A jury has issued its decision in a lawsuit brought by the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (which was known as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau when the suit was filed) against Weltman Weinberg and Reis, but the judge has decided that he will issue the final verdict in the case.
The CFPB filed a lawsuit against Weltman last April for allegedly violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act by sending collection letters that made it appear as though they came from a lawyer and calling consumers and falsely misrepresenting that a lawyer was involved. Weltman had vowed to defend the lawsuit, saying it was filed after the firm refused to be “strong-armed” into signing a consent order with the regulator.
The 12-member jury ruled that the collection letters did contain information that was “false, deceptive or misleading,” but when asked whether the plaintiff — the CFPB — had proved that Weltman’s lawyers were not meaningfully involved in the collections process, the jury said “no.”
Judge Donald Nugent has opted to use his judicial prerogative and, while taking the jury’s decision into consideration, craft his own ruling in the case. Judge Nugent gave the CFPB until June 15 to submit a brief arguing its position and gave the defendants until the end of June to submit its brief. From a published report: A federal judge is allowed to use a jury in an advisory capacity, meaning he or she will consider a jury’s verdict and make a final determination based on what happened in court and existing case law.
Despite much attention on the fact that the defendants indicated that they might call Richard Cordray, the former director of the CFPB, as a witness, they decided not to do so. Cordray is currently running for governor of Ohio, and today is the Democratic primary that will decide which candidate will run in November’s election.
Cordray’s involvement in the case was thought to be relevant because he was attorney general of Ohio between 2009 and 2011 when the state hired a lawyer from the firm, who used similar collection letters as the ones that are now under scrutiny.