Using A Sledge Hammer To Crack Credit Card Debt

American Express

American Express (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of all the bad practices of the mortgage boom and collapse, robo-signing was among the worst. Unsubstantiated and at times fraudulent foreclosure documents submitted by banks affected more than a 138,000 US homeowners. Following the great series by the American Banker’s Jeff Horwitz, the NYT‘s Jessica Silver-Greenberg reports that some of the same tactics are being employed collecting credit card debt:

As they work through a glut of bad loans, companies like American Express, Citigroup and Discover Financial are going to court to recoup their money. But many of the lawsuits rely on erroneous documents, incomplete records and generic testimony from witnesses, according to judges who oversee the cases.

Lenders, the judges said, are churning out lawsuits without regard for accuracy, and improperly collecting debts from consumers…

I would say that roughly 90 percent of the credit card lawsuits are flawed and can’t prove the person owes the debt,” said Noach Dear, a civil court judge in Brooklyn, who said he presided over as many as 100 such cases a day.

Americans may be reducing their outstanding credit card debt, but an overhang of unpaid loans remains. And lenders are looking for ways to maximize the value of those loans: JP Morgan is settling claims that it improperly raised minimum credit card payments, and then charged borrowers a fee if they couldn’t pay the new, larger amount. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau may force American Express to refund customers who paid for “identity-theft protection services” without actually receiving the services. It has already won $140 million in refunds from Capital One for selling add-on products customers “didn’t understand, didn’t want, or in some cases, couldn’t even use”. That money fully compensated customers for their losses, which is a far better deal than penalizing a firm $4.8 million after costing customers $300 million. – Ben Walsh

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