Consumers allege they were trapped by invisible enrollment tag-team
“Please sir, can we have some less?”
We’re not even going to try to lead you through this one.
Delgado v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC was a monster. It featured an avalanche of discovery that generated 35 conferences, 30 contested discovery motions, 75-plus document dumps amounting to more than 400,000 pages of material, 20-plus depositions, and five subpoenas.
Six years and four amended complaints since its first filing, the suit finally settled this year, but will anyone involved ever be the same?
To paraphrase Dickens’ “Bleak House”:
“We asked a gentleman by us, if he knew what cause was on? He told us Delgado v. Ocwen. We asked him if he knew what was doing in it? He said, really no he did not, nobody ever did; but as well as he could make out, it was over.
‘Over for the day?’ we asked him. ‘No,’ he said. ‘Over for good.’
Over for good!
When we heard this unaccountable answer, we looked at one another quite lost in amazement.”
Let there be light
Here’s the shortest summary we can manage.
Ocwen and several related companies were accused of a massive fake-check enrollment scheme. Ocwen, “America’s largest subprime loan servicer,” according to the most recent complaint, teamed up with co-defendant Cross Country Services Inc., which mailed millions of small ($2.50) checks to Ocwen customers. The checks were disguised as a refund or other remuneration related to the customer’s Ocwen account.
The plaintiffs alleged that when the checks were cashed, Ocwen and Cross Country took the customer’s endorsement as a sign-up for Cross Country’s home warranty plans. Ocwen then added a line item charge to its bills for the Cross Country services, which usually went unnoticed by the customers when they sent in payment. Ocwen gave Cross Country the proceeds, and Cross Country, in turn, shared a percentage of the revenue with Ocwen.
The class alleged that the damages had ballooned to $35 million over the course of the litigation –Ocwen had allegedly continued to bill affected customers after the legal fight erupted because it was being indemnified by Cross Country for the court costs (and Cross Country threatened a $69 million termination fee should Ocwen walk away).
The final charges included violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, unjust enrichment, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and the violation of consumer protection laws and business codes in more than a dozen states.
This massive tangle of litigation was finally settled in February, with a $26 million pot for consumers to use to recoup up to 77 percent of the money they paid Cross Country, dependent on the number of payments made.
Ocwen admitted no wrongdoing in the agreement. But this is a scheme that any marketing shop should steer clear of; as the plaintiffs remark in their last amended complaint, the practice is drawing a lot of heat:
“Check solicitation schemes have been shut down in six separate multi-state enforcement actions … deemed fraudulent by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in a 2006 case brought by the Federal Trade Commission … found misleading by an Iowa trial court … repeatedly shut down by Attorney Generals across the country, and … explicitly outlawed by the state of Minnesota.”