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.
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
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.”
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!)