A certain famous chef is known for exclaiming “BAM!” when he wants to extract the most flavor from a recipe. The FTC’s case against an unrelated California company called BAM Financial alleges a far less savory form of extraction.
Filed as part of Operation Collection Protection, the FTC charged that BAM Financial used lies, threats, intimidation, and other illegal practices to extract payment from consumers. When obscene language, incessant calls, and harassment of family members didn’t get the result they wanted, the defendants got personal. The complaint outlines just a few examples. For instance, the defendants told the parent of one purported debtor “No wonder your daughter is in such a predicament with a mother like you.” The FTC alleges that they falsely stated to another consumer’s 84-year-old mother that they had a warrant for her daughter’s arrest, and later told the consumer they were bounty hunters.
The FTC says BAM’s letters and phone calls were riddled with false threats of litigation. The complaint also charged that in numerous instances, the defendants didn’t follow up within five days of their initial communication with proper validation notices, as the law requires.
The settlement with BAM Financial, Everton Financial, Legal Financial Consulting, Luis O. Carrera, and Roberto Llaury bans the lot of them for life from the debt collection industry. (They’ll join more than 100 others on the FTC’s list of Banned Debt Collectors.) The order also imposes a $4.8 million judgment that, based on the defendants’ financial condition, will be partially suspended upon the surrender of certain assets and cash. The full amount will become due immediately if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial state.
The message for other companies is that the plain language of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and cases brought under the FDCPA and the FTC Act offer a recipe for compliance that isn’t hard for legitimate collectors to follow.