Debt collection lawsuits provoke probes

Aug. 13, 2012 at 4:23 PM
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NEW YORK, Aug. 13 (UPI) -- Legal experts, including a U.S. judge, are saying that many credit card debt lawsuits are similar to the foreclosure fiasco that rocked the banking industry.

"I would say that roughly 90 percent of the credit card lawsuits are flawed and can't prove the person owes the debt," said Noach Dear, a civil court judge in New York City.

Dear has presided over hundreds of credit card lawsuits, The New York Times reported Monday.

And, although an estimated 95 percent of the cases are decided in favor of the lender, because the borrower does not show up in court, the cases still resemble the illegal foreclosure practices in which legal firms hired by banks were accused of "robo-signing" documents, which refers to signing documents by machine that had not even been read.

"This is robo-signing redux," said Peter Holland, director of the the Consumer Protection Clinic at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

After a recent debt-recovery trial, Judge Dear said a witness for the lender had provided "robo-testimony," which could be defined as testimony so generic that the specific case in question was being ignored, the newspaper reported.

"We strongly disagree with Judge Dear's comments and believe that we have a strong process in place to ensure accuracy of testimony and affidavits provided to courts," said Sonya Conway, a spokeswoman for American Express.

Regulators, however, including the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Futures Trading Commission, are looking into debt collecting issues.

"Our concerns center on the fact that debt collection lawsuits are a pure volume business," FTC assistant director Tom Pahl told the Times.

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