he likes to call consumers’ employers at the employers’ home in order to put pressure upon the consumer to pay the debt by harassing the consumers’ employer.

Our law firm routinely pursues lawsuits for legal violations committed by debt buyers and debt collection agencies. If a debt collector is contacting you or a loved one, there is a very realistic possibility that they have already violated your rights. Do not hesitate to contact us for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights!

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DEFAULT JUDGMENT AGAINST ASSISTED CREDIT SERVICES, INC. FOR $30,784.65 FOR MALICIOUS CREDIT REPORTING VIOLATION AND ATTEMPTING TO COLLECT A PAID DEBT

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on July 20, 2016

 

Default Judgment against Assisted Credit Services, Inc. for $30,784.65 for Malicious Credit Reporting Violation and Attempting to Collect a Paid Debt amount, even though the client’s insurance company had already paid more than half of the full debt and the client owed much less than what Assisted Credit was attempting to collect. Luckily, the client was smart enough to raise some red flags instead of just being tricked into blindly paying the full amount. Because the client did not trust Assisted Credit to be honest and ethical, she then paid the balance that she did owe directly to the medical provider. Assisted Credit then got upset and argued with her for depriving them of the ability to keep a portion for their collection “services” for not paying the debt through them.

Thereafter, Assisted Credit furnished an update to the client’s credit report with the false information that she still owed a balance on the alleged debt, even despite their irrefutable knowledge that the client had already paid the balance on the debt directly to the medical provider. Therefore, it was believed that Assisted Credit submitted the derogatory credit reporting information maliciously with the intention of causing damage to the client’s credit score because she paid the balance to the medical provider directly.

After being served with the lawsuit, Assisted Credit hired an attorney, but then for whatever reason fired that attorney and failed to participate in the lawsuit. Because a company or other organization cannot represent itself in court and must appear through an attorney (Rowland v. Cal. Men’s Colony, Unit II Men’s Advisory Council, 506 U.S. 194, 201–02 (1993), the Court graciously gave a deadline to Assisted Credit to retain a new attorney or face default judgment. When Assisted Credit failed to comply, the Court entered default of Assisted Credit. Recently, on July 19, 2016, the Court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiff in the amount of $30,784.65 for the violations alleged.

The Court acknowledge that “Actual damages for credit reporting violations under either statute can include emotional distress and humiliation. See Guimond v. Trans Union Credit Info. Co., 45 F.3d 1329, 1332–33 (9th Cir. 1995) (holding that “emotional distress, manifested by sleeplessness, nervousness, frustration, and mental anguish resulting from the incorrect information in her credit report” can be properly compensated). The Court agreed that the requested damages were appropriate for this client, because she “suffered frustration, anxiety, lack of focus on her livelihood, and feelings of hopelessness” and because her “consumer credit score took a hit after Assisted Credit reported the already-paid debt—a hit that Plaintiff acutely felt, as she had worked hard to rebuild her credit after a prior bankruptcy.” Further, the Court agreed that the credit reporting violations were willful: “evidence of Assisted Credit’s willful conduct in reporting a $120 debt when Assisted Credit affirmatively knew that the debt had been paid warrants punitive damages.” The Court’s well-reasoned and articulate ruling can be read by simply clicking HERE.

This represents a nice opinion confirming that the law and the Courts will protect consumers being harassed by malicious debt collectors who flagrantly violate the law. If you or a loved one are being harassed, lied to, treated unfairly, or notice inaccurate information on your credit report, you should not feel alone and helpless. The law firm of Semnar & Hartman, LLP are experienced in protecting consumers and individuals in these situations. Consultations are always free and confidential, and can be done over the phone to reduce the burden on the client who may just need some questions answered. Do not hesitate to call and discuss your rights!

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