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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

FTC Announces Orders Banning Owners of a Debt Relief Operation from Related Activities

FTC Enforcement Telemarketing Sales Rule Debt Settlement

Consumer Finance

On September 8, the FTC announced that, under separate stipulated final orders (here and here), two owners of a debt relief operation are permanently banned from the debt relief business for violations of the FTC Act, the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act, and the Telemarketing Sales Rule. The FTC’s 2015 complaint alleged that the companies and the owners (collectively, defendants) convinced consumers with payday loan debts to enroll in their “Financial Hardship Program” (Program) by falsely promising to renegotiate the terms of their loans. Consumers were advised to stop making payments to their lenders and pay money to the Program instead, including enrollment and bi-weekly fees. According to the FTC, the defendants “failed to provide the consumers with the promised debt relief, and consumers ended up in deeper financial trouble, having paid hundreds of dollars for no reduction or settlement of their loans.” The stipulated final orders each impose monetary judgments of more than $23.7 million. The judgments will be partially suspended when the individually named owners pay $149,537 and approximately $8,037, respectively. In addition to barring the defendants from the debt relief operation business, the orders further prohibit them from “making representations about financial and other products and services, and from making unsubstantiated claims about any products or services,” and “from profiting from consumers’ personal information and failing to dispose of it properly.”

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