Sears, Roebuck & Co. formally entered into a $290-million nationwide settlement stemming from the retailer's illegal debt collection practices. The settlement with all 50 states, filed in Boston's U.S. Bankruptcy Court, affect an estimated 146,000 consumers nationwide. Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based Sears took a pretax $475-million charge in the second quarter in anticipation of the settlements, spokesman Jan Drummond said. The settlement stems from Sears obtaining agreements from customers in bankruptcy that call for debtors to pay debts that would be otherwise discharged. The agreements can be valid when they are voluntary and filed with the Bankruptcy Court for review. But an investigation by the Massachusetts attorney general found that Sears had never filed them with the court. Under terms of the settlement, Sears will forgive up to $125 million in consumer debts it improperly obtained, repay at least $125 million in compensation and pay $35 million to the states as well as $5 million to benefit consumer education. The settlement requires Sears to continue to identify affected customers who signed agreements from January 1992 through today and repay them. Those customers who signed agreements before 1992 are also entitled to compensation, but they must file a claim form.