Monday, July 20, 2009

National Credit-Card Scam Comes to a Screeching Halt

An organization that arbitrated credit-card disputes has decided to get out of the consumer business after being sued last week by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson.

The Minneapolis-based National Arbitration Forum (NAF), in an annoucement made yesterday, has reached a settlement where it will stop consumer-credit arbitrations by the end of this week.

This is a major national story, but you probably haven't read about it in your local newspaper. The NAF operates all over the country, and I've been targeted here in Alabama. You, or someone you know, probably has been targeted.

Reports the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal:

National Arbitration Forum had represented itself to consumers facing debt disputes with creditors as an independent body that operated like an impartial court system. In fact, Swanson alleged, the company worked alongside creditors and against the interests of consumers.

After having personal experience with the National Arbitration Forum, I took more than a little delight in seeing the outfit tuck tail and run when its corrupt practices were about to be exposed. Reports the Business Journal:

The settlement does not include an admission of guilt or responsibility by the company. National Arbitration Forum is exiting consumer arbitration because of legal costs, legislative uncertainty surrounding arbitration and the economic climate, according to a statement by the company’s CEO Mike Kelly.

Uh, right. It had nothing to do with the fact that Lori Swanson--who should become a candidate for national office, in my view--was about to unmask these scoundrels.

I'll help Ms. Swanson out because I know how the NAF works.

My wife and I have seen our financial picture become less stable than it used to be after having corrupt Alabama lawyers and judges essentially steal large chunks of our personal wealth. That caused us to hear from a California-based outfit called Portfolio Recovery Associates and a law firm called Eskanos & Adler. They told us that we would be forced into having the NAF "arbitrate" our dispute.

The arbitrator turned out to be William A. Ratliff, a lawyer with the Birmingham firm of Wallace Ratliff Jordan and Brandt. Could I count on Mr. Ratliff to be an impartial arbiter? Well, check out his bio and notice his areas of practice. Near the top is "creditors' rights." That would be folks like credit-card companies and debt collectors.

Do you see anything on Ratliff's bio that indicates he gives a whit about consumer rights? Neither do I.

In a letter dated September 10, 2008, NAF informed me that--surprise, surprise--Ratliff had ruled in favor of Portfolio Recovery Associates. You have to read the letter's fine print to understand the corrupt nature of the entire process. Consider these nuggets:

4. An arbitration hearing notice was duly delivered to the parties as required by the forum rules.

No hearing notice was delivered to me.

5. The arbitrator conducted a hearing in this case in accordance with the forum rules.

No hearing was conducted in my case. If it was, I wasn't there. Do forum rules allow the arbitrator to conduct a hearing when one of the parties hasn't been noticed and isn't there as a result?

What was the bottom line in my experience with the NAF? I had a finding against me, even though the arbitrator never notified me of a hearing and never conducted a hearing. He never heard any evidence from me, but ruled against me anyway.

Is it any wonder that the Minnesota attorney general felt compelled to act?

I am just one of hundreds of thousands of Americans--maybe millions--who have been subjected to the NAF scam. No one has made any effort to collect the award against me--and I guess they won't, now that the NAF has hightailed it out of the consumer business.

But this story should not end with the Minnesota settlement. Law firms all over the country have willingly and knowingly participated in this NAF scam. Wallace Jordan Ratliff & Brandt has a lot of company around the country.

Will other attorneys general hold these law firms accountable? Will someone at the national level take action?

The task of cleaning up sleaze from the National Arbitration Forum should not be ending. It should be just beginning.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, this is an attorney general that has been slammed (and hard) for busting a union in her office. The Minnesota Legislative Auditor confirmed last year that she had ordered attorneys to falsify affidavits, file meritless lawsuits for good press, etc. She's a bad apple, and while I'm no fan of NAF, I think it's unfortunate that progressives are willing to turn a blind eye to the awful things that Lori Swanson has done in her office just because we dislike NAF. NAF is terrible, but Lori Swanson has shown that her tactics aren't any better.

Anonymous said...

THE COST OF CREDIT, is just one of the titles, to protect our consumer rights.

We became DIGITS, and this is what our value is measured by - a credit score, in other words, IS the measurement of "wealth."

Thus, to continue pretending it is the olden days in America (where the rule of law is governing), is to sign a death sentence in the idea of "free."

Free is to be a creditworthy digit. Period.

Thus, study HOW TO demand our credit score IS NOT destroyed by "FRAUD."

Only way to get this is to study THE COST OF CREDIT, and the other titles (18) at the site.

Costs can be recovered in purchasing the books, etc., at the site --- simply in the education of 21st Century style understanding "credit sold as debt," and what it means to maintain our CREDIT SCORE, as though it is our sovereignty.

Best, Biloxi

Anonymous said...

Wallace Jordan Ratliff & Brandt is very political and very connected. Jordan is Bert Jordan, top lawyer for Bettye Fine Collins and former sheriff Woodward, and he was convicted along with Woodward of election-related crimes, but never missed a beat practicing law. But then, his law partner is Birch Bowdre, husband of the federal judge.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Swanson is not your knight in shining armor. First, the Minnesota AG's office has been ignoring consumer complaints about NAF for the last 7 years. Swanson only files suits when other states have already done so, and is confident that she can make a huge splash in the press before immediately settling the suit. Second, Swanson is a bad apple. She busted a union in her office, and a legislative auditor's investigation into her office confirmed that she ordered attorneys to falsify affidavits, file meritless suits to generate good press, etc. Swanson is a democratic version of Sarah Palin. While the end result here is good (NAF is out of the picture), Swanson does not deserve our thanks. Minnesota deserves an attorney general that will practice what she preaches, an will protect our consumers even when the cameras aren't rolling.