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California accuses JPMorgan Chase of debt-collection abuses

May 09, 2013|By Andrew Tangel

NEW YORK -- California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris has accused JPMorgan Chase & Co. of using fraudulent and unlawful debt-collection practices against some 100,000 credit card holders in the state.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday, Harris' office claims the major Wall Street bank employed abusive and illegal practices over at least three years.

Chase's use of illegal robo-signing was “widespread,” Harris' office alleges. The practice involved automatic signing of various documents -- some sworn -- without reviewing the paperwork or bank records.

"Sewer service" litigation against borrowers was also used by Chase, the suit alleges. The bank failed to even notify credit card holders it was taking them to court, while Chase claimed they had been notified as required by law, Harris' office claims.

Chase, the lawsuit claims, effectively used California's judicial system like a "mill" to obtain default judgments and garnish borrowers' wages. The bank filed thousands of lawsuits every month from January 2008 until April 2011, the state claims. On one day alone, Chase lodged 469 such suits.

Chase also sought default judgments against borrowers who were military members on active duty, the suit claims.

“At nearly every stage of the collection process, defendants cut corners in the name of speed, cost savings and their own convenience, providing only the thinnest veneer of legitimacy to their lawsuits,” the complaint says.

Paul Hartwick, a Chase spokesman, said the bank had no comment on the lawsuit.

In a statement, Harris said Chase's actions amounted to "serious misconduct."

“This enforcement action seeks to hold Chase accountable for systematically using illegal tactics to flood California’s courts with specious lawsuits against consumers," Harris said. "My office will demand a permanent halt to these practices and redress for borrowers who have been harmed.”

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