On June 1, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California preliminarily approved a class action settlement, which would require a corporate defendant to pay $2.7 million to resolve allegations that it provided false information on credit reports to auto dealers. The defendant sells credit reports to auto dealers to help dealers manage their regulatory compliance obligations, the order explained, noting that one of these obligations prohibits dealers from engaging in business with anyone designated on the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control’s (OFAC) Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list. The SDN list is comprised of persons and entities owned or controlled by (or acting for or on behalf of) a targeted company, or non-country specific persons, who are prohibited from conducting business in the U.S. The defendant would flag a consumer as an “OFAC Hit” if it matched a name on the SDN list.
The order explained that when using a “similar name” algorithm script to run the consumer’s name against the SDN list to check for a match, the defendant only ran first and last names and did not input other available information such as birth dates and addresses. The lead plaintiff filed a putative class action pleading claims under the FCRA and California’s Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies Act, alleging his name inaccurately came up as an OFAC hit on a credit report sold to an auto dealer. In turn, the plaintiff was denied credit and suffered emotionally, later learning that the defendant incorrectly matched him with an SDN. According to class members, the defendant failed to follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy when matching consumer information and failed to provide, upon request, all information listed in a consumer’s file. Moreover, the lead plaintiff claimed the defendant failed to investigate the disputed OFAC-related information sold to the dealer. The defendant moved for summary judgment on the premise that it was not acting as a consumer reporting agency and that OFAC check documents were not consumer reports, but the court denied the motion and later certified the class. If finalized, the settlement would provide $1,000 to each of the class members, attorneys fees and costs, and a service award to the lead plaintiff.