On July 18, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York denied summary judgment in a suit filed by the FTC and the New York Attorney General against four corporate defendants (Corporate Defendants) and four individual defendants (Individual Defendants) alleging that the Defendants engaged in abusive and deceptive debt collection practices. See Federal Trade Commission and People of the State of New York v. Vantage Point Services, LLC, Case 1:15-cv-00006-WMS-HKS (W.D.N.Y., Jul. 18, 2017). Plaintiffs argued that the Corporate Defendants, together with several non-defendant debt-collecting businesses, engaged in a single debt-collection enterprise. The Corporate Defendants maintained, however, that while they “did business with the various entities, either by placing debt with them or by processing payments on debt they were collecting,” the businesses remained separate, distinct entities, and they operated independently.
The court found that there were “numerous disputed issues of fact” concerning the plaintiffs’ common enterprise theory, including a failure by the plaintiffs to specify which entities allegedly made threats or used illegal tactics to collect debt. Indeed, the court noted that while there was “overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing,” the plaintiffs had “failed to link that wrongdoing to any specific Defendant.” In fact, the court observed that the “majority of the wrongdoing appears to have been committed by the non-defendant call initiators.” The court also found material disputes of fact as to whether the Corporate Defendants shared office space and commingled funds and as to whether the Individual Defendants were liable at all.