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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Debt Collectors Try to Hide Their Sleazy Business Practices

Debt collectors are a slippery bunch. They will try to collect money from you, even though they have no proof that you owe it. When you sue them for rampant violations of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA), they will threaten you, bully you, and stonewall your efforts to collect evidence of their wrongdoing.

Mrs. Schnauzer and I sued Pennsylvania-based debt collector NCO and Birmingham-based law firm Ingram & Associates for multiple FDCPA violations over a debt we allegedly owed to American Express. Since then, we've gotten quite an eyeful of the tactics debt collectors (and their lawyers) will use to hide their unsavory activities.

Join us on a brief trip down "Debt Collector Pathology Highway," a road that many American consumers are traveling these days. And our travelogue won't even include a stop at the "Cheat the Debtor's Wife Out of Her Job" roadside bar, which we visited in a recent post.

First, lawyers for NCO proposed that we join them in a "Stipulated Confidentiality Agreement." (See the full document below.) Among these lawyers was the one (Bryan Shartle) who, after our recent depositions, told one of our attorneys that our case was "the weakest FDCPA case he had ever seen," he would seek to have it dismissed with costs charged to me, and I would be imprisoned if I could not pay the costs.

You probably will not be surprised to learn that I instructed our attorneys to tell Mr. Shartle & Co. that they could take their confidentiality agreement and stick it in a certain body orifice.

What was the purpose of the confidentiality agreement? This item sums it up:

A Party to this Agreement may designate materials as “CONFIDENTIAL” to the extent that the Party, through counsel, believes such materials are confidential because they include: confidential business or technical information; trade secrets; proprietary business methods or practices; or personal information regarding plaintiffs or any of Defendant’s current or former agents or employees.
The first thing you notice is that this proposal is one-sided. We don't have any "trade secrets" or "proprietary business methods" to hide. And we could not care less about whatever personal information the defendants think might cause us embarrassment.

In other words, the proposed agreement is designed totally to protect the defendants--and that's because they have something to hide. It does nothing for us--and that's because we don't have anything to hide.

The second thing that occurs to you is that the main point of the agreement probably is to keep me from blogging about the defendants' dirty deeds. In other words, if they turn over information that shows how they cheated us, they certainly do not want other consumers learning about it through reading Legal Schnauzer.

Defendants should be concerned about that--particularly because they clearly were violating the law. I do, indeed, intend to write about every aspect of the case on this blog. That's something scoundrels of all types should keep in mind these days--technology now allows regular folks to spread word about various misdeeds around the world. And scoundrels might be surprised to learn that some blogs, like this one, have a pretty wide readership.

It's always paid to conduct business in an honest fashion. But it's particularly true now that the Web allows most anybody to become an investigative journalist. Apparently word about that has not gotten to outfits like NCO and Ingram & Associates. And it probably never occurred to them that some of their targets really are investigative journalists.

My understanding is that courts will sometimes fashion confidentiality agreements--and if that happens, so be it. But we are not blindly agreeing to a one-sided document. And we strongly suspect that defendants want to declare material as "confidential" when it is not.

That seems clear from their answers to our discovery. Here are a few key items we have requested in discovery:

* All documents and communications regarding our account between the defendants, NCO and Ingram & Associates;

* All documents and communications regarding our account between the defendants and the original creditor, American Express;

* All documents and communications regarding our account between the defendants and any third parties;

* Any contracts and other agreements between the defendants;

* Any contracts and other agreements between the defendants and American Express;

* All e-mails between defendants, and with any third parties, regarding us and our account;

* Training materials used by the defendants.

So far, defendants have refused to turn over all of this information, and I imagine we will have to file a motion to compel with the court. I don't pretend to be an expert on discovery matters, but it seems pretty clear that we are entitled to receive all of this information. It also seems clear that defendants are withholding it because it reveals the unlawful and sleazy business practices they use--not only with us, but probably with hundreds of thousands of other consumers.

Recall, that defendants' proposed confidentiality agreement wanted to protect only materials that were "trade secrets," "technical information," "proprietary business methods," etc.

The training materials are the only item that could be considered proprietary. And if they reveal that the companies intentionally train their employees to violate the law, it goes directly to the heart of our case.

Despite defendants' stonewalling efforts, we have received some fascinating information from them. In fact, NCO turned over information that absolutely proves our case against them--and proves that Ingram & Associates acted in a fraudulent manner in our case. In some instances, NCO makes statements that directly contradict statements made by Ingram & Associates. How delightful.

It's good stuff, and those documents will be coming soon. But first, let's take a look at the proposed confidentiality agreement, the one we hope currently resides in a deep, dark place.

As you read this, you might recall our friend Bryan Shartle. If our case is, indeed, "the weakest FDCPA case he's ever seen," why is his client, NCO, so concerned about keeping items confidential. Methinks Mr. Shartle, like so many other members of his "profession," is full of horse manure:


NCO Confidentiality Agreement

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

You file a Motion to Compel Production of Documents, indeed.

You also file as many MOTIONS as you can, repeatedly since the COURTS are the MOTIONS' PRACTICES.

This is one piece to the puzzle I've been working on: VISUAL TO THE COURTS.

I am drawing the process of how the courts were intentionally structured by the BUSH FAMILY, et al. in the PRIVATE-PUBLIC PARTNERSHIPS (See the Patriot Act), via SOFTWARE.

We are DIGITAL. Our reality is DIGITAL.

We The People, with the assistance of the SUPREME COURT are not powerful enough to have an equal right in the court and the DIGITAL CORPORATIONS OWNERSHIP of everything running America, proves it.

WHAT TO DO? DEMAND OUR RIGHTS and every INDIVIDUAL should learn the court system and get in it.

I am sending every drawing once fully executed.

I have filed a MOTION: To Proceed Artistically, in the Federal Court, on two (2) cases - civil against the PORTLAND OR, "Officers of the Peace" and suing the FEDERAL RESERVE.

I have also DEMANDED via LETTER and the LOCAL RULE MOST DO NOT KNOW, that stipulates my DISCOVERY IS NOT BEING MET BY OPPOSING COUNSEL.

Here is where you have an edge, in your LOCAL RULES: READ THEM CAREFULLY, VERY, VERY CAREFULLY. Once read, you have more power than any attorney who has graduated from law school.

DEMAND THE JUDGE SET A HEARING FOR DISCOVERY, AND DEMAND OPPOSING COUNSEL TO MET THE JUDGE AND EXPLAIN WHY THE DISCOVERY IS NOT MET SINCE THE PREPARATIONS FOR TRIAL MUST BE MET IN A VERY SPECIFIC FASHION.

OPPOSING COUNSEL, must not resist settlement in any way.

REMEMBER: YOU ARE BUILDING A CASE. Develop it exactly as an artist paints a fine work of art (think REMBRANDT'S TRIANGLE OF LIGHT).

Think of how the jury is going to see your case IN PICTURES, because this is how the human actually processes information.

Tell it or develop it as VISUAL into words, not the other way around.

MOTIONS TO COMPEL
MOTIONS FOR SANCTIONS FOR NOT COMPELLING
MOTIONS FOR DISMISSAL OF CASE

SANCTIONS FOR FRIVOLOUS CASE

CASE HAS PROGRESSED - IT'S A CRIME ON THE LEGAL SCHNAUZERS AND OF COURSE THE COURT!

Biloxi

Anonymous said...

Why haven't you reported Mr. Shartle to the Louisiana Disciplinary Board or Bar Association if you are so incensed by his unethical behavior? I'm sure you're not the first person he's treated in this fashion.

legalschnauzer said...

Oh, I'm probably not the first person Mr. Shartle has treated in an abusive fashion. But I have zero confidence in the ability of bar associations to police the legal profession.

Anonymous said...

Exactly Legal Schnauzer. Thank you for being brave enough to state the truth about the state bar association's despicable self policing practices. Keep fighting for truth and justice for all Alabamians.