Law firm sued by CFPB says it refuses to be ‘strong-armed into a consent order’

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau claims in a lawsuit that a debt-collection law firm based in Ohio violates federal law by sending out automated letters to consumers that appear to be generated by lawyers.

The suit (PDF) filed on Monday against Weltman, Weinberg & Reis says the letters are sent on law firm letterhead, with the phrase “attorneys at law” at the top. Yet in most cases, lawyers were not meaningfully involved in preparing and sending the letters, the suit says. The National Law Journal (sub. req.) has a story; a press release is here.

The law firm’s collection agents also referred to Weltman as a law firm during collection calls, implying that lawyers had made an independent professional judgment that the call was warranted or that the consumer owed the debt, the suit says. Yet lawyers generally had not evaluated individual accounts at the time of the calls, according to the complaint.

The suit alleges violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Consumer Financial Protection Act.

The suit is the second filed this year by the CFPB against a debt-collection law firm, according to the National Law Journal. The agency’s six-year history “has been studded with enforcement actions against law firms,” the article says.

Weltman Weinberg managing partner Scott Weltman said the law firm has taken “every reasonable step” to make sure its statements to consumers are accurate, according to the National Law Journal story.

“We fundamentally disagree with the CFPB’s allegations and believe that this lawsuit is the result of our firm’s refusal to be strong-armed into a consent order,” Weltman said. “We are a law firm that is legally allowed, under federal and state law, to provide collection and legal services. We are being truthful with consumers and factually accurate when we use our name and our company’s letterhead for proper debt-collection activity.”




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