Attorney General Kamala Harris filed an enforcement action against JPMorgan Chase & Co. (Chase)this week alleging that the bank engaged in fraudulent and unlawful debt-collection practices against tens of thousands of Californians.
The suit alleges that Chase engaged in widespread, illegal robo-signing, among other unlawful practices, to commit debt-collection abuses against approximately 100,000 California credit card borrowers over at least a three-year period.
“Chase abused the judicial process and engaged in serious misconduct against California credit card borrowers,” Harris said. “This enforcement action seeks to hold Chase accountable for systematically using illegal tactics to flood California’s courts with specious lawsuits against consumers. My office will demand a permanent halt to these practices and redress for borrowers who have been harmed.”
From January 2008 through April 2011, Chase filed thousands of debt collection lawsuits every month in the State of California. On one day alone, Chase filed 469 such lawsuits in California. The Attorney General’s complaint against Chase alleges that, to maintain this pace, Chase employed unlawful practices as shortcuts to obtain judgments against California consumers with speed and ease that could not have been possible if Chase had adhered to the minimum substantive and procedural protections required by law.
“At nearly every stage of the collection process, defendants cut corners in the name of speed, cost savings, and their own convenience, providing only the thinnest veneer of legitimacy to their lawsuits,” the complaint states.
Chase used California’s judicial system as a mill to obtain default judgments, the suit alleges, using illegal tactics to flood the state’s court system in order to secure default judgments and garnish wages from Californians.
The alleged misconduct includes:
Robo-signing: Chase illegally robo-signed various litigation filings, including sworn documents, declarations, and verified complaints, without reviewing the relevant files or bank records or even reading the documents before signing.
“Sewer Service”: Chase failed to properly serve notice of debt collection lawsuits against consumers while claiming they had been served as required by law. This practice, known as “sewer service,” deprives the consumer of any notice of the lawsuit.
Filing Irregularities: Chase haphazardly assembled its official legal filings. For example, Chase failed to redact consumers’ personal information in attachments to filings, potentially exposing them to identity theft and in violation of California law. In addition, when asking courts to enter default judgments against consumers, Chase consistently swore under penalty of perjury that the consumers were not on active military duty. In fact, Chase never checked. This deprived service members of important legal protections to which they are entitled while on active duty.
The suit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court and a copy of the complaint is available online at http://oag.ca.gov.
Consumers who believe they have been victims of this misconduct may submit a complaint online at http://oag.ca.gov/consumers.