I have a quibble with this quote from the New York Times‘s Jessica Silver-Greenberg, which she uses to set the stage for her reporting on the Encore Capital Group settlement:
The same problems that dogged the foreclosure of homes — and prompted public outcry and a multibillion-dollar settlement by some of the nation’s biggest banks — are increasingly showing up in the practices of large buyers of bad consumer debt.
Debt buyers were engaging in assembly-line litigation long before the foreclosure firms started. I’ve been writing about it here for years, but it’s just never gotten the same kind of exposure as the foreclosure industry’s callous disregard for the courts briefly did.
From the Washington Post:
The measure, championed by Senate Democrats, would cut Pell Grants in order to free up money to pay companies that collect student loans on behalf of the Department of Education.
Sounds like robbing the poor to give to the rich.
Three years ago, Congress added this sentence to the farm bill:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, regulation, or administrative limitation, no limitation on the period within which an offset may be initiated or taken pursuant to this section shall be effective.
What that sentence did was remove the statute of limitation on debts owed to the federal government. As a result, according to the Washington Post, the Treasury Department is intercepting hundreds of thousands of tax returns this year, to collect on very old debts, some going back to the 1960s. So far, it has collected something like $75 million using this tactic.
Today’s outrageous social media story concerns Patrick Snay, who settled a lawsuit against his former employer for $80,000. The settlement agreement contained a confidentiality clause that he apparently violated by telling his daughter that “he’d settled and was happy with the results,” and that his daughter apparently violated when she posted this on Facebook:
Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.”
Gulliver, the defendant, saw the posting, refused to pay the settlement due to the breach of the agreement, and now the whole thing is front-page news.
Bankruptcy is sort of a relief valve for the economy. When financial pressure (debt) builds up to a certain point, the relief valve opens and people use bankruptcy to discharge their debt. Then, they go back to being consumers and the economy can return to a healthy state. There are other relief valves, of course, but bankruptcy is really the only one available to consumers. Bailouts are for too-big-to-fail banks, not the little guy.
If consumers cannot declare bankruptcy, they cannot go back to being consumers. That means the pressure stays high and the economy has trouble returning to a healthy state.
Two weeks ago, it was big news when a Salt Lake City school took lunches away from students when their card was declined at the register. (Students at many schools use a card to buy lunches, and parents are responsible for depositing money to the student’s lunch card account through the school’s website.)
It turns out that many Minnesota schools do the same thing. According to the StarTribune:
A majority of public school districts in this state deny hot lunch — or any lunch at all in some cases — to children who can’t pay for them. Some schools take the meals from students in the lunch line and dump them in the trash when the computer shows a deficit in their lunch accounts.
Pretty striking. Can we all agree this is a problem, even if we can’t all agree on the solution?
From insideARM, the recommendations include:
Under the terms of the settlement reached in several class actions against Midland Funding for its (apparently past) practice of employing robo-signers to execute affidavits for debt buyer lawsuits, each class member would receive under $20 — and that’s it. The Sixth Circuit rightly decided this was unfair (pdf).
Unfortunately, the Sixth Circuit seemed to think the settlement was unfair primarily because the named plaintiffs (i.e., those whose names actually appeared on the complaints) would receive $8,000 plus the elimination of their debts. The class members who opted into the settlement just got $17.38 each, and still owed their debts: