• CFPB Takes Action against Debt Relief Law Firms
  • April 12, 2017 | Author: Christopher R. Rahl
  • Law Firm: Gordon Feinblatt LLC - Baltimore Office
  • On January 30, 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) took action to shut down several affiliated law firms that provide debt relief services. The complaint attacks the "legal model" that certain debt relief providers shifted to after the Federal Trade Commission's Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) was amended in 2010 to prohibit the collection of up-front debt relief fees. The complaint alleges that the named law firms partnered with a debt relief company that had previously been involved in litigation with the CFPB (Mogan Drexen) in order to make it appear that the law firms were providing legal services, when in fact Morgan Drexen provided nearly all of the services. The complaint filed by the CFPB alleged that the named law firms had clients enter into 2 separate agreements, one for bankruptcy services and one for debt relief services. For the bankruptcy services, the law firms charged "engagement" fees of between $1000 and $3,250 and administrative fees of $50 per month. The compliant notes that the law firms purported not to charge any fees under the separate debt relief services agreement. The CFPB alleged that the fees collected before any services were provided for bankruptcy assistance were really disguised debt relief fees that violated the TSR's advance fee ban. The CFPB's complaint seeks a permanent injunction, consumer redress, and civil money penalties. This action is a reminder to debt relief providers to examine their fee practices and services performed to ensure compliance with the TSR.