A high-level federal examiner at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency reportedly leaked information to Wells Fargo about the existence of an investigation – something that is strictly forbidden. debt defense

Debt defense attorneys in Miami know that this kind of disclosure means the bank could have taken measures to protect itself from criminal or civil liability.

American Banker reports the tip-off was uncovered by a watchdog agency with the U.S. Treasury Department, which found the examiner in charge of the Wells Fargo investigation for the OCC reportedly let the bank in on the probe by the Treasury Department. The exact nature of that investigation and the details of what Wells Fargo executives learned about it have not yet been released. In general, employees for the OCC are not supposed to discuss any pending investigative details unless they specifically have the express approval to do so.

This lead wasn’t previously reported, but was discovered in a recent report released by the inspector general’s office for the Treasury Department. It should be noted the OCC’s budget is dependent on fines and assessments against the banks it oversees – which includes Wells Fargo, a company with more than $2 trillion in assets. Continue reading

America’s criminal justice system is being used to enforce private debts. That’s according to a new in-depth investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) into the extent and impact of courts cooperating with the private debt collection industry in the U.S.debt collection

In “The Criminalization of Private Debt,” the ACLU reports that courts in 26 states (including Florida) plus Puerto Rico have issued warrants for the arrest of alleged debtors, all because a private debt collection company asked them to. Of course, such practices violate numerous state and federal laws, as well as international human rights laws. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the hammer of these practices comes down especially hard on Black and Latino communities, primarily because of a long history of gaps in wealth and poverty along ethnic and racial lines.

It’s estimated 77 million Americans – 1 in 3 – has debt that has been turned over to a private collection agency. Of those, the ACLU reported, thousands were arrested and thrown into jail because they had not paid this money. Bear in mind: Debtors’ prisons were eradicated in the U.S. way back in 1833. And yet, the ACLU discovered tens of thousands of debt-related warrants are issued annually. Continue reading

Over the last several months, the authority and drive of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been eroded piece-by-piece. consumer rights lawyer

Recently, The New York Times reported the agency’s pursuit of predatory payday lenders relaxed considerably amid intense lobbying of the industry to this administration. In just two months, hundreds of lobbyists from the industry will be in Florida for a retreat at the Trump National Doral Golf Club. Meanwhile, the CFPB’s interim director, Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, announced a halt to enactment of a rule imposed tight restrictions on short-term payday loans, which lead to some of the most extreme cases of abusive payday lending. He has also stopped enforcement actions against payday lenders who trick consumers into thinking that borrowing rates are less expensive than they truly are.

Then there was word the agency was dropping the investigation into the Equifax data breach. This was the incident that exposed the private, personal data of millions of Americans to hackers. To put this into perspective, criminals now have access to critical, sensitive data from 145 million Americans (including addresses and social security numbers), putting those consumers at high risk for fraud victimization that can damage their credit and financial security – and the company negligent in allowing this breach suffers no consequences. Continue reading

While Americans are “drowning in debt,” the White House is waging a war on regulation that is ultimately going to push even more consumers into greater debt and higher rates of poverty. Although these plans are touted as part of a pro-business agenda intended to spur economic growth, our Miami debt defense attorneys recognize many of these measures are going to have a harsh impact on consumers – especially those already in the lower tax brackets.debt defense attorney

One of the most recent and perhaps most destructive of these efforts is the recent stripping down of the consumer protections and watchdog oversight of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You may recall this is the agency created seven years ago that has since been dedicated (successfully so) to preventing consumer rip-offs by loan and credit card issuers, debt collectors, payday lenders and other large financial players. Prior to this administration’s assuming control of the CFPB, the agency had collected nearly $12 billion in compensation for 29 million consumer victims of financial scammers.

Since Mick Mulvaney (also budget director for the Trump administration) stepped in as interim director of the agency in November, he has been dismantling key elements of the program piece-by-piece. He has done significant damage just in the last several months, and planned actions are likely to further threaten consumer financial well-being. Continue reading

A federal bankruptcy judge who took Bank of America to task for its treatment of homeowners in a foreclosure case refused to rescind his scathing opinion in which he called the bank “heartless” for its conduct, despite the bank’s agreement to settle if the judge did so. foreclosure lawyer

In Sundquist v. Bank of America, the judge awarded nearly $6 million in damages to the couple ($5 million of that in punitive damages and attorney’s fees), as well as $40 million to the intervenors in the case for the bank’s actions. The bank has offered to set aside its appeals and settle the case for several million dollars in excess of that $6 million, if only the judge will expunge his opinion and vacate the $40 million in damages to the intervenors. The couple has offered to donate $300,000 to the intervenors. However the judge, who has been labeled a hero in some circles, while agreeing to vacate the intervenors’ damage award, has refused to rescind his opinion. In a new recently-released response opinion, the judge stated the bank’s settlement offer was a coercive effort to erase the record. He frankly stated, “No chance. No dice.”

The intervenors in this case include a number of law schools and non-profit consumer advocacy organizations intervened on behalf of the public. The judge noted that the points made by these entities were valid, and the bank has thus far issued no apology and offered no remorse or made offers to change the corporate practices that led to the foreclosure abuses this couple suffered – which were not isolated incidents.  Continue reading

A recent letter from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency slams Wells Fargo & Co., and warns it may be taking federal enforcement action against the financial institution for a host of wrongs in its mortgage and auto insurance operations. consumer rights attorney

The Wall Street Journal reports the federal regulator, in a letter submitted last month, accused the bank of willfully causing its customers harm. The bank has been given the opportunity to respond. The financial giant is alleged to have failed repeatedly to take corrective action on known problems in a broad range of its consumer services – beyond just mortgage lending and auto insurance.

The bank refused to comment on the letter publicly, telling the WSJ it is continuing with its commitment to fixing existing problems, working closely with its risk management teams to rebuild trust from both consumers and employees. The OCC turned down the opportunity to comment further on the pending regulatory action. Continue reading

Stolen consumer data from Equifax is reportedly being used by criminals, who heisted the information to apply for student loans, credit cards and even mortgages. The Chicago Tribune reports a class action lawsuit alleges this, as well as individuals using the compromised information to tap into consumer’s bank accounts, file claims with insurers, steal tax refunds and rack up sizable debt. consumer rights attorney

The lawsuit involves dozens of consumers who filed complaints from each state, as well as in the District of Colombia. The data taken from Equifax included credit card accounts, driver’s license numbers, Social Security numbers and other information that could be used to drill into individual’s accounts and finances. The breach of information from the purportedly secure databases of Equifax affected nearly 15 million people in the U.S.

The class in this case is likely to become enormous, and asserts the credit bureau violated a number of state and federal laws.  Continue reading

Student loan debt has reached astronomical highs in recent years, and now, The New York Times is reporting on a phenomenon that’s making it even harder for borrowers to keep up. In 19 states, when you fail to keep up with your student loan payments, government agencies can seize state-issued professional licenses. In a 20th state, South Dakota, it’s legal for the state to suspend a person’s driver’s license, making it all but an impossibility to commute to and from work.  hospitalworkers-300x200

Debt collection actions surrounding student loans have been increasingly punitive, but these types of measures – those that threaten a person’s livelihood – make it all the more difficult for them to pay it off, not to mention provide for themselves and their families. It puts them at risk of bankruptcy and foreclosure. These professionals range from teachers to nurses to attorneys to firefighters to psychologists – all of whom have been stripped of their credentials that allow them to maintain a job in their field.

The Times reported there were at least 8,700 cases they could identify, but that’s almost certainly a low-ball figure because the majority of licensing boards and state agencies don’t track this type of data.  Continue reading

Researchers from The Ohio State University, Rutgers University, the Chicago Fed and Georgetown University have concluded banks are attempting to influence voters’ opinion of the Dodd-Frank Act, hoping to discredit the truth: That the financial reform measure has been great for consumers. It’s also opined the banks are seeking to influence Congressional action on a bill to reform the financial measure. foreclosure lawyer

Specifically, the study authors posit in their working paper, “The Politics of Foreclosure,” that banks responsible for servicing delinquent mortgages held off on proceeding with foreclosures in electoral districts where members of the House Financial Services Committee are poised for re-election. The researchers discovered that although there was no difference in the rates of mortgage delinquency between non-committee districts and committee districts, the committee districts had far lower rates of foreclosures.

Basically, the banks were turning down the volume on the foreclosure complaints committee members would receive. Because there would not be as many foreclosures in those districts, there would be far fewer complaints from constituents regarding the financial hardship of the mortgage crisis fallout. In turn, the Congressional leaders would be more lenient during the debate on the bill, giving the banks an edge.  Continue reading

The sweeping financial reforms instituted by the previous White House administration face serious threats as Wall Street and the politicians backed by them set their sights on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The creation of the CFPB in 2010 is intended to serve as a watchdog over large banks and corporations that threaten consumer rights – much like what we saw leading up to the housing market collapse that drove us into a recession.consumer rights lawyer

The first significant victory, of course, happened in late October, when Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate necessary to block implementation of a new landmark rule by the CFPB to ban arbitration provisions by banks and credit card firms. The rule ensured wronged consumers would still have access to the courts to settle disputes via class action litigation, which evens the playing field when consumers are wronged by large corporations and financial institutions. Now, though, the arbitration provisions will continue, and class action lawsuits will grind to a halt. The CFPB’s director put it simply, “Wall Street won and ordinary people lost.”

Now, that director is stepping down, and there is ongoing talk of shutting down the CFPB, with powerful bank and business representatives lamenting the agency’s “unchecked” power and “lack of accountability.” The truth of the matter is that although the agency has only been in existence for about 5.5 years, enforcement actions against everyone from small-time debt collectors to the world’s biggest banking giants has resulted in the return of nearly $12 billion to some 30 million consumers. Further, it’s public database of consumer complaints against lenders has resulted in a host of new rules on everything from prepaid cards to student loans to mortgages. The agency also has been able to obtain some type of solution to some 160,000 consumer complaints out of 800,000. Continue reading