The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit yesterday upheld a sanctions order against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for “problematic” conduct during discovery of a lawsuit it filed against a number of individuals and companies alleged to have engaged in a phantom debt collection scheme, ruling that “violating the district court’s clear orders and derailing multiple depositions is nowhere near proper conduct.”
A copy of the ruling in the case of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Marcus Brown, Sarita Brown, Tasha Pratcher, Global Payments, Frontline Processing Corp., et al., can be accessed by clicking here.
The CFPB filed its lawsuit back in 2015, including five service providers — the appellees in this case — that “provided substantial assistance” to the original defendants and knew or should have known that their “platforms were advancing the debt collectors’ unlawful conduct,” according to the Bureau.
It was during discovery that the Bureau began engaging in what the Appeals Court referred to as “problematic conduct.” Among the tactics deployed by the CFPB during discovery were: avoiding answering questions during depositions, repeatedly engaging in filibuster-style readings from memory aids, and “game the system so that nothing was accomplished.”
A District Court judge granted a motion for sanctions against the CFPB, and dismissed the five service providers from the case.
The CFPB argued on appeal that it made “all reasonable efforts” to comply with what it described as “unclear” instructions from the District Court judge. The Appeals Court, though, disagreed, saying the instructions from the judge were clear and it’s not that the CFPB misunderstood, it just “disagreed.” The District Court judge explained the instructions on multiple occasions, the Appeals Court noted, and the CFPB repeatedly failed to follow those orders.