Posted on

DITECH MOTION TO DISMISS DENIED AFTER REMOVING CLIENT’S NAME FROM MODIFICATION AGREEMENT

On July 3, 2018, Judge Birotte Jr. of the Central District of California denied a motion to dismiss filed by Ditech that argued our client was not removed from the home mortgage loan even though the lawsuit alleges that Ditech undertook the specific actions of removing her name as a customer and signatory to a modification agreement entered into by the ex-husband.  Ditech argued that the modification agreement contains a clause that shows the underlying loan still applies in full force as against our client.   However, California law specifically holds that any inconsistent terms between the modification agreement and the underlying agreement are replaced by the modification agreement.  Our position was that the modification agreement only applies between Ditech and the ex-husband, because it is a basic principal of contract law that someone cannot be held liable to something they did not agree to, and therefore any term in the modification agreement that shows the original note still applies in full force only applies to Ditech and the ex-husband subject to the inconsistent terms in the modification agreement.

 

The Court agreed with our allegations, ruling that Ditech’s actions in removing our client’s name as a customer creates at least an inference worthy of discovery and litigation that Ditech intended to remove our client from the loan altogether, and that when Ditech continued reporting to the credit reporting agencies that our client remains obligated upon the loan in the full amount then Ditech furnished false/inaccurate/misleading information as against our client.  Furthermore, Judge Birotte also agreed that when Ditech continued to call our client directly seeking payment after the ex-husband went into default, Ditech engaged in unlawful debt collection in violation of the Rosenthal Act.

Read the opinion by clicking HERE.

Related Tags:

Posted on

CITIZENS BANK MOTION TO DISMISS DENIED FOR INACCURATELY REPORTING DEBT AFTER FORECLOSURE

On January 30, 2018, Judge Hayes of the Southern District federal court denied Citizens Bank’s motion to dismiss our inaccurate credit reporting claims.  Based on California Civil Code 580b, when a lender decides to foreclose on a home instead of pursuing the borrower for financial damages, and if the mortgage was undertaken for the purpose of purchasing the house, then the lender cannot pursue the borrower for any deficiency between what is left of the balance of the loan after foreclosure sale.  This is known in California as the “one bite” rule—the lender only gets “one bite” at the apple in pursuing recourse for the default.

Judge Hayes agreed with our allegations that, because the lender cannot pursue the borrower for any deficiency owed on the balance of the loan, then the lender also cannot report that deficiency upon the borrower’s credit reports.  In this case, Judge Hayes found that Citizens Bank had reported false, inaccurate, and misleading information, because Citizens Bank had been reporting on our client’s credit reports that he still owed a significant balance upon the loan after the foreclosure sale, which created the misleading impression that our client was still in default upon the account even though our client had no liability at all upon the account after the Bank chose to proceed with a foreclosure sale.

You can read a copy of the ruling by clicking HERE.

Related Tags:

Posted on

Client v. Nationstar Mortgage, LLC; Equifax Information Services, LLC; Trans Union, LLC; Credit Plus, Inc.

Case Name:Client v. Nationstar Mortgage, LLC; Equifax Information Services, LLC; Trans Union, LLC; Credit Plus, Inc.
Case Number:5:18-cv-00774
Court Location:Central District of California
Date Filed:04/17/2018
Posted on

TRANS UNION, LLC HIT WITH WHOPPING $60 MILLION JURY VERICT

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on June 21, 2017

 

Recently, in the Northern District of California, a jury returned a verdict of $60 million dollars against Trans Union, LLC (reportedly the largest FCRA verdict in history) based on class action allegations that Trans Union, LLC’s procedures inaccurately mixed innocent consumers with the names of terrorists and criminals with similar names from a government watch list.

Reporter Cara Bayles of law360.com recently wrote about the verdict and explained that, “TransUnion LLC’s credit reports checked consumers against the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control database, which lists terrorists, drug traffickers and other criminals. But, the suit alleged, reports about law-abiding consumers were sometimes linked to similarly named criminals on the OFAC watch list.” Ms. Bayles’ article can be read HERE .

The 8,185 class members were made of 8,185 individuals, each of whom were awarded by the jury roughly $984 in statutory damages and $6,353 in punitive damages, bringing the total award to $8 million in statutory damages and $52 million in punitive damages. The jury verdicts can be viewed by clicking HERE and HERE.

Our law firm is also experienced in handling FCRA violations based upon mixing information between consumer files. If you or a loved one have experienced any similar problems, do not hesitate to contact us for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Posted on

LIVING A “MIXED-FILE NIGHTMARE”

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on April 4, 2017

 

With shocking frequency, the credit reporting agencies mix the files of two vastly different people to where one person suffers the consequences of another person’s bad life choices simply because they share a common name. For example, Lisa S. Davis published a very well-written article for The Guardian recently that describes the nightmare that she was forced to endure because her credit file had been mixed with multiple other women of the same name. The author’s nightmare included having to falsely plead guilty to traffic violations incurred by another “Lisa Davis”, after the judge threatened to jail her for lying about not being the culprit, so that she could clear her suspended driver’s license (which had been suspended erroneously due to the other “Lisa’s” traffic infractions). For years the author had believed that the other “Lisa Davis” had been stealing her identity, but in reality the system had mixed her identity with multiple other people of the same name. This article can be read in full by clicking HERE

Even though the above author’s situation happened in connection with background checks and the DMV, the “mixed file nightmare” more frequently arises in credit scenarios with respect to credit reports. This is typically discovered when someone is denied credit due to a history of negative credit in his/her file that was incurred by someone else, or receives lawsuits and/or debt collection efforts meant for someone else of the same name.

One example occurred to a Seattle woman named named Julie Miller. She had attempted to obtain credit in order to assist her disabled brother, including her desire to outfit her house to make it more disabled-assistive. She was repeatedly denied credit due to her file containing a long history of negative credit accounts incurred by someone else with a similar name. Her attempts to rectify the situation were routinely ignored by Equifax for approximately two years. Thus, a lawsuit resulted in a jury verdict of $180,000.00 in actual damages and $18.4 million in punitive damages. An article on this verdict can be read HERE

Our law firm also prosecutes these cases. In one matter, the client was denied credit due to his credit file containing a long history of negative credit incurred by his father. Experian did not identify the son as a person, and tagged the son’s identity to the father’s credit file. Thus, when a credit report was prepared for the son (who apparently didn’t exist according to Experian’s records), the report contained only information related to the father’s negative credit history. As a result, the son was denied credit.

When the son attempted to rectify this problem with Experian, his attempts were denied because he was using his own (and true) social security number as his identifying information in his letters to Experian. Because Experian did not recognize him as a person under that social security number (his true SSN), Experian denied every request. Therefore, Experian placed him in a completely helpless situation to where he had no choice other than to file a lawsuit to get his file corrected and get his life back in order.

The lawsuit also involves Corelogic, who is a reseller that was paid by the creditor to obtain the reports from Experian. Corelogic knew the information was not able to be published as the son’s credit history, yet passed the information on to the creditor as if it was the son’s accurate report anyway.

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 complaint for this case can be read by clicking HERE

If you or a loved one is experiencing anything similar, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free and confidential consultation.

Posted on

HARD VS. SOFT INQUIRIES ON CONSUMER CREDIT REPORTS

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on September 2, 2016

 

Recently, we have had numerous calls by individuals who are confused as to the difference between “soft” inquiries vs. “hard” inquiries on their consumer credit reports.

As a general rule, an inquiry is created when your credit report is accessed by a third party. Typically, these third parties are potential creditors—such as a credit card company, an auto dealership, or a home mortgage loan officer—but are also sometimes debt collection agencies, repossession agencies, insurance companies, and even potential employers. When consumers apply for a car loan, for example, the lender who is being asked to provide the loan will request a credit report for the consumer, which is generally obtained from either Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. The fact that your credit information was used by these third parties will be noted on the consumer’s credit report, along with the date it was requested, the name of the third party that requested it, and the type of inquiry.

Before we discuss specifics, it is important to note that inquiries remain on the consumer’s credit reports for two years. Soft inquiries will have less of an effect on the consumer’s credit score than hard ones. So what’s the difference?

Hard inquiries are inquiries that can significantly affect a consumer’s credit score. They suggest to potential creditors that the consumer is actively trying to obtain credit, whether it be for a car, a credit card, a home mortgage loan, or simply a student loan. Numerous hard inquiries in a short period of time creates red flags, because it appears as if the consumer is trying to obtain more credit than s/he typically carries, and therefore might not be able to repay, which results in more of a negative impact upon the consumers’ credit score than individual hard inquiries spread out over a longer period of time.

Soft inquiries, on the other hand, are generally not the result of a consumer who is shopping for credit. They can occur due to a consumer who requests their own credit report, or a lender who sends a consumer a preapproved credit offer. Such inquiries are not the result of active credit requests by the consumer, and therefore they do not generally result in the consumer’s credit score being negatively impacted. Other soft inquiries may include a request generated by a potential employer or an insurance company whose purpose is not to provide “credit” to the consumer.

How to Avoid Unintentional Hard Inquiries?

As indicated above, a consumer who reviews their credit report will: 1) not cause a hard inquiry on their own credit report, and 2) can see if others are making hard inquires on their credit report. It is important to know that generating an inquiry (hard or soft) without a “permissible purpose” is a violation of the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”).

If you don’t know where to get a free credit report, or what to look for, Semnar & Hartman, LLP can help. We provide a free, no strings attached confidential consultation, where we sit down with any potential client and review their credit reports with them. If there is an error, or an inquiry that should not be there, we can help with disputing the information. If it is not removed with a simple dispute letter, then we may be able take pursue a lawsuit on your behalf, without any fee being charged to you. The FCRA provides for the consumer to obtain his/her attorneys’ fees from those who violate the Act. Moreover, they provide for statutory damages for the consumer for willful violations, even if the consumer has not suffered any actual harm.

NOT LEGAL ADVICE – Please call us to schedule a Free Consultation, whereby you may receive legal advice tailored for your specific situation.

So, feel free to come see us at 400 South Melrose Drive, Suite 209, Vista, California, or simply call us at (619) 500-4187 to schedule a phone consultation to ensure your credit report is free of any unwanted or unauthorized inquires. You can also obtain more information at our website: www.SanDiegoConsumerAttorneys.com

Posted on

WELLS FARGO PENALIZED OVER UNLAWFUL STUDENT LOAN SERVICING PRACTICES

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on August 28, 2016

 

On August 22, 2016, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) entered into a consent order with Wells Fargo over the manner in which Wells Fargo has been unlawfully handling its student loan servicing practices. The CFPB is a federal government agency that is tasked with investigating unlawful and unfair practices that creditors, banks, and debt collectors engage in with respect towards consumers. If violations are discovered and alleged, the CFPB has the power to issue a wide array of penalties that could include ordering a business to close its operations. Needless to say, when the CFPB sets its targets on a financial entity, the company should be in fear.

On August 22, 2016, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) entered into a consent order with Wells Fargo over the manner in which Wells Fargo has been unlawfully handling its student loan servicing practices. The CFPB is a federal government agency that is tasked with investigating unlawful and unfair practices that creditors, banks, and debt collectors engage in with respect towards consumers. If violations are discovered and alleged, the CFPB has the power to issue a wide array of penalties that could include ordering a business to close its operations. Needless to say, when the CFPB sets its targets on a financial entity, the company should be in fear.

Before we discuss specifics, it is important to note that inquiries remain on the consumer’s credit reports for two years. Soft inquiries will have less of an effect on the consumer’s credit score than hard ones. So what’s the difference?

  • Processing payments in a way that maximized fees owed by consumers. Specifically, if a borrower made a payment that was not enough to cover the total amount due for all loans in an account, Wells Fargo divided that payment across the loans in a way that maximized late fees rather than satisfying payments for some of the loans. The bank failed to adequately disclose to consumers how it allocated payments across multiple loans, and that consumers have the ability to provide instructions for how to allocate payments to the loans in their account. As a result, consumers were unable to effectively manage their student loan accounts and minimize costs and fees.
  • Billing statements misrepresenting to consumers that paying less than the full amount due in a billing cycle would not satisfy any obligation on an account. In reality, for accounts with multiple loans, partial payments may satisfy at least one loan payment in an account. This misinformation could have deterred borrowers from making partial payments that would have satisfied at least one of the loans in their account, allowing them to avoid certain late fees or delinquency.
  • Illegally charging late fees even though timely payments had been made. Specifically, charging illegal late fees to payments made on the last day of their grace periods, and also charging illegal late fees to certain students who elected to pay their monthly amount due through multiple partial payments instead of one single payment.
  • Failing to update and correct inaccurate, negative information reported to credit reporting agencies about certain borrowers who have made partial payments or overpayments.

For these unlawful practices, Wells Fargo must pay at least $410,000.00 to consumers as compensation for illegal collection fees and late fees, and must allocate partial payments made by a borrower in a manner that satisfies the amount due for as many of the loans as possible, unless the borrower directs otherwise. Wells Fargo must also provide consumers with improved disclosures in billing statements, which must explain how the bank applies and allocates payments and how borrowers can direct payments to any of the loans in their student loan account. Wells Fargo must also remove any negative student loan information that has been inaccurately or incompletely provided to a consumer reporting agency. Wells Fargo must also pay a $3.6 million penalty to the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund.

The CFPB’s consent order can be ready by clicking HERE.

Clearly, this is not a light slap on the wrist that banks typically believe they should get, and this strong action by the CFPB should hopefully send a clear message to Wells and other financial institutions that they must take consumer rights very seriously and respect consumers as human beings instead of just another financial account on the books.

If you or a loved one have concerns over any account being serviced or owned by Wells Fargo, please do not hesitate to contact our law firm for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Posted on

WHAT ARE ATTORNEYS’ FEES AND HOW ARE THEY AWARDED?

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on January 12, 2016

 

We have talked a lot in other articles about how your attorneys’ fees can be awarded for successful prosecutions of actions under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the California Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies Act. Sometimes people ask what this means and how are they awarded by the court.

It is not every case that allows for the court to award attorneys’ fees, because typically the court only rules upon a motion for attorneys’ fees after the consumer (our client) wins on the merits. The majority of cases settle for a specific lump sum of money, from which the attorneys will normally take a percentage on a contingency fee basis as their fees. However, if your case goes to trial and you win a verdict in your favor, or if your case is won pre-trial on motion for summary judgment, then the law requires that the creditor or collector who violated your rights to pay your attorneys’ fees by order of the court (unless they decide to settle for a specific amount of fees).

In some cases, and more rarely, the creditor or debt collector against whom the lawsuit was brought might agree to a settlement whereby the consumer (our client) is awarded a specific amount of damages and then our attorneys’ fees and costs are to be decided by the court.

In the attached example that you can read here, the defendants Western Dental Services and their debt collector Herbert P. Sears Company, Inc. did exactly that. They agreed that our client would be awarded a specific, but confidential, sum of money with our attorneys’ fees and costs being decided by motion to the court.

The total amount awarded by the court was $65,277.28 for attorneys’ fees and costs of litigation. This was based on what is called the “lodestar” calculation, which requires the court to simply calculate a reasonable hourly rate by a reasonable number of hours expended by the attorneys in order to come up with the total amount to be awarded.

However, it is often not clear how the attorneys are awarded a certain hourly rate. The lodestar method typically requires the court to look at what is an average hourly rate for other attorneys in the same jurisdiction as the court where the case was filed with similar experience as the attorney whose motion is pending. It is common in the consumer rights area for the courts to rely on the U.S. Consumer Law Attorney Fee Survey Report that is prepared every couple of years in order to document the average salary for consumer attorneys in each region and territory within the United States, mostly based on experience level and years of practice. The 2013-2014 version of this survey was prepared by Ronald L. Burdge, Esq., and can be found on the National Consumer Law Center’s website at https://www.nclc.org/images/pdf/litigation/fee-survey-report-2013-2014.pdf.

The court ruling got to the total amount of $65,277.28 by adding the reasonable costs of litigation to the total hourly amounts awarded to Jared M. Hartman at $349.00 per hour and Babak Semnar at $425.00 per hour in connection with their prosecution of claims under the Federal and Rosenthal FDCPA and California credit reporting act.

If you or a loved one are concerned about whether your rights have been violated by a debt collector, creditor, bank, or credit reporting agency, please do not hesitate to call us for a free and confidential consultation to discuss whether your case might fall within one of the areas of law that allow us to pursue our attorneys’ fees in a similar manner.

Posted on

SOMEONE ELSE’S INFORMATION ON YOUR CONSUMER CREDIT REPORT?

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on December 1, 2015

 

Have you discovered that someone else’s information has been posted on your consumer credit report? It is frighteningly common for the consumer credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union) to mix someone else’s negative credit accounts with another person. It should go without saying that your consumer credit report should be 100% accurate with respect to only your own credit accounts. One common exception to this occurs with married couples who may be jointly liable for each other’s lines of credit, or may be listed as authorized users on each other’s individual accounts. However, when a consumer credit reporting agency is mixing the information for two people with the same name—whether related or not—then the law has been violated. In fact, this is one of the primary reasons that the U.S. Legislature enacted the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act in the first place. The FCRA enforces this principle when it requires the consumer credit reporting agencies to follow reasonable procedures to ensure maximum possible accuracy of the information “concerning the individual about whom the report relates.” See 15 U.S.C. 1681e(b). This Section requires the agencies to have in place reasonable procedures to ensure that these violations do not occur, and they must follow those procedures. Courts have ruled that it may very likely be unreasonable for the credit reporting agencies to only match names without using any other identifying factors such as date of birth, social security number, address, or the like. Typically, whether an agencies procedures are reasonable, however, is a question for the jury to decide under the circumstances. It is also unreasonable for a credit reporting agency to maintain two files under one social security number, since it is mandatory that each SSN belong to only one person.

Please click HERE to read a complaint that has recently been filed by Semnar & Hartman, LLP against Experian that alleges this very violation—alleging that Experian merged the derogatory accounts belonging to the young consumer’s estranged father into the consumer’s file, which caused him to be outrightly denied the opportunity to apply for an auto loan that he desperately needed.

If you or a loved one have been contacted by this debt collector, please contact us immediately for a free and confidential consultation to review your rights.