Midland Credit Management, Inc.
Encore Capital Group, Inc.
8875 Aero Drive Suite 200
San Diego, California 92193
'MIDLAND' sliding to 'MUDLAND'?
In the debt collection business, brain is brawn. The debt collectors at Mudland Credit Management ... uh ... Midland Credit Management/Encore Receivables (heretofore called MCM, Mudland or just plain Mud) know that, as well as the next garbage-debt collector.
And many say they abuse that power, counting on what some call peasant, or consumer ignorance. Sadly, exploitation of "peasant ignorance" is the gasoline that fuels the multi-billion dollar debt-collection industry.
And, it's up to us "peasants" to stop it.
Profile of an industry Goliath
James Brandon Black, CEO
George Richard Brooker, vice-president and controller
Paul Jaron Grinberg, CFO
Robin Ross Pruitt, secretary and general counsel
James Syran Sr., vice-president
By revenue, San Diego-based Midland/Encore (NYSE: ECPG) is the largest publicly traded debt-buying firm in the United States.
In 2010, the company collected nearly $267 million through lawsuits -- up 15 percent from around $233 million a year earlier. The number of suits filed against borrowers rose by about a third to 425,000 last year, from 334,000 in 2009.
Encore reported 2010 net income of $49 million, up by nearly a half from $33 million in 2009.
Revenue jumped more than 20 percent to $381 million from $316 million.
Understand, Encore Capital Group, Inc. is a holding company. It is a systems-driven purchaser and manager of charged-off, consumer-receivable portfolios and, through its wholly owned subsidiary, Ascension Capital Group, Inc., Mudland also provides bankruptcy services to the finance industry.
Directly or indirectly, Mudland has its fingers in just about every mud pie imaginable.
Midland Funding (MF) is 100-percent owned by MPM Business Solutions LTD, which is 100-percent owned by MCM, which is 100- percent owned by Encore. MF has no employees,as it has assigned all rights (including setting the collection fee it "pays") to MCM by a "servicing agreement".
Confused yet? Youre supposed to be. That's the point. Debt- collection outfits want to be confusing and obtuse so they can manipulate and intimidate us.
Here's how it works: MCM buys junk debts for pennies on the dollar. These accounts rarely have adequate paper work to validate the legitimacy of the debts. (FYI -- Mudland is infamous for its inability to provide validation on the garbage debts.) Still, that doesn't stop them from placing questionable accounts into your credit file. Then, they file lawsuits against you based on bogus (?) affidavits.
Bogus (?) affidavits, you say? How?! Many debt collectors swear under oath they have first-hand knowledge of an account, usually based on nothing more than what the perjurer (?) de jour reads on a computer screen.
Many of these old accounts may be well past the statute of limitations, based on from which state the debt originates. Still, MCM can (and often will) sully your credit file by reporting trash debts to the credit bureau. Unfortunately, that's legal, based on the reporting criteria of our credit system.
Mud's chief executive officer, James Brandon Black, pockets more than $2 million annually based solely on MCMs claim that the junk debts are valid. Now, ask yourself, is that fair?
HOW MIDLAND OPERATES
MCM has call centers in the United States and in India. Collectors are taught to handle abuse by telling supposed and unwitting debtors:
"This attitude is not going to get you anywhere. We can either work with you or refer you for further action."
Simply disputing the information probably won't get you anywhere. Recent information suggests that as much as 95 percent of all disputes sent to MCM on purchased debts are trashed without any human ever seeing them. That's right, America. Those disputes you have sent to right the wrongs in your credit reports probably never see the light of day. Mudland responds to a consumer dispute by sending a letter asking for in-depth, personal information under the guise of trying to resolve the matter "quickly":
"... As part of our investigation of your dispute, it would be helpful to have a copy of any documentation you may have that supports your dispute. In the interim, we have requested that the three major consumer credit reporting agencies change the status of this account to 'Disputed.'
"Please mail or fax cancelled checks, paid letters, police reports, or any other documentation you may have to support your claim to (800) 306- 4443, Attention: Consumer Relations ... We can be reached at (800) 825- 8131 ext. 2980, should you have any further questions ... "
Do you see what they are trying to do?! They are doing their best to manipulate you into sending them personal information that they don't have. That way, it potentially saves them the trouble of conjuring up a phony (?) affidavit. Don't give them anything! Nothing. Zip. Zero. Zilch.
Maybe the start of a 'peasant' uprising?
The cracks are getting deeper within the Mudland wall. They are under scrutiny and appear ever-wary. Thus, making excuses for their unethical (?), immoral (?) and illegal (?) activities is becoming more common. In February 2011, Encore Capital Group agreed to a nearly $6 million settlement meant to put an end to all pending class-action lawsuits. The suits accuse it of using fraudulent affidavits to collect money on junk debts.
Apparently, the number of lawsuits filed against Mudland swelled after an article ran in the "Wall Street Journal" (November 2010) about the surge in lawsuits MCM has initiated, suing people who supposedly aren't paying their bills. In retaliation, those people have been counter suing in droves, disputing the validity of Mudland's claims.
James B. Black told a reporter that the article led to "more and more lawsuits related to the company's affidavit practices."
"We were subjected to copycat lawsuits because of that article and other articles, so we decided to settle all pending class-action lawsuits related to our affidavit practices," he said. J.B. probably didn't want his employees to be deposed any further. In a 2009 case out of Ohio, an employee of Midland Funding LLC testified in a deposition that he signs 200 to 400 affidavits a day and that, few, if any, are checked for accuracy. "As far as what I deal with, they just come from the printer as far as where we get them," the employee testified.
The federal judge presiding over the case ruled that Encore violated federal and state laws by trying to collect credit-card debt using a fake affidavit. The judge concluded that Encore employees determined the validity of a given debt "based entirely" on a printout. The federal court also rejected Encore's request to throw out the suit. Right now, California and Texas attorneys general are conducting probes into the means by which MCM goes about collecting debts. Encore said it "intends to cooperate fully" with both investigations.
Believe it when you see it, folks. MCM is typical of many junk-debt buying companies that are suspected of lying, breaking the law, committing perjury on affidavits and failing to respond to disputes which may prove that bogus information is placed in credit files. Mudland's top-three muckrakers (James B. Black, Paul J. Grinberg, and Robin Ross-Pruitt) can take home a hefty seven or perhaps eight-figure salary with stock -- and, it's all on your dime. They amass wealth based on assertions that the debts are legal and information placed in credit files is "accurate." (Trust me!)
What's more, they actually manage to sleep at night. Can you believe that?
Will Mudland/Encore survive? Yes, for awhile.
However, the lawsuits are bound to continue as they have made it clear they will not allow their illegal debt-collection practices and credit bureau reporting systems to become public knowledge. So, they will keep writing checks and settling lawsuits, hoping to keep the proverbial foxes out of the hen house.
Still, that's only time borrowed. Eventually, what they borrow will one day have to be payed back. And, as J.B. Black is learning, pay back's a bi ... beast.
Fortunately for us, a new federal agency called the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau (CFPB) is set to launch this summer. The CFPB will look at regulating the actions of vultures such as Midland. The free ride will end at some point and Mudland Credit is a perfect example of why this industry needs federal regulation. Mudland/Encore has peaked, in my opinion. And, they appear to be in a massive mudslide along with other cheating, lying, stealing and abusive debt collectors. Let's not forget companies such as National Arbitration Forum, Axiant, and Mann Bracken, Eskanos & Adler, along with dozens of smaller bottom feeders that thought they would go on just screwing consumers into the hereafter.
Now, they are nothing more than garbage rotting in a landfill waiting to decompose. Mudland/Encore, let's hope you keep getting nailed by attorneys and consumers and that your days of living off the hard-working American consumer are numbered, just like your predecessors.
SMARTEN UP, AMERICA!
The law is on OUR side. Federal law, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), states that only "accurate" information may be placed into our credit files. Almost every lawsuit filed against Encore/MCM and their subsidiaries appears to be paying off for the Plaintiffs who file against them, as James B. Black and his cohorts do not want to expose Mud's inner workings.
When Midland paid millions to make those class-action suits go away, that sent a signal to attorneys and consumers alike because a settlement that large probably means they have plenty to hide. The 5.7$ million was pocket change compared to what potentially was (and still is) at stake.
Here lately, suits and fines filed against MCM are all in the six-figure range. Take the Maryland case where Mud operated without a mandatory state license. Consumer lawyer Peter A. Holland filed a class-action suit that resulted in thousands of claims being dismissed, totalling more than $10 million.
WE ARE THE AMERICAN CONSUMER!!!!
It is our blood, our sweat and our money that drive the economy of this great nation. We are all tired of being lied to, ripped off and mistreated by a few who think they have a right to exploit us. The debt collection industry is out of control. We are tired of their lies and sick of their greed. All Americans should take advantage of the laws that hold debt collectors accountable for their actions. Let's hold their feet to the fire! Let's show them they must act in accordance to the law and in compliance with consumer rights!
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