JPMorgan Chase and its affiliates make millions of federal dollars from collecting on student loans, according to a recent report at AlterNet.
Sarah Jaffe reports that Chase, the nation's largest bank, often resorts to abusive practices in its race for student-loan dollars. In the process, Jaffe revealed that one of Chase's affiliates lies about its unlawful tactics.
How do I know? Jaffe referenced this blog and its reporting on my experiences with the debt-collection industry--especially with NCO, a company that is owned by Chase and its private-investment arm, One Equity Partners. Jaffe reported that collectors representing NCO and Chase told my wife that they would sell our home, and NCO denied using such unlawful threats.
That response presents a slight problem: It isn't true. I've got proof that debt collectors representing NCO and Chase threatened to sell our house "on the courthouse steps." That means someone at those companies is lying.
How did Jaffe address the issue? She referenced a 2009 article by Jason Fagone at Philadelphia Magazine, reporting on NCO's abusive tactics against the wife of a soldier who was stationed in Iraq. From Jaffe's article:
Fagone noted that he found reports of deception, of allegations that NCO collectors lied, berated family members, disclosed private information, threatened to garnish wages. One blogger who sued NCO wrote that the collector told his wife that they'd sell her home. NCO denied using these illegal tactics.
That "one blogger" is me, and Jaffe provided a link to one of my posts, titled ABC News Exposes Debt Collectors and Their Ugly Tactics. In that post, I reported on a debt collector's threat to sell our house. And that statement came from a collector with the Birmingham law firm Ingram and Associates, which was representing NCO, which is owned by JPMorgan Chase. From my post:
Ingram reps repeatedly told us that they were going to sell our house, the whole thing, "on the courthouse steps." Never mind that they can't do that under the law, especially for an alleged debt, in a relatively small amount, that was only in my name--while my wife and I jointly own our house. In fact, an Ingram rep told Mrs. Schnauzer that they were going to sell her house, moments after admitting that the alleged debt did not involve her. Why use of the term "on the courthouse steps"? That makes it a form of public humiliation for the alleged debtor. Again, we suspect this kind of threat is extraordinarily effective in getting targets to cough up money they might not even owe. It also is grossly unlawful.
Thanks to Sarah Jaffe's article, we know that NCO denies using such tactics. But I have proof that they do. I tape recorded conversations with a collector named Tracy Mize and her supervisor, Jann Blalock. Mize had issued the threat regarding our house to my wife, and I raised the issue with Blalock. That conversation is captured in a transcript. (See document at the end of this post.) Here is a key exchange:
Roger Shuler: [Voice Overlap] said our house is going to be auctioned off on the courthouse steps, do you think that’s not [Voice Overlap].
Jann Blalock: We didn’t say the house. We said the deed to your house and that’s what happened with any judgment, Mr. Shuler.
Does Ms. Blalock enjoy cracking jokes while she violates the FDCPA? Apparently the answer is yes. No rational person thinks a collector is going to physically take a house and sell it on the courthouse steps. A deed, by definition, is a document that states who legally owns a home. And Ms. Blalock flatly admits that her subordinate threatened to take our deed and have it sold to someone else--and she admits her firm regularly makes that threat with other alleged debtors.
You can read that exchange on page two of the transcript below. It proves that Chase and its affiliates unlawfully threaten to sell houses--and the companies then turn around and lie about it.
Ingram NCO Transcript3