Attorneys general from 41 states, including New Jersey, announced that they reached a settlement with debt buyer and collector Encore Capital Group Inc., and subsidiaries Midland Credit Management Inc. and Midland Funding, over alleged “robo-signing” practices.
The accord requires Midland to provide $1.85 million in debt relief to upward of 1,000 New Jersey borrowers and to ensure that its business practices remain up to snuff, according to an announcement Tuesday from New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s Office.
The attorneys generals’ action resulted from cases between 2003 and 2009 in which Midland used affidavits against debtors in court that were signed by someone with no knowledge of the debt or litigation, according to the announcement.
That practice is commonly referred to robo-signing.
Per the settlement, Midland is to notify impacted consumers by mail of the balance reduction and alert them that no further action is necessary from the consumer
Midland has agreed to pay $6 million to the states, of which New Jersey’s share is $60,000.
Grewal said in a statement that the settlement “provides relief to individual New Jersey residents affected by Midland’s past misconduct and protects everyone in our state from similar abuses by Midland in the future,” and “also sends a message to other debt-buying and debt-collection companies, whose misconduct harms far too many New Jersey residents.”
Grewal pledged a “renewed commitment to consumer financial protection” that “will put an end to unconscionable and deceptive practices by debt buyers and debt collectors.”
Encore Capital Group and Midland, both based in San Diego, said in a statement that the “issues that were the genesis of the settlement have not been the company’s practice for nearly 10 years.”
According to Encore, the funds for the settlement were fully reserved in 2015, and that the business practices required are largely part of company practice already, implemented during the settlement negotiations.
“Several years ago, we began discussions with various attorneys general, which ran in parallel to our discussions with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and covered similar topics. We settled with the CFPB in 2015 and are pleased to have reached today’s agreement,” Ashish Masih, president and CEO of Encore, said in the company’s release. “While we believe our practices were in accordance with relevant laws, we chose to agree to a settlement, so we can all move ahead.”
Among the settlements terms: The company, if a consumer disputes a debt, must review original documents and provide copies of the documents free of charge. The company also agreed to properly train employees and the law firms with which it works.
The settlement includes: Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii , Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, 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, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.