On October 19, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio entered an order rejecting a request that the CFPB pay $1.2 million in attorney’s fees after the Bureau lost its debt collection lawsuit, finding no evidence of bad faith. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the court entered judgment against the Bureau on all counts after ruling that the agency failed to meet its burden to show that the debt collectors mislead consumers when it sent demand letters on law firm letterhead even though the attorneys at the firm were not meaningfully involved in preparing those letters.
According to the opinion, the law firm argued that it was entitled to attorneys’ fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act because, among other things, it suffered reputation harm and expended significant resources in its defense. Furthermore, the law firm claimed that the Bureau knew or should have known its claims were meritless. But the court decided otherwise, pointing to the advisory jury’s findings that the law firm’s debt collection letters to some consumers were “false, deceptive, or misleading” and acknowledging the Bureau’s reliance on expert testimony and its survival of summary judgment and judgment on the pleadings. The court found that even if the litigation was “an overreach based on facts, or that the Bureau was attempting to expand consumer protection laws past their useful purpose,” there is no evidence to suggest the suit was targeted or in bad faith.