One of the owners of a payday loan and debt collection operation has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges for his role in a scheme that illegally tried to garnish borrowers’ wages and used other illegal debt-collection practices.
According to the FTC’s complaint, the defendants, doing business as Ecash and GeteCash, offered loans to be repaid from borrowers’ upcoming paychecks. Online loan applicants checked a box indicating their agreement with loan terms, including an inconspicuous “wage assignment” clause that said that their wages would be garnished to cover delinquent loan payments. Then, using the name LoanPointe, the defendants attempted to collect on the offered payday loans.
Federal law allows federal agencies to require employers to garnish employees’ wages without a court order when the employees owe the government money. According to the complaint, in letters to employers that sought garnishment of their employees’ wages, GeteCash and LoanPointe tried to pass themselves off as having the same collection rights as the government. The FTC’s complaint also alleges that GeteCash and LoanPointe falsely stated that consumers knew their pay would be garnished and had an opportunity to dispute the debt. In addition, GeteCash and LoanPointe allegedly violated the law when they told employers and co-workers about consumers’ debts without their consent. (See http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2010/04/getecash.shtm)
Under the settlement order, Mark S. Lofgren is banned from collecting debts through wage assignment. He is also permanently prohibited from misrepresenting facts in order to collect a debt; contacting a consumer’s employer in trying to collect a debt, unless he is seeking location information or has a valid court order of garnishment; and disclosing a debt to any third party. In addition, Lofgren is barred from violating the Credit Practices Rule and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, selling or otherwise benefitting from customers’ personal or financial information, and failing to properly dispose of customer information. The order imposes a $38,133 judgment that is suspended based on his inability pay. The full judgment will become due immediately if he is found to have misrepresented his financial condition.
The FTC also dismissed Benjamin J. Lonsdale and James C. Endicott as defendants in the case. Litigation continues against Joe S. Strom, LoanPointe, LLC, and Eastbrook, LLC, also doing business as Ecash and GeteCash.
The Commission votes to dismiss Lonsdale and Endicott from the complaint were 5-0. The Commission vote to file the stipulated final order with Lofgren was 4-1, with Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch voting no. The documents were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, Central Division.
NOTE: Stipulated court orders are for settlement purposes only and do not necessarily constitute an admission by the defendants of a law violation. Stipulated orders have the full force of law when signed by the judge.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,800 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.