California Attorney General Kamala Harris yesterday filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against J.P. Morgan Chase bank for some of the debt collection abuses highlighted in a recent WW cover story, "The Enforcer."

"I'm glad to see the California AG take action," says Angela Martin of Economic Fairness Oregon, an advocacy group pushing for consumer protections in House Bill 2826. 

"It's time for legislators to act to protect Oregonians from being abused by banks who lose or shred documentation and then sue consumers without proper documentation."

In a statement, AG Harris high-lighted some of the tactics that allowed J.P. Morgan to file as many as 469 lawsuits in a day in California, often, she alleges, without proper documentation.

Here's what Harris wants to stop:

  • Robo-signing: Chase illegally robo-signed various litigation filings, including sworn documents, declarations, and verified complaints, without reviewing the relevant files or bank records or even reading the documents before signing.
  • “Sewer Service”: Chase failed to properly serve notice of debt collection lawsuits against consumers while claiming they had been served as required by law. This practice, known as “sewer service,” deprives the consumer of any notice of the lawsuit.
  • Filing Irregularities: Chase haphazardly assembled its official legal filings. For example, Chase failed to redact consumers’ personal information in attachments to filings, potentially exposing them to identity theft and in violation of California law. In addition, when asking courts to enter default judgments against consumers, Chase consistently swore under penalty of perjury that the consumers were not on active military duty. In fact, Chase never checked.  This deprived service members of important legal protections to which they are entitled while on active duty.

Martin says credit card issuers and debt collectors are using the same tactics in Oregon.

"This is the mortgage scandal, part two," Martin says. "These are the kind of abuses that led to multi-billion dollar mortgage settlements but if lawmakers don't move the bill [2826], the abuses will continue."