Firm commentary:

California Attorney General Kamala Harris, late to the party in prosecuting Banks for its abusive foreclosure practices, has learned from her experience with JPMORGAN CHASE.  Below is a copy of the Complaint filed by our AG against CHASE alleging the use of robo-signed and manufactured evidence against consumers in the collection and litigation of credit card claims.  Nice.

For the last 4 years, this office has been engaged in a battle with CHASE relating to similar practices in its foreclosure and bankruptcy practice.  CHASE’s motivation for such behavior is the same in both context:  Its all about saving a buck!  Due diligence, attention to detail, adequate training, proper notarization, honesty and respect for the legal system is just TOO EXPENSIVE for a profit whore like CHASE.  Why bother expending resources on collections and foreclosures when you can cheat and get the same result 98% of the time.  It’s a calculated bet…akin to the Ford Motor business decision to allow defective and deadly Pintos to stay on the road, rather than pay for an expensive recall:  it was cheaper to litigate a few cases rather than do the right thing.  It’s a calculated BET that consumers lack resources to get legal help. 

From the allegations:  

“Defendants have committed debt collection abuses against tens of thousands of California consumers. For years, Defendants have flooded California’s courts with collection lawsuits against defaulted credit card borrowers based on patently insufficient evidence—betting that borrowers would lack the resources or legal sophistication to call Defendants’ bluff.”

“Rather than follow basic procedures to ensure fundamental fairness to California consumers, Defendants have run a massive debt collection mill that abuses the California judicial process to obtain default judgments, writs of execution, and wage-garnishment orders on the backs of lawsuits that cannot withstand scrutiny.

“At nearly every stage of the collection process, Defendants have cut corners in the name of speed, cost savings, and their own convenience, providing only the thinnest veneer of legitimacy to their lawsuits”

 

CHASE and the rest of the financial industry engage in the same practices in foreclosures and bankruptcy cases.  The volume is so great; the consumers so out-gunned, the debtor attorneys so under incentivized and the judges so focused on clearing their huge case loads that these practices have been allowed to become STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE FOR MAXIMIZING PROFIT. 

 

It’s on us as citizens to prevent the degradation of our underfunded legal institutions and to pay attention to our own legal matters.  It’s gotten to the point where ordinary folk need a court appointed legal counsel in financial as well as criminal matters:  the industry is THAT predatory.  Or perhaps we need stiffer fines, massive verdicts and punitive disincentives in order to end the practices.  We need equally large incentives for the debtor’s bar in order to create a counter-force and deter such practices.  Without such, do you really believe the Banks will change their cheatin’ ways?

 

 

KAMALA D. HARRIS Attorney General of California FRANCES T. GRUNDER Senior Assistant Attorney GeneralMICHELE VAN GELDEREN Supervising Deputy Attorney GeneralWILLIAM R. PLETCHER (SBN 212664) BERNARD A. ESKANDARI (SBN 244395) TIMOTHY D. LUNDGREN (SBN 254596)Deputy Attorneys General300 South Spring Street, Suite 1702Los Angeles, CA 90013 Telephone: (213) 897-2000Fax: (213) 897-4951 Email: bernard.eskandari@doj.ca.gov Attorneys for Plaintiff, the People of the State of California [EXEMPT FROM FILING FEES UNDER GOVERNMENT CODE SECTION 6103] SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA FOR THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, Plaintiff, v. JPMORGAN CHASE & CO., a Delaware Corporation; CHASE BANK USA, N.A., a Delaware Corporation; CHASE BANKCARD SERVICES, INC., a Delaware Corporation; and DOES 1 through 100, inclusive, Defendants. Case No. ____________________ COMPLAINT FOR PERMANENT INJUNCTION, CIVIL PENALTIES, RESTITUTION, AND OTHER EQUITABLE RELIEF (BUS. & PROF. CODE, § 17200 et seq.) [VERIFIED ANSWER REQUIRED PURSUANT TO CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE SECTION 446] COMPLAINT People v. JPMorgan Chase & Co., et al.

 

Plaintiff, the People of the State of California, by and through Kamala D. Harris, AttorneyGeneral of the State of California, alleges the following on information and belief: INTRODUCTION 1. Defendants have committed debt collection abuses against tens of thousands of Californiaconsumers. For years, Defendants have flooded California’s courts with collection lawsuits against defaulted credit card borrowers based on patently insufficient evidence—betting that borrowers would lack the resources or legal sophistication to call Defendants’ bluff. Rather than follow basic procedures to ensure fundamental fairness to California consumers, Defendants haverun a massive debt collection mill that abuses the California judicial process to obtain default judgments, writs of execution, and wage-garnishment orders on the backs of lawsuits that cannot withstand scrutiny. At nearly every stage of the collection process, Defendants have cut corners in the name of speed, cost savings, and their own convenience, providing only the thinnest veneerof legitimacy to their lawsuits. 2. Defendants have directed their handful of in-house California lawyers to file a staggering number of lawsuits against California consumers—for example, more than 100,000 lawsuits between January 2008 and April 2011, an average of well over 100 lawsuits each day the courts were open. Some days were more frenzied than others. For example, Defendants filed 469 lawsuits on April 1, 2010, and then followed it up with 226 lawsuits the next day. In addition to the lawsuits filed by Defendants’ in-house lawyers, outside firms retained by Defendants to assistwith collections filed another 20,000 cases against California consumers between January 2008 and April 2011. 3. To maintain this breakneck pace, Defendants have employed unlawful practices as shortcuts to obtain judgments against California consumers with speed and ease that could not have been possible if Defendants had adhered to the minimum substantive and procedural protections required by law. At the heart of Defendants’ unlawful conduct is the rampant use of “robo-signing”—a practice of signing declarations, affidavits, and other documents in mass quantities, typically hundreds at a time, without any knowledge of the facts alleged in the document and without regard to the truth or accuracy of those facts. Robo-signing has infected 1 COMPLAINT People v. JPMorgan Chase & Co., et al.

 

all aspects of Defendants’ unlawful debt collection practices—from pre-lawsuit correspondence, to litigation in California courts, to affidavits provided to purchasers of Defendants’ debt for filing in third-party collection lawsuits against consumers. 4. In this action, the People seek an order permanently enjoining Defendants from engaging in these unlawful, unfair, and fraudulent practices, and request restitution to California consumers as appropriate, civil penalties, and all other relief available under California law. DEFENDANTS AND VENUE 5. Defendant J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPMC), a financial holding company, provides various financial services worldwide. JPMC is a Delaware corporation, headquartered in New York, New York. At all relevant times, JPMC has transacted and continues to transact business throughout California, including Los Angeles County. 6. Defendant Chase Bank USA, N.A. (Chase USA) is one of JPMC’s principal bank subsidiaries and its issuer of consumer credit cards. JPMC’s legal department provides in-house counsel to Chase USA. Chase USA is a Delaware corporation, headquartered in Newark, Delaware. At all relevant times, Chase USA has transacted and continues to transact business throughout California, including Los Angeles County. 7. Defendant Chase BankCard Services, Inc. (BankCard Services) is a subsidiary of Chase USA and provides credit card services, including debt collection support, to JPMC and Chase USA. BankCard Services is a Delaware corporation, headquartered in Newark, Delaware. At all relevant times, BankCard Services has transacted and continues to transact business throughout California, including Los Angeles County. 8. Plaintiff is not aware of the true names and capacities of defendants sued herein as DOES 1 through 100, inclusive, and, therefore, sues these defendants by such fictitious names. Each fictitiously named defendant is responsible in some manner for the violations of law alleged. Plaintiff will amend this Complaint to add the true names of the fictitiously named defendants once they are discovered. Whenever reference is made in this Complaint to “Defendants,” such reference shall include DOES 1 through 100 as well as the named defendants. 9. At all relevant times, each Defendant acted individually and jointly with every other 2 COMPLAINT People v. JPMorgan Chase & Co., et al

named Defendant in committing all acts alleged in this Complaint. 10. At all relevant times, each Defendant acted: (a) as a principal; (b) under express or implied agency; and/or (c) with actual or ostensible authority to perform the acts alleged in this Complaint on behalf of every other named Defendant. 11. At all relevant times, some or all Defendants acted as the agent of the others, and all Defendants acted within the scope of their agency if acting as an agent of another. 12. At all relevant times, each Defendant knew or realized, or should have known or realized, that the other Defendants were engaging in or planned to engage in the violations of law alleged in this Complaint. Knowing or realizing that the other Defendants were engaging in such unlawful conduct, each Defendant nevertheless facilitated the commission of those unlawful acts. Each Defendant intended to and did encourage, facilitate, or assist in the commission of the unlawful acts, and thereby aided and abetted the other Defendants in the unlawful conduct. 13. Defendants have engaged in a conspiracy, common enterprise, and common course of conduct, the purpose of which is and was to engage in the violations of law alleged in this Complaint. The conspiracy, common enterprise, and common course of conduct continue to the present. 14. The violations of law alleged in this Complaint occurred in Los Angeles County and throughout the State of California. DEFENDANTS’ BUSINESS PRACTICES 15. Before filing a lawsuit against a California consumer on an alleged defaulted credit card account, Defendants’ attorneys send correspondence to the consumer demanding payment of the balance allegedly due. In this correspondence to the consumer, Defendants’ attorneys: (a) state that they have been instructed to file suit; (b) claim that the consumer may be liable for additionalamounts due, including attorneys’ fees “when allowed by law”; and (c) threaten to garnish the consumer’s income, levy personal property, and place liens on real property. 16. Through each of these communications with a California consumer, Defendants commit unlawful, unfair, and/or fraudulent acts or practices, including, but not limited to, the following: a. Although Defendants’ correspondence is signed by an attorney, no attorney has 3 COMPLAINT People v. JPMorgan Chase & Co., et al.

 

exercised any independent legal judgment in sending the correspondence, and no attorney has even reviewed the consumer’s file to determine if the letter is accurate, including accuracy as to the claimed amount due. b. The amounts claimed are often inaccurate. c. Despite their threat to the contrary, Defendants do not recover attorneys’ fees from the consumer. d. Despite their threat to the contrary, Defendants do not place liens on the consumer’s real property. 17. When Defendants file a lawsuit against a California consumer, Defendants commit additional unlawful, unfair, and/or fraudulent acts or practices, including, but not limited to, the following: a. Defendants file a verification of the complaint in which the declarant states, under penalty of perjury, that the declarant is an assistant treasurer and officer of Chase USA, and that the matters alleged in the complaint are true. These statements are false. The declarant is neither an “assistant treasurer” nor an “officer” of Chase USA, but rather a low-level employee of BankCard Services who has never even seen the complaint. The declarant has no personal knowledge about whether or not the complaint’s allegations are true—for example, that venue is proper, that the consumer owes the amount claimed, or that the consumer’s contract with Defendants provides for the recovery of reasonable attorneys’ fees. b. Defendants do not properly serve consumers with the summons and complaint, despite filing proofs of service that declare under penalty of perjury that service was complete. For example, Defendants, through their agents for service of process, falsely state in proofs of service that the consumer was personally served, when, in fact, he or she was not served at all—a practice known as “sewer service.” Other times, Defendants falsely state in proofs of service that substitute service was properly effected, even though Defendants made no reasonable attempts to personally serve the consumer. In any event, to more quickly generate seemingly legitimate process-server returns, Defendants often file proofs of service that bear only a digitally applied facsimile of the declarant’s signature, instead of the declarant’s original, “wet-ink” signature, as 4 COMPLAINT People v. JPMorgan Chase & Co., et al.

required for documents signed under penalty of perjury. 18. If the consumer does not appear to defend the lawsuit—which happens in the majority of the cases—Defendants engage in unlawful, unfair, and/or fraudulent acts or practices to obtain a default judgment. These acts and practices include, but are not limited to, the following: a. Defendants file a declaration in support of the entry of default judgment in which the declarant states, under penalty of perjury, that the declarant is an officer of Chase USA and a custodian of Chase USA’s business books and records, and that he or she has personal knowledge of the facts supporting the entry of default. These statements are false. The declarant is not an officer of Chase USA but rather a low-level employee of BankCard Services (often the same purported officer who signed the complaint verification), who has no personal knowledge of the facts set forth in the declaration. For example, the declarant has no personal knowledge of the balance that he or she states is owed by the consumer and has not reviewed the books and records necessary to determine the amount owed. b. In these same declarations in support of the entry of default judgment, the declarant states that Defendants will not produce the purported contract with the consumer and so waive the claim for attorneys’ fees allegedly authorized by the contract. This is despite the threat previously made to the California consumer in pre-lawsuit correspondence that Defendants may claim reasonable attorneys’ fees. c. In requesting entry of default judgment, Defendants’ attorneys declare under penalty of perjury that the debtor against whom a default judgment is requested is not in the military service. In fact, Defendants have made no inquiry and have no personal knowledge about whether or not the debtor is a service member and thus entitled to certain benefits under California Military and Veterans Code section 400 et seq. One of these benefits, for example, is that a court may not enter a default judgment against a defendant in the military service until an attorney is appointed to represent him or her. d. As an attachment to the declaration in support of the entry of default judgment, the declarant attaches one of the consumer’s credit card statements, but rarely redacts the consumer’s private information protected under California law, such as the consumer’s credit card account 5 COMPLAINT People v. JPMorgan Chase & Co., et al. 

number. 19. After securing the default judgment through unlawful, unfair, and/or fraudulent acts or practices, Defendants: (a) obtain a writ of execution and other court orders to take the consumer’s personal property; including wages and bank accounts, to satisfy the default judgment; and (b) submit negative credit information concerning the default judgment against the consumer to consumer credit reporting agencies. 20. Defendants also engage in unlawful, unfair, and/or fraudulent acts or practices when providing affidavits to third parties who purchase Defendants’ defaulted credit card accounts. For example, in support of these third parties’ collection actions, Defendants provide affidavits to the third parties in which the affiant states that Defendants sold the consumer’s account to the third party and that the consumer owes the amount stated in the affidavit. In fact, the affiant does not review Defendants’ books and records in a manner sufficient to support the facts to which he or she attests, does not have personal knowledge of the facts, and does not set forth those facts with particularity. Moreover, the affiant is not administered an oath prior to signing the affidavit, and no notary public is present to witness the signing. FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION AGAINST ALL DEFENDANTS VIOLATIONS OF BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONS CODE SECTION 17200 (Unfair Competition Law) 21. Plaintiff realleges and incorporates herein by this reference paragraphs 1 through 20, inclusive, as through set forth here in full. 22. Defendants have engaged in, and continue to engage in, acts or practices that constitute unfair competition as defined in Business and Professions Code section 17200. These acts or practices include, but are not limited to, the following: a. Violating Civil Code section 1788.13, part of the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Civil Code section 1788 et seq. (Rosenthal Act), by making misrepresentations and engaging in unlawful practices in connection with the collection of a debt, as alleged in Paragraphs 15 through 20; b. Violating Civil Code section 1788.17, part of the Rosenthal Act, by using false, 6 COMPLAINT People v. JPMorgan Chase & Co., et al.

 

 deceptive, or misleading representations or means in connection with the collection of a debt, as alleged in Paragraphs 15 through 20; c. Violating Business and Professions Code section 6077.5, subdivision (a), by making misrepresentations and engaging in unlawful practices in connection with the collection of a debt; and by using false, deceptive, or misleading representations or means in connection with the collection of a debt, as alleged in Paragraphs 15 through 20; d. Violating Code of Civil Procedure sections 396a and 446, subdivision (a), by failing to properly verify complaints, as alleged in Paragraph 17; e. Violating Code of Civil Procedure section 1010.6, subdivision (b)(2)(B), by electronically filing proofs of service of summons, “signed” under penalty of perjury, that were never actually “wet-ink” signed by the declarant but bear only his or her facsimile signature, and for which no printed form of the document is maintained bearing an original signature, as alleged in Paragraph 17; f. Violating Code of Civil Procedure section 585 in obtaining default judgments by offering declarations containing facts that are not within the personal knowledge of the declarant and that are not set forth with particularity, as alleged in Paragraph 18; g. Violating California Rules of Court, rule 1.20, by filing documents without redacting all but the last four digits of the consumer’s financial account number, as alleged in Paragraph 18; h. Declaring under penalty of perjury that no defendant was in the military service so as to be entitled to the benefits of California Military and Veterans Code section 400 et seq., when in fact Defendants have no knowledge of and make no inquiry into the defendant’s military status, as alleged in Paragraph 18; and i. Violating Penal Code section 118 et seq., by committing or suborning perjury, as alleged in Paragraphs 15 through 20. 23. Defendants’ conduct was in continuing violation of the Unfair Competition Law, beginning at a time unknown to Plaintiff but no later than January 2008, and continuing to within four years of the filing of this Complaint. 7 COMPLAINT People v. JPMorgan Chase & Co., et al.

 

 PRAYER FOR RELIEF WHEREFORE, the People pray for judgment as follows: 1. That Defendants, their successors, agents, representatives, employees, and all persons who act in concert with them be permanently enjoined from engaging in unfair competition as defined in Business and Professions Code section 17200, including, but not limited to, the acts and practices alleged in this Complaint, under the authority of Business and Professions Code section 17203; 2. That the Court make such orders or judgments as may be necessary to prevent the use or employment by any Defendant of any practice that constitutes unfair competition or as may be necessary to restore to any person in interest any money or property that may have been acquired by means of such unfair competition, under the authority of Business and Professions Code section 17203; 3. That the Court assess a civil penalty of $2,500 against each Defendant for each violation of Business and Professions Code section 17200 in an amount according to proof, under the authority of Business and Professions Code section 17206; 4. In addition to any penalty assessed under Business and Professions Code section 17206, that the Court assess a civil penalty of $2,500 against each Defendant for each violation of Business and Professions Code section 17200 perpetrated against a senior citizen or disabled person, in an amount according to proof, under the authority of Business and Professions Code section 17206.1; 5. That the People recover their costs of suit; and 8 COMPLAINT People v. JPMorgan Chase & Co., et al.

. For such other and further relief that the Court deems just and proper. Dated: May 9, 2013 Respectfully Submitted, KAMALA D . HARRIS Attorney General ofCalifornia F RANCES T. GRUNDER Senior Assistant Att orney General MICHELE VAN 0ELDEREN Supervising Deputy Attorney General Deputy Attorney General Attorneysfor Plaintfff, the People ofthe State ofCalifornia 9 COMPLAINT People v. JPMorgan Chase & Co., et al.

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