Jefferson City, MO – Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley yesterday announced that Missouri joined 41 states and the District of Columbia in reaching a $6 million settlement with Encore Capital Group Inc. and its subsidiaries Midland Credit Management, Inc. and Midland Funding, LLC, one of the nation’s largest debt buyers.
Debt buying involves buying and selling overdue debts from creditors and other account owners. Often purchased for pennies on the dollar, debt buyers seek to recover the full balance from consumers through collection attempts by phone and mail. Debt buyers, including Midland, also take consumers to court to collect the debts they purchase. However, people are often unable to afford attorneys to defend the allegations and cases result in default judgments, hurting credit and putting people in jeopardy of having their wages garnished.
The settlement resolves the States’ investigation into Midland’s collection and litigation practices. Much like the conduct witnessed during the mortgage crisis, the agreement settles claims that Midland signed and filed affidavits in state courts in large volumes without verifying the information printed in them, a practice commonly called robo-signing.
“Protecting vulnerable consumers from unscrupulous debt collectors is paramount to my office,” Hawley said. “We will not hesitate to illuminate and stop predatory debt collection practices that seek to take advantage of Missourians.”
The settlement requires Midland to reform its affidavit signing and litigation practices. Midland must carefully verify the information in affidavits and present accurate documents in court proceedings. When Midland files a lawsuit, it must have account documents about the debt before it files the case, including the amount of the debt, proof of an agreement, and an explanation about why any additional fees are justified.
The settlement offers protections to consumers from whom Midland collects even if they are not being sued. All consumers must receive accurate information about valid debts. If a consumer disputes a debt Midland is collecting, the settlement requires Midland to review original account documents before it continues its collection efforts. Midland must provide these substantiating documents to the consumer for no charge. The settlement also requires Midland maintain proper oversight and training over its employees and the law firms that it uses. The agreement prohibits Midland from reselling debt for two years.
As part of the settlement, Midland will completely eliminate or reduce the judgment balances of approximately 363 consumers for a value of $557,530 in cases where Midland used an affidavit against them in court between 2003 and 2009. Midland will notify impacted consumers by mail of the balance reduction and no further action is necessary from the consumer. Missourians are expected to benefit from over $700,000 of the settlement in debt forgiveness and other payments.
Joining Missouri in today’s settlement were attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia.
SOURCE: news provided by AGO.MO.GOV on December 5, 2018