We've established, based on my experiences, that debt collectors will target you even when they have no documents to show you have a cardholder agreement--much less that you owe a debt.
So what happens when you catch on to the debt-collection scheme and file a lawsuit alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)--and perhaps alleging fraud and other state-law claims? You can expect debt collectors, and their slimy lawyers, to immediately go into cover-up mode.
So here is Lesson No. 2 about debt collectors: The same dirt bags who have no qualms about repeatedly invading your private affairs--when they have no documents indicating that you owe them a debt at all--will tuck tail and run for the hills when the tables are turned.
Want proof? My wife and I filed a lawsuit against two debt-collection outfits--Pennsylvania-based NCO and Birmingham-based law firm Ingram & Associates--over a debt I allegedly owed to American Express. We've already shown that NCO and Ingram & Associates could not produce a single document proving that I even had an American Express card, much less that I owed a debt on one.
That's not all that NCO and Ingram & Associates can't produce. Darrell Cartwright and Allan Armstrong, our attorneys in the case, filed discovery requests seeking a number of basic documents related to efforts to collect what appears to be a phantom debt. And guess what? NCO and Ingram & Associates don't want to turn over much of anything that would reveal how they do business. What a surprise!
Here are a few examples, from our Request for Production of Documents from Ingram & Associates:
* Request No. 6 asks for any and all documents evidencing any communication or relationship between or among defendants (Ingram & Associates and NCO) and American Express.
Response: Ingram & Associates claims this is not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. (That by the way, is classic legal-stonewall language.)
* Request No. 23 asks for any and all e-mail and electronic transmissions between or among defendants, any creditors and any non-party that in any way relates to my wife and me.
Response: Ingram & Associates claims it would be cost prohibitive to provide this information. (We're not making this up, folks! They can hire a high-priced lawyer--in this case, Wayne Morse of Waldrep Stewart & Kendrick--to lie and scheme and defend the indefensible, but it's too costly to produce a few e-mails!)
Here are a few examples from our Request for Production of Documents from NCO. You will notice a familiar theme, an attempt to cover up at all costs:
* Request No. 32 asks for all documents between the defendants and any other person, persons, or entities regarding my wife and me and collection of an alleged debt.
Response: NCO claims that this request is overbroad and seeks information that might be protected by attorney-client and work-product privileges. More classic legal-stonewall language.
* Request No. 40 asks for copies of all documents that evidence an agreement between NCO and the original creditor, American Express.
Response: NCO will turn that over only with a confidentiality agreement in place. Hmmm, wonder what's in that agreement with American Express.
What do we learn from all of this:
* NCO and Ingram & Associates are extremely sensitive about any communication between each other.
* NCO and Ingram & Associates are extremely sensitive about any communications among themselves and American Express.
* NCO and Ingram & Associates are extremely sensitive about any documents regarding their relationship with American Express.
* NCO and Ingram & Associates are extremely sensitive about any communications they've had about us or our alleged account with any third parties.
Given that both my wife and I have been cheated out of our jobs in the wake of attempts to collect what appears to be a phantom debt, I bet there is a real good reason they don't want to share this information. Could it reveal communications they had with each other about plans to cheat one, or both of us, out of our jobs? Could it reveal communications they had with third parties--perhaps individuals with connections to the Alabama Republican Party--about plans to cheat one, or both of us, out of our jobs?
We've already established that my wife almost certainly was unlawfully terminated at Infinity Property & Casualty because of the lawsuit we filed against NCO and Ingram & Associates. But a growing body of evidence indicates that my termination at UAB might have been driven partially by efforts to collect what appears to be a phantom debt. We will have much more on that storyline coming soon.
But first, here is an up-close look at stonewalling by debt collectors and their lawyers. This is NCO's response to our discovery requests:
NCO Discovery Response