Mobile Billboard to Circle Debt Collector Trade Association Annual Conference
New Digital Ad Revisits Trump’s Boast “I’m the King of Debt”
New Report Spotlights Deceptive and Abusive Practices of Debt Collection Companies Poised to Gain Under the CFPB Proposal
View Them All at www.ProfilesInHarassment.org
Washington D.C. – As the public comment period deadline nears on the Trump-Kraninger CFPB proposal to loosen regulations for the debt collection industry, consumer watchdog group Allied Progress announced a new campaign urging CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger to fix the proposal so that it puts consumers ahead of industry demands to spam working families. The administration’s proposed rule gives debt collectors more options to harass and invade the privacy of consumers including unlimited texts and emails without first seeking permission. This move would benefit companies like Transworld Systems, Inc. (TSI), which has racked up thousands of consumer abuse complaints over the years to the CFPB and Federal Trade Commission and has received massive fines from both agencies.
The campaign is being kicked off with a mobile billboard circling the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals (ACA International) annual conference on Tuesday in San Diego. In addition, Allied Progress is running a new paid digital ad, “King of Debt,” this week on social media platforms including Facebook and YouTube featuring Donald Trump’s boasts about his massive personal debt. They also released a new report, “Debt Collectors: Profiles in Harassment,” spotlighting the history of consumer abuse from some of the industry’s biggest players. Over the next month, Allied Progress will release more research and videos on why Trump is helping shady companies like this invade consumers’ privacy.
All campaign efforts can be found at www.ProfilesInHarassment.org.
“The Trump administration clearly has a soft spot for industries that treat consumers the worst. First it was special favors for predatory payday lenders, and now abusive debt hunters,” said Allied Progress spokesman Jeremy Funk. “Consumers are already contacted by debt collectors more than a billion times a year, but the Trump administration thinks there’s room for more harassment in more mediums. Of all the things the Trump CFPB could be focused on right now — like filling its many empty supervisory positions, picking up its slack on enforcement, or restarting monitoring of lenders who may be fleecing servicemembers – they’re ironically trying to help enrich the industry behind among the largest numbers of consumer complaints.”
Added Funk: “Debt collectors like TSI seem to consider fines for illegally harassing and deceiving consumers — including “continued attempts to collect debt not owed” – just another cost of doing business. This is not an industry that needs special treatment from Washington, but here we are. Donald Trump may be the self-proclaimed ‘King of Debt’, but now the debt collection industry owes him for once.”
KEY FINDINGS FROM THE REPORT:
- Consumers have filed over 34,600 complaints with the CFPB against these five of the country’s major debt collection companies alone.
- Transworld Systems, Inc. (TSI) is known as a “prolific” debt collector, filing over 38,000 lawsuits against student loan borrowers in just a three-year period and using an “assembly line” process where legal documents were created with automated software and signed by low-level employees with no legal training. TSI was fined $2.5 million by the CFPB in 2017 for illegally relying on “false or misleading” filings for hundreds of lawsuits against student borrowers. Several years earlier, the FTC hit TSI’s then-parent company with a record $3.2 million fine for “harassing and abusing debtors,” including revealing personal information to third parties and pursuing the wrong consumers for debts that weren’t theirs. In addition to pursuing student loan debts, TSI has been hired by school districts, including in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Iowa, to collect school lunch debt. Empowering people who shake down parents over their children’s school lunch money: just another day for the Trump administration.
- Portfolio Recovery Associates had to pay over $127 million to settle charges of illegal collection practices, including misleading consumers to get them to agree to receive auto-dialed cell phone calls. In May 2015, a jury in Jackson County, Missouri ordered Portfolio Recovery Associates to pay “$82 Million In Punitive Damages” for “malicious prosecution and violation of a Federal Fair Debt Collection Act” in suing a woman for a debt that she did not owe.
- Encore Capital Group was ordered to pay $52 million to settle allegations that it used deceptive tactics to collect bad debts and “robo-signed” legal documents against consumers.
- A subsidiary of Sherman Financial, LVNV Funding, had to forgive $10 million in consumer debt to settle a class-action lawsuit accusing the company of predatory debt collection practices. LVNV funding and other subsidiaries of Sherman Financial were ordered by the state of Maryland to pay millions to settle a lawsuit alleging illegal debt collection practices, such as operating without licenses and making false claims against consumers.
- Pioneer Credit Recovery, the debt collection arm of student loan servicer Navient, was named in a lawsuit the CFPB brought against Navient, alleging they illegally failed borrowers “at every stage of repayment”. The CFPB charged that Pioneer Credit Recovery made false and misleading statements to borrowers while pursuing student loan debt. The CFPB found that Navient racked up an extra $4 billion in interest from struggling borrowers by steering them into forbearance, in addition to incorrectly processing payments and imposing late fees on borrowers. In 2007, Pioneer Credit Recovery agents repeatedly called and allegedly harassed a military servicemember’s wife while he was stationed in Iraq, including threatening to put a lien on their home, garnish his wages, and even calling her “‘Scum.’”