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BOSTON —� A 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision has upheld a lower court’s summary judgment ruling that an unsolicited home loan offer was a “firm offer of credit” under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The company pre-screened potential customers using credit information bought from a credit reporting agency, a practice widely criticized by plaintiffs’ lawyers. In the March 19 decision, circuit Judge Sandra L. Lynch concluded that the defendant’s purchase of the customer contact information and whether he met certain pre-selection criteria constituted a “minimal invasion of privacy” that was “offset by the value of the information in the letter to the plaintiff.” Sullivan v. Greenwood Credit Union, No. 07-2354 (1st Cir.) Lynch also rejected arguments that there was no firm offer of credit because the letter did not outline terms in enough detail. “An offer of credit meets the statutory definition so long as the creditor will not deny credit to the consumer if the consumer meets the creditor’s pre-selection criteria,” Lynch wrote. Christopher M. Lefebvre who represented the plaintiff, said he believes the 1st Circuit came to the wrong conclusion, but the fight isn’t over yet. Lefebvre, an attorney at Pawtucket, R.I.’s Claude Lefebvre, is also representing the plaintiff in a similar case awaiting decision at the appeals court level. Dixon v. Shamrock Fin. Corp., No. 07-1896 (1st Cir.) In the Sullivan case, Lefebvre plans to file a petition for rehearing and en banc review. Harvey Weiner, a partner at Boston’s Peabody & Arnold who represented defendant Greenwood Credit Union, said the ruling will make it more difficult for plaintiffs to prove that mailers are not firm offers of credit, and it seems to also require recipients to actually apply for credit in order to invoke the statutory remedies. “This rationale may mean the death of all pending cases in this circuit that are based solely on the four corners of the mailer because these claims are premature,” Weiner said. Lefebvre said the Greenwood decision also creates a split with the 7th Circuit, which has issued more plaintiff-friendly rulings. The 7th Circuit’s earliest decision reversing a FCRA case dismissal because the creditor’s offer lacked specific terms and “sufficient value” to justify invading the consumer’s privacy generated hundreds of lawsuits. Cole v. U.S. Capital, Inc., 389 F.3d 719 (7th Cir. 2004). Weiner said the Greenwood court “took pains” to distinguish itself from the Cole case by noting that Cole involved a solicitation for an automobile, not a credit product. However, the Greenwood court did split with Cole by ruling that Greenwood’s offer to the consumer did have value, he said.

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