Report Highlights Collection Firm That Garnished Bank Account Before Putting It All Back

Two former partners of Frederick J. Hanna & Associates are in the news after a published report about a Georgia woman who had the funds in her bank account seized, only to have it returned when a news outlet investigated the incident.

The partners — Joseph Cooling and Robert Winter — have launched a new firm, Cooling & Winter. The firm allegedly garnished all of the funds from a woman’s bank account after obtaining a default judgment. The woman claimed she never received service of the complaint when she was sued for an unpaid debt in 2005. When a news outlet informed a judge that it intended to sit in on a hearing, the law firm dismissed the suit and returned the garnished funds back to the woman’s bank account. The firm investigated the original service documents and found she may not have lived at the address where the paperwork was allegedly delivered, so it dropped the lawsuit.

Cooling & Winter was launched the same month that Hanna & Associated agreed to pay a $3 million fine while not admitting any wrongdoing. The firm was accused by the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection of allegedly engaging in illegal debt collection activities by relying on deceptive court filings and faulty evidence to “churn” out lawsuits, according to the complaint that was filed in the case.

The published report used the woman’s case as an opportunity to speak with consumer advocates and attorneys with Legal Aid societies to discuss the ways in which collection agencies “game the system” by taking advantage of people who “don’t know how to defend themselves,” because they choose not to show up for court hearings.


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