Tag Archives: United States

Legal Discussion: Debt Collection –15 U.S.C. § 1692e — False or misleading representations

Federal law prohibits debt collectors from making false or misleading representations when they attempt to collect debts.

15 U.S.C. § 1692e. False or misleading representations

A debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading
representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt.
Without limiting the general application of the foregoing, the following
conduct is a violation of this section: Continue reading

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Companies in the Spotlight: CVS to Pay $11 Million to Settle DEA Accusations

The seal of the United States Drug En...

The seal of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Source: DEA Press Release

APRIL 3 (WASHINGTON) — CVS Pharmacy, Inc., and Oklahoma CVS Pharmacy, L.L.C., (collectively “CVS”), have agreed to pay $11,000,000 to the United States to settle civil penalty claims for record-keeping violations under the Controlled Substances Act and related regulations, announced Administrator Michele M. Leonhart of the Drug Enforcement Administration and Sanford C. Coats, United States Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma. Continue reading

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Victims of Green Tree Servicing and Bank of America

PLEASE DO NOT CONTACT THIS OFFICE ABOUT GREEN TREE SERVICING FOR ANY REASON. EMAILS AND VOICEMAILS ABOUT GREEN TREE WILL NOT BE RETURNED.

PLEASE TRY THE CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU, BECAUSE THEY ARE ASSISTING CONSUMERS WITH ISSUES WITH GREEN TREE SERVICING. SEE http://www.consumerfinance.gov/newsroom/cfpb-and-federal-trade-commission-take-action-against-green-tree-servicing-for-mistreating-borrowers-trying-to-save-their-homes/

4/21/15 UPDATE: THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS HELD GREEN TREE SERVICING ACCOUNTABLE. 

Green Tree Servicing Allegedly Deceived Homeowners, Many of Whom Were Already in Financial Distress

A national mortgage servicing company will pay $63 million to resolve Federal Trade Commissionand Consumer Financial Protection Bureau charges that it harmed homeowners with illegal loan servicing and debt collection practices.

The FTC and CFPB allege that Green Tree Servicing LLC made illegal and abusive debt collection calls to consumers, misrepresented the amounts people owed, and failed to honor loan modification agreements between consumers and their prior servicers, among other charges.

Under the proposed settlement, Green Tree will pay $48 million to affected consumers and a $15 million civil penalty. The company also will stop its alleged illegal practices, create a home preservation plan for some distressed homeowners, and take rigorous steps to ensure that it collects the correct amounts from consumers.

“It’s against the law for a loan servicer to lie about the debts people owe, or threaten and harass people about their debts,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Working together, the FTC and CFPB are holding Green Tree responsible for mistreating homeowners, including people in financial distress.”

Green Tree has become the servicer for a substantial number of consumers who were behind on their mortgage payments at the time their loans were transferred to Green Tree. Because homeowners cannot choose their servicer, they are locked into a relationship with the company for as long as it services their loans.

Illegal Debt Collection Practices

According to the FTC and the CFPB, Green Tree’s collectors called consumers who were late on mortgage payments many times per day, including at 5 a.m. or 11 p.m., or at their workplace, every day, week after week, and left many voicemails on the same day. They also unlawfully threatened consumers with arrest or imprisonment, seizure of property, garnishment of wages, and foreclosure, and used loud and abusive language, including calling consumers “deadbeats,” mocking their illnesses and other struggles, and yelling and cursing at them. The company also allegedly revealed debts to consumers’ employers, co-workers, neighbors, and family members, and encouraged them to tell the consumers to pay the debt or help them pay it. The complaint also alleges that Green Tree took payments from some consumers’ bank accounts without their consent.

The agencies also allege that Green Tree pressured consumers to make payments via Speedpay, a third-party service that charges a $12 “convenience” fee per transaction, claiming it was the only way to pay, or that consumers had to use the service to avoid a late fee.

Mishandled Loan Modifications and Delayed Short Sale Requests

According to the complaint, in many instances, Green Tree failed to honor loan modifications that were in the process of being finalized when consumers’ loans were transferred from other servicers to Green Tree. This resulted in consumers making higher monthly payments, receiving collection calls, and even losing their homes to foreclosure.  Green Tree also allegedly misled consumers about their loss mitigation options. The company told some consumers who were behind on their mortgages that they needed to make a payment to be considered for a loan modification, even for programs that prohibited the company from requiring up-front payments. In addition, Green Tree took up to six months to respond to consumers’ short sale requests despite telling them it would respond much more quickly. These delays caused consumers to lose potential buyers, miss other loss mitigation options, and face foreclosures they could have avoided.

Misrepresented Account Status to Consumers and Credit Reporting Agencies

According to the complaint, Green Tree misrepresented the amounts consumers owed or the terms of their loans. This included telling consumers they owed fees they did not owe, or that they had to make higher monthly payments than their mortgage contracts required. The company often knew or had reason to believe that specific portfolios of loans it acquired from other servicers contained unreliable or missing information. In many instances, it should have known that consumers had loan modifications from prior servicers and therefore owed lower amounts. And when consumers disputed the amounts owed or terms of their loans, Green Tree failed to investigate the disputes before continuing collections.

Green Tree also allegedly furnished consumers’ credit information to consumer reporting agencies when it knew, or had reasonable cause to believe, that the information was inaccurate, and failed to correct the information after determining that it was incomplete or inaccurate – often when consumers told Green Tree about it.

Proposed Settlement Order

In addition to the $63 million in monetary payments, the proposed settlement order includes provisions that require Green Tree to:

  • establish and maintain a comprehensive data integrity program to ensure the accuracy and completeness of data and other information about consumers’ accounts, before servicing them;
  • cease collection of amounts disputed by consumers until Green Tree investigates the dispute and provides consumers with verification of the amounts owed;
  • meet certain loan servicing requirements to ensure that whenever Green Tree is involved in the sale or transfer of servicing rights, the buyer or transferee will honor loss mitigation agreements and properly review outstanding loss mitigation requests;
  • ensure that it has enough personnel and the technical capacity to handle loss mitigation requests and respond to consumer inquiries in a timely fashion, and make its loss mitigation application available to consumers at no cost and on its website;
  • implement a “Home Preservation Requirement” to provide loss mitigation options to consumers whose loans were transferred to Green Tree during the time period covered by the complaint; and
  • obtain substantiation for any amounts collected when consumers have in-process loan modifications, and for purported amounts due when there is reason to believe a newly transferred loan portfolio is seriously flawed.

The proposed order also prohibits Green Tree from making material misrepresentations about loans, processing procedures, payment methods, and fees, from taking unauthorized withdrawals from consumer accounts, and from violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint and proposed stipulated order was 5-0. The FTC filed the complaint and proposed stipulated order in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. Stipulated orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

To learn more, read Making Payments to Your Mortgage Servicer and Debt Collection.

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PLEASE READ: DUE TO AN OVERWHELMING NUMBER OF CALLS, WE RESPECTFULLY REQUEST THAT YOU REFER YOUR GENERAL COMPLAINTS ABOUT GREEN TREE SERVICING’S BUSINESS PRACTICES TO THE CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU (www.consumerfinance.gov)

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Green Tree Logo

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VICTIMS OF GREEN TREE SERVICING

AND BANK OF AMERICA


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Legal Discussion: Reporting Pay or the “Three Hour Rule”

Reporting Pay, or the “Three Hour Rule”

In Massachusetts, the law is clear about “reporting pay.” Reporting pay means the minimum pay that an employer must give for requiring an employee to show up for a shift of three or more hours, and then sending them home early.

Here is the law:

455 CMR 2.03

2.03: Hours Worked (1) Reporting Pay. When an employee who is scheduled to work three or more hours reports for duty at the time set by the employer, and that employee is not provided with the expected hours of work, the employee shall be paid for at least three hours on such day at no less than the basic minimum wage. 455 CMR 2.03(1) shall not apply to organizations granted status as charitable organizations under the Internal Revenue Code.

Example:

Joe is a delivery man at a flower shop.  Joe is scheduled to work a full shift (5 hours) on Valentines Day.  Due to a nationwide shortage of roses, the business is unable to fill any orders. Joe’s boss “cuts” him and sends him home after 2.5 hours on the clock.  Joe’s hourly rate is $15.00.  The flower shop must pay him this way:

  • 2.5 hours at Joe’s regular rate of 15.00/hr, which equals  $37.5, then at least the minimum wage for a half hour, which would be $4.00, resulting in a  a total of $41.50 minimum owed to Joe.

Reporting Pay image

Source: Attorney General’s publication about Massachusetts Wage and Hour Laws, .pdf (here).

There are no reported cases that I was able to find about this law. However, there is an opinion letter here and below:

07/09/2007 - Reporting Pay Provision "Three Hour Rule"
Opinion Letter
MW-2007-002
July 9, 2007
I am writing in response to your request, on behalf of your client ***, for this Office's written opinion regarding the applicability of the Massachusetts Minimum Fair Wage Law. Specifically, you have asked how 455 C.M.R. §2.03(1), the Reporting Pay requirement, applies to employees scheduled to work less than three hours. [1]
The Reporting Pay provision, also known as the "three hour rule," provides:
When an employee who is scheduled to work three or more hours reports for duty at the time set by the employer, and that employee is not provided with the expected hours of work, the employee shall be paid for at least three hours on such day at no less than the basic minimum wage. [This provision] shall not apply to organizations granted status as charitable organizations under the Internal Revenue Code.
455 C.M.R. §2.03(1). Therefore, if a for-profit employer schedules an employee for three or more hours, the employee arrives at the worksite on time, and the employer does not provide the expected hours, the employee must be paid for at least three hours at no less than the minimum wage ($7.50 per hour). Of course, for any actual time worked, the employee must be paid his/her actual wage. For example, if an employee is told that a meeting will take four hours, and the employee is sent home after two hours, the employee must be paid for two hours at his/her regular rate of pay, and at least minimum wage for the third hour. [2]
Alternatively, if an employee is, in good faith, scheduled for less than three hours, the employer may pay the employee for only the hours worked. For example, if an employee is scheduled for a two-hour meeting and she/he works these two hours, the "three hour rule" is inapplicable, and the employer may pay the employee for only the hours worked.
I hope this information has been helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me.
Sincerely,
Lisa C. Price
Deputy General Counsel
[1] As you know, most employers are also subject to the federal minimum wage and hour law, found in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and regulations promulgated thereunder. For information about applicable federal wage and hour laws, you should contact the U.S. Department of Labor.
[2] Of course, if the meeting causes a non-exempt employee's hours to exceed 40 hours in the workweek, the employee must be paid time and one-half pay for all hours actually worked in excess of 40 hours.
***=Names have been Omitted

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Companies in the Spotlight: Misconduct by Citizens Bank

August 12, 2015

CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU ORDERS CITIZENS BANK TO PAY $18.5 MILLION FOR FAILING TO CREDIT FULL DEPOSIT AMOUNTS

CFPB, OCC, and FDIC Take Action Against Bank For Ignoring Deposit Discrepancies

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) took action against Citizens Bank for failing to credit consumers the full amounts of their deposited funds. The bank kept money from deposit discrepancies when receipts did not match actual money transferred. Today’s CFPB consent order requires the bank to provide approximately $11 million in refunds to consumers and pay a $7.5 million penalty for the violations.

“Citizens Bank regularly denied customers the full credits of their deposits when there were discrepancies between deposit slips and the actual money transferred into the bank,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “The bank chose to ignore these discrepancies and harmed many consumers by pocketing the difference.”

Today’s CFPB action is against Citizens Bank, N.A., formerly known as RBS Citizens Bank, N.A.; Citizens Financial Group, Inc., formerly known as RBS Citizens Financial Group, Inc.; and Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania. The bank operates retail branches in about a dozen states and among its various products and services are deposit accounts. For the period at issue, the bank generally required its customers making a deposit to fill out a slip listing the checks or cash being deposited, and their total. The customer then turned the deposit slip over to the bank and got a receipt reflecting the amount on the deposit slip for the transaction. The bank scanned the deposit slip and deposit items at a central location.

The CFPB investigation found that from January 1, 2008 to November 30, 2013, Citizens Bank violated the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act’s prohibition on unfair and deceptive practices by failing to properly credit consumers’ checking and savings accounts. In cases where the bank’s scanner misread either the deposit slip or the checks, or if the total on the deposit slip did not equal the total of the actual checks, Citizens Bank did not take action to fix the mistake if it fell below a certain dollar amount. Over the years, by ignoring the discrepancies the bank shorted consumers millions of dollars. Specifically, Citizens Bank:

  • Failed to credit consumers the full amount of their deposits: Citizens Bank frequently did not give consumers full credit for their deposits when the amount scanned on the deposit slip was less than the amount of the checks and cash deposited. The bank credited the consumer’s account with what was read on the deposit slip, not the actual sum of money the consumer transferred into the bank. Citizens only investigated and fixed errors when they were above a certain threshold. From January 2008 to September 2012, the bank only looked into discrepancies greater than $50. From September 2012 to November 2013, the bank only looked into discrepancies greater than $25.
  • Falsely claimed that it would verify deposits: Citizens Bank told consumers that deposits were subject to verification, implying that the bank would take steps to ensure consumers were credited with the correct deposit amount. But the bank’s practice was not to verify and correct deposit inaccuracies unless they were above the $25 or $50 threshold. Although some consumers benefited by this policy, others lost money that rightfully belonged to them. The CFPB concluded that many of those consumers were harmed by this unfair and deceptive practice.

Enforcement Action
Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the CFPB has the authority to take action against institutions engaging in unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices. Today’s order requires Citizens Bank to:

  • Pay approximately $11 million in redress to victims: Citizens Bank must pay $11 million to consumers who did not receive all the money that should have been deposited into their accounts. Citizens Bank must include any fees the consumer incurred related to the under-crediting, including but not limited to any overdraft fees, insufficient funds fees, and monthly maintenance fees. The bank must also include a reasonable estimate of interest on these amounts. Consumers are not required to take any action to receive their credit or check. If the consumers have an open account with the bank, they will receive a credit to their account. For closed accounts, Citizens Bank will send a check to the affected consumers.
  • End all violations of federal consumer financial law in connection with deposit discrepancies: Citizens Bank is prohibited from engaging in violations of unfair, deceptive, and abusive acts or practices in connection with deposit transactions. Among other things, this means the bank must properly review its compliance management system to ensure no further violations relating to its processing of deposits, it must not misrepresent its processing practices, and it must incorporate corrective actions if the bank fails to process deposits consistent with federal consumer financial law. The bank has made a significant technology investment over the past year to address the issue.
  • Pay $7.5 million civil penalty: Citizens Bank will make a $7.5 million penalty payment to the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund.

The CFPB is taking this action in coordination with the FDIC and the OCC. The FDIC separately ordered Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania to pay restitution and a $3 million civil penalty. The OCC separately ordered Citizens Bank, N.A., to pay restitution and a $10 million civil penalty. In total, Citizens Bank must pay about $11 million in consumer refunds and $20.5 million in federal penalties for these coordinated actions. As part of these actions, the FDIC and OCC are ordering additional relief relating to business accounts.

A copy of the CFPB consent order is available at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201408_cfpb_consent-order-rbs-citizens.pdf

Information about the FDIC action can be found at: https://www.fdic.gov/news/news/press/2015/

Information about the OCC action can be found at: http://www.occ.gov/news-issuances/news-releases/2015/index-2015-news-releases.html

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Source: US Attorney’s Office Press Release (.pdf here).

Former Citizens Bank Teller Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

Fraud

“A Good Bank Helps Guard Against Fraud.”

JANUARY 11, 2013
BOSTON – A Rhode Island woman was convicted today of embezzling more than $375,000 from the accounts of Citizens Bank customers.

Maria DaSilva, 44, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns to violating the federal bank fraud statute.

From February 2008 through January 2012, while she was working as a bank teller at the North Attleboro branch of Citizens Bank, DaSilva embezzled over $375,000 from the accounts of three elderly bank customers by forging withdrawal slips on various accounts held by these customers.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 8, 2013. DaSilva faces up to 30 years in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release and a $1,00,000 fine.

United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz and Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Boston Field Division, made the announcement today. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy Sternberg of Ortiz’s Economic Crimes Unit.

Citizens candy jar

Citizens candy jar

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Is Greystar a Good Landlord?

We are interested in learning more about Greystar’s Business Practices in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Greystar operates six apartment buildings in Massachusetts:

Do you have complaints about Greystar?

Greystar

Greystar

In a January 2013 press release Greystar claims to be “the largest operator of apartments in the United States” (Equity Residential may dispute that assertion).

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Greystar: Redefining Excellence in Apartment Living?

Really?

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