Friday, December 31, 2010

DirecTV Enters into Multi-State Consent Decree
-agrees to pay almost $14 million for deceptive practices

For all you consumer lawyers out there, raise your hand if you've had a DirecTV complaint. Okay, you can put your hands down, you're generating too much of a breeze. For the life of me, I've never understood how a company that treats its customers the way DirecTV does stays in business.

In the settlement with 49 out of 50 (or all 50 depending on the source) of the attorneys general plus the District of Columbia, DirecTV has agreed to pay $13.5 million in fines and restitution, plus it has agreed to cease and desist a number of deceptive practices. Apparently there is or will be a procedure for getting complaints addressed and/or restitution through the attorneys general.

My biggest beef with DirecTV isn't addressed by the settlement, and that is is that they lock you into a multiyear contract, but it is not a written, signed agreement where the customer receives a copy. In fact, rarely is there ever a written contract. I have alleged repeatedly that failure to have a written contract that lasts more than one year is a violation of the statute of frauds (at least in Indiana). The $29.95 (or whatever) package is rarely available. Local channels are hit and miss. Usually the service works fine in the rain, but for some reason, some customers never get their dish to work in the rain, and it's tough luck for them. When you change your service, they often sign you up for an extended contract, sometimes without disclosing that to the customer. When you turn in the equipment, they must have a special department dedicated to losing the equipment; and the people in this department are far better at their jobs than the three people that staff the customer service department. (I estimated the number of customer service employees based upon the quality of the customer service. I could be off by one or two.)

Now it's time for my marginally relevant video of the day. It's more than marginally relevant today, however. It's dead on. I don't know this guy from Adam, but his story is typical of the complaints that I field against DirecTV, often several times a month.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Robosigning Moves to Credit Cards
Chase is implicated by a whistleblower

If you have been following the robosigning controversy in the mortgage industry, it should come as no surprise that there are allegations of fabricated documents in the credit card industry as well. Linda Almonte, a former Chase employee, is suing the bank for wrongful termination. Also, she has apparently made a whistleblower complaint to the SEC alleging the fraudulent document practices of Chase give rise to liabilities which would/could result in inaccurate financial statements. Here are the allegations in Ms. Almonte's letter to the SEC as published by

1. Chase Bank sold to third party debt buyers hundreds of millions of dollars worth of credit card accounts. . .when in fact Chase Bank executivesknewthat many of those accounts had incorrect and overstated balances.

3. Chase Bank executives routinelydestroyedinformation and communications from consumers rather than incorporate that information into the consumer's credit card file, including bankruptcy notices, powers of attorney, notice of cancellation of auto-pay, proof of payments and letters from debt settlement companies.

4. Chase Bank executivesmass-executedthousands of affidavits in support of Chase Banks collection efforts and those Chase Bank executives did not have personal knowledge of the facts set forth in the affidavits.

5. When senior Chase Bank executives were made aware of these systemic problems, senior Chase Bank executives -- rather than remedy the problems -- immediatelyfiredthe whistleblower and attempted to cover up these problems.

If you are litigating a collection defense case on a Chase account, you should read the complete Almonte letter to the SEC, published here. It describes in detail the review process that the accounts should go through and the defects in the system that were the subject of the whistleblowing claims.
Lender Processing Services - The "Dirty Tricks" Link to the Mortgage Crisis?

If you do foreclosure defense work, or if you are just interested in what's going on with the mortgage meltdown crisis, then you need to read this December 6, 2010 article by Scot Paltrow of Reuters, Special Report: Legal Woes Mount for a Foreclosure Kingpin. This is an almost 4,000 word article with no fat in it, and that's why it is a must-read. Lender Processing Services (trading as LPS) is a $2.8 billion company that hardly anybody has heard of outside of the mortgage servicing industry. LPS performs a variety of backroom processing tasks for lenders, servicers and securitized trusts, but what it is getting in trouble for is its foreclosure processing services. Whistleblowers have alleged a pattern and practice of falsified affidavits prepared in the context preparing mortgage foreclosure cases. Now the company is the subject of multiple criminal investigations and several class action lawsuits have been filed against it.

According to the Reuters article, 14 of the 15 biggest loans servicers use LPS for processing tasks, and Bank of America (because there's no sinking ship that's too far gone for BofA to jump on) started using LPS earlier this year.

Consumer lawyers need to be aware of LPS's computer network called the "LPS Desktop". According to Routers, the LPS Desktop "starts foreclosure actions, assigns work to law firms and supervises the cases to conclusion with almost no intervention by humans." LPS chose the law firms used to file the foreclosure cases. In part, the firms were chosen based upon how fast they could get the cases filed, impliedly, firms that took extra time to verify information given were locked out of the system. The LPS computers took data directly from the lenders, integrated it with LPS's document handling (and manufacturing) and forwarded the information electronically to the chosen law firms. The law firms pay LPS upon receiving the case. Now, it's illegal in most states for an attorney or law firm to pay a nonlawyer for referring a case. LPS says that the law firms are paying for use of the computer system, but if the lawyers don't pay if business is not referred, or pay more when business is referred, that doesn't seem too supportable.

If you are a consumer lawyer defending a foreclosure case, I suggest that you submit an interrogatory asking if the foreclosure form or its client used computer system or software by Lender Processing Services in preparing the case for litigation. If so, then you have the basis for further investigation.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Surviving the Holidays

Friday, December 24, 2010

Coolest Christmas Lights of 2010?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Willow Run to Stop Running December 23rd reports that the giant GM manufacturing complex in Willow Run, Michigan will be shutting down completely, and probably for good on December 23rd. This plant was a hallowed example of the high point of U.S. manufacturing might. Five million square feet under roof (1 story). The plant was built by Henry Ford to turn out B-24 bombers in World War II. Turn out bombers it did, 8,685 to be exact, with a bomber heading out the door every 55 minutes during peak production. In 1953, Willow Run was bought by General Motors because a nearby transmission plant was burnt in a fire. GM kept part of the plant in operation since then, and just a few years ago retooled part of it to build 6-speed transmissions.

In the GM bankruptcy, Willow Run was included in the "Old GM" inventory, and its closing became inevitable.

I can't help thinking as we lose each piece of the arsenal of democracy, with the pieces not being replaced, that the United States is that much weaker as a country. That's why the closing of this plant is especially sad to me. We won't ever need B-24 bombers again, but whatever we do need we might not be able to build.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Taiwanese Take on American Politics

This video is from Taiwan's NMA network.

Publish Post

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Wal-Mart is Slashing again - WAGES

As our well-meaning but misguided President breaks all negotiating and budgetary rules in an attempt to get a few dollars in the hands of the people who need it most, the corporate ogres are once again snatching those dollars away in the race to the bottom.

Wal-Mart announced today that it is ending a $1.00 per hour premium for employees working a Sunday shift. It's about time. I mean, everybody knows those Wal-Mart workers were just way overpaid. As if it made a normative difference, a Wal-Mart spokeshole said the new rule applies only to workers hired after January 1, 2011. This is part of CEO Mike Duke's push to reduce costs (and employee solvency) at Wallyworld.

Hmmm, If Sir Duke want's to reduce costs, why doesn't he start with his salary? It took seconds to come up with this story on the web from ABC News commenting that Mike Duke, with his $35 million salary makes more in an hour than some Wal-Mart workers make in a year. Let's say he cut his salary down to the barely livable $10 million a year, that $25 million could pay the Sunday $1.00 stipend for an entire year of a football stadium full of Wal-Mart workers, 60,125 workers to be exact. It sure would be great if 60,125 workers showed up on Duke's doorstep one Sunday morning to remind him of this. Michael Moore, are you listening? Hint, hint.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Obama & Repubs Make a Deal
Richies keep tax breaks - unemployment bone thrown

President Obama was ridden hard and put away wet in the fight over the Bush tax breaks. Word tonight is that the President agreed to a two year extension for everybody including the richest folks. In exchange he got a 13 month extension of unemployment benefits (that the Republicans will brag about too), a partial payroll tax holiday (ditto) and some miscellaneous stuff to junk up the tax code. There's nothing to help the deficit and nothing to get us on a firmer footing over the long term. In other words, the President punted. Really, this isn't even a punt, it's more like a Garo Yepremian pass.

Why is it important? Just the tax cut for those earning over $250,000 per year accounts for a loss of $60 billion in revenue. Per the New York Times, that's enough to pay for free college including room and board for half of the 2 and 4 year college students in the United States. It's enough for universal preschool for 3 and 4 year old children and a lot more. Check out the NYT article.

So now it's time for the marginally relevant video of the day. In the spirit of President Obama's Let's Make a Deal. Here is an assortment of similar deals from my old role model, Monte Hall. (If only I had his fashion sense.)

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Theme Day - Movie Trailer Sunday

Last weekend, I went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I at the theater. There's not much to say about this movie except it's a lot better than the last installment, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. The last installment was so rushed it was barely comprehensible even to anyone who has read the book. The filmmakers made the correct decision to split the Deathly Hallows book (the last of the series) into two movies. This has the natural consequence of making the first of the two movies seem incomplete -- which it is. Now for the real subject of this post, the trailers.

There were a bunch of interesting trailers before the movie. Trailers that were in some ways more interesting than the movie itself. Through blogging magic, I'm going to invert the order of these postings to put these trailers in context.

The Battle of the Greens:
Green Hornet vs. Green Lantern - which do you prefer?

At HP&TDH, back to back, they played trailers for the Green Hornet movie and the Green Lantern movie. Both trailers look better than I would have expected. Seth Rogan was a controversial decision for the Green Hornet role. From the trailer, it looks like he pulls it off. Ryan Reynolds, the "sexiest man alive" seems to do fine as the Green Lantern. The Green Lantern was deemed unfilmable before modern special effects technology. On Youtube there are some very well-done fan trailers that were made prior to the GL movie.

WTF? Cowboys vs. Aliens

I didn't even know this movie was in production. Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig star in the first space western actually set in the Old West. There's more audacity in this trailer than there has been in the first two years of the Obama administration.

New Yogi Bear Trailer - Better, but Good Enough?

Back in July, I posted the first Yogi Bear trailer. I called it crap. I don't know whether Dan Akroyd's Yogi Bear impression got better, or if I just got used to it, but this trailer is better; and since I grew up with Yogi Bear, I'd probably rent this movie. I'm not paying the big bucks to go see it, especially in 3D. I hope all the funny jokes aren't in the trailer. The movie comes out December 17.