WASHINGTON JPMorgan Chase will pay $136 million to settle charges that it used illegal tactics to go after delinquent credit card borrowers.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau alleges the bank illegally relied on robo-signing - signing mass quantities of documents - and provided inaccurate information to third-party debt collectors when it sold the accounts. The bureau also said that Chase filed misleading lawsuits using inaccurate information to obtain debt collection judgments.
Under the terms of the agreement announced Wednesday, JPMorgan will refund $50 million to affected consumers and pay $136 million in fines to the bureau, 47 states and District of Columbia.
Michigan will receive $3,159,564.
The bank will permanently halt collecting on 528,000 accounts. It will have to pay a separate $30 million penalty to the Office of the Comptroller of Currency.
From the Office of Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller:
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller joined attorneys general in 47 states plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau today in announcing a $136 million settlement reached with Chase Bank USA N.A. and Chase Bankcard Services Inc., requiring the company to reform its unlawful credit card debt collection practices.
The joint state-federal agreement, through an assurance of voluntary compliance with the states and a separate order with the CFPB, follows an investigation into Chase’s past debt collection practices.
“Chase consistently pursued credit card debt collection cases based on bad information, including cases where the listed debt was the wrong amount, tied to the wrong person, discharged, not eligible to pursue or very old – often called ‘zombie debt,’” Zoeller said. “These wrongful collections significantly harmed consumers in Indiana, causing undue harassment from debt collectors and errors on their credit reports. Now, thousands of Hoosiers will get needed relief and be able to clean up their credit.”
According to the joint state-federal probe, Chase:
• Subjected consumers to collections activity for accounts that were not theirs, in amounts that were incorrect or uncollectable.
• Subjected consumers to inaccurate credit reporting and unlawful judgments that may affect consumers’ ability to obtain credit, employment, housing and insurance in the future.
• Sold certain accounts to debt buyers that were inaccurate, settled, discharged in bankruptcy, not owed by the consumer, or otherwise uncollectable.
• Filed lawsuits and obtained judgments against consumers using false and deceptive affidavits and other documents that were prepared without following required procedures, a practice commonly referred to as “robo-signing.” These practices misled consumers and courts and caused consumers to pay false or incorrect debt and incur legal expenses and court fees to defend against invalid or excessive claims.
• Made calculation errors when filing debt collection lawsuits that sometimes resulted in judgments against consumers for incorrect amounts.
Agreement Requires Debt Collection Reforms
The agreement requires Chase to significantly reform its credit card debt collection practices in areas of declarations, collections litigation, debt sales and debt buying. Debt buying involves the sale of debt by creditors or other debt owners, often for pennies on the dollar, to buyers who then attempt to collect the debt at full value or sell it to other buyers.
Among other reforms, the agreement requires new safeguards to help ensure debt information is accurate and that inaccurate data is corrected, provides additional information to consumers who owe debts, and bars Chase’s debt buyers from reselling consumer debts to other purchasers. Previously, initial buyers of Chase’s consumer credit card debt could resell the debt, the subsequent buyer could flip the debt to another buyer, and the process could repeat itself many times over. If initial information about the debt was incorrect or was transmitted with errors to a subsequent debt buyer, that could result in long-term harm to the consumer and leave the consumer with the difficult or even impossible burden of successfully challenging or correcting errors.
Chase suspended its consumer credit card debt sales in 2013 and collections litigation in 2011. In 2012 Chase maintained approximately 64.5 million open accounts with $124 billion in outstanding credit card debt. From 2009-2013, Chase recovered approximately $4.5 billion of debt from defaulted accounts through collection lawsuits, selling defaulted accounts to third-party debt buyers, or both.
Chase to Cease Collecting on 7,000 Indiana Consumers
Chase has agreed to cease all collection efforts on more than 528,000 consumers, including an estimated 7,000 Indiana consumers. Chase sued the affected consumers for credit card debts and obtained judgments between January 1, 2009 and June 30, 2014. Chase will notify affected borrowers of the change and will request all three major credit reporting agencies to not report the judgments.
The agreement also ensures that Chase will fulfill $50 million in consumer restitution through a separate 2013 consent order reached with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Chase estimates that so far it has provided $406,000 in restitution to 400 Indiana consumers.
If Chases’ consumer restitution through the OCC action falls short of $50 million by July 1, 2016, Chase must pay the remaining balance to state attorneys general and the CFPB.
Chase will pay more than $95 million to the 47 participating states and the District of Columbia, an additional $11 million to the executive committee states that conducted the investigation and settlement negotiations, and $30 million to the CFPB.
Debt collectors are bound by state and federal laws, including the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect from consumers.
Indiana residents can file complaints against abusive or unfair debt collectors with the Indiana Attorney General’s Office at www.IndianaConsumer.com or by calling 800-382-5516.