New York

Herbal Supplements at Major Retailers Contain Houseplants, Little Else

Yesterday the New York Attorney General reported the results of its tests on herbal supplements purchased at GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart:

The authorities said they had conducted tests on top-selling store brands of herbal supplements at four national retailers — GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart — and found that four out of five of the products did not contain any of the herbs on their labels. The tests showed that pills labeled medicinal herbs often contained little more than cheap fillers like powdered rice, asparagus and houseplants, and in some cases substances that could be dangerous to those with allergies.

You read that right. Houseplants.

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Encore Capital Group Must Vacate 4,500+ Judgments in New York

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.

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Should the SEC Try Cases or Settle Lightly?

Twice now, New York U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff has refused to approve a settlement reached by the Securities & Exchange Commission. In the first case, Bank of America agreed to pay a $33 million fine without admitting it did anything wrong in hiding bonuses of $3.6 billion promised prior to its merger with Merrill Lynch. Judge Rakoff eventually approved a $150 million settlement, calling it “half-baked justice at best.”

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Baum’s Foreclosure Mill Apologizes For Insensitive Halloween Party

“I again want to sincerely apologize for the inappropriate costumes worn by some of our employees at our Halloween Party in 2010. It was in extremely poor taste and I take full responsibility. I know people were extremely offended and people have every right to be upset with me and my firm.”

–Stephen Baum, whose New York foreclosure firm’s callous Halloween costumes from last year got the media and the blogosphere all fired up this week.

Foreclosure Firm Makes the Argument for Regulation and Enforcement

Over the weekend, the New York Times published pictures from a Buffalo, NY, foreclosure law firm’s Halloween party. Unfortunately—but perhaps predictably—the theme seemed to be “stereotypes of people we toss out on the street.” So lots of dirty, drunk homeless caricatures.


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Occupy Wall Street Protest is Growing With Help from Unions

One percent of the world’s population controls 40% of its wealth. The other 99%—in the U.S., at least—are finally getting fed up about that, and some have spent the last two weeks camped out on Wall Street, demanding a return to economic fairness. Protesters seem to be from all ages and all backgrounds. And they are pissed off but peaceful. (The NYPD, however, is another story.)

The Occupy Wall Street crowd—a few thousand now—is about to get a boost from several NYC unions. Says Michael Kink, executive director of the Strong Economy For All Coalition told Crain’s. “We’re looking to find common cause and support the effort. It’s the right fight at the right time and we want to be part of it.”

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Debt Collection & Bankruptcy News Roundup, Week of March 7th, 2011

Debt collection and bankruptcy news has been piling up in my queue, and since I can’t hope to give each post the attention it deserves, here is a grand roundup.

And, finally, your daily dose of harassing debt collection calls, thanks to ConsumerESQ:

Lawsuits Become Investment Vehicles

Wall Street is now underwriting plaintiffs in everything from divorces to class actions, bringing justice—and controversy—within the reach of more Americans than ever before. This implicates a term often bandied about by plaintiffs’ lawyers: “a right without a remedy.”

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Debt Collection News Roundup, Week of June 12th, 2010

This week began with a bang, in the form of the Federal Trade Commission’s report that consumer complaints about debt collection abuses have tripled. The FTC also released a report, Repairing A Broken System: Protecting Consumers in Debt Collection Litigation and Arbitration in which it criticized the one-two punch of debt collection and mandatory binding arbitration.

The New York Times popped in on Tuesday with a report that at least one New York law firm is filing 80,000 lawsuits per year, enough to put a serious strain on the New York court system. Minnesota Senator Al Franked pointed out to the Federal Trade Commission that the same sort of monkey business is going on in Minnesota, and asked the FTC to take action now and through future regulation. Minnesota legislators also promise to fix the broken debt collection system.

Update: the FTC says it is going to look into debt collectors who are jailing debtors in Minnesota. No report on whether the FTC will look into the other allegations of abuse Senator Franken mentioned.

Oh, and surprise of surprises, a Chicago debt collection law firm, stopped paying its own bills. When asked if it could borrow the money from a friend or family member, the firm had no comment.

But we didn’t even get to all the news this week. We still haven’t weighed in on the sweeping (?) financial reform that Congress finally got around to. And if you just can’t get enough debt collection news, here is a sprinkling of links on the Office of the Comptroller of Currency, which is (apparently) charged with protecting banks from state laws, and on the Military Lending Act, which isn’t actually helping members of the military escape scammers and loan-shark-sized interest rates service fees.

New York Judges Waking Up to Debt Collectors’ Shenanigans

Debt collectors treat the courts like a division of the collection agency, but New York judges are finally starting to object.

Privately, some judges say they are embarrassed that in many New York courts, debt-collection lawyers have grown so comfortable that they give the impression they are in charge of the proceedings and do not need prove their claims with strong evidence.

A victim of the collection agencies who was awarded $4,800 for the ethical violations of a New York collection law firm, Eltman, Eltman & Cooper, said:

They don’t care if you’re sick; they don’t care if you’re poor,” Ms. Bohnet said in an interview at her job in Woodmere. “Their only job is to collect money, and they’ll do it in any way possible.

The NYT story is riddled with great quotes. Here is one from Judge Straniere:

Like the Land of Oz, run by a Wizard who no one has ever seen, the Land of Credit Cards permits consumers to be bound by agreements they never sign, agreements they may never have received, subject to change without notice and the laws of a state other than those existing where they reside.

In New York, Some Judges Are Now Skeptical About Debt Collectors’ Claims | NYT (thanks, Martha!)