The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission jointly filed an amicus brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Bock v. Pressler & Pressler, LLP. In the case, a U.S. district court previously ruled that a debt collection law firm violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by filing a complaint without “meaningful attorney involvement.” The overarching argument of the CFPB and FTC is that: (1) filing a complaint represents that an attorney has been involved in reviewing the allegations in the complaint and “is reasonably knowledgeable” of their content; and (2) that the FDCPA applies to the statements of attorneys.
As applied to the Pressler case, the CFPB and the FTC argue that the facts are undisputed that the attorney spent an average of four seconds reviewing a complaint on the computer system: “Under any conceivable standard, four seconds is not enough to become meaningfully involved and form a professional judgment about the appropriate action to take. For that reason, Pressler’s representation that an attorney had done so was deceptive and violated the FDCPA.”
The case in Pressler raises novel questions about what level of review is necessary by an attorney before filing a debt collection complaint, and whether such conduct is actionable.
We will continue to monitor this case within the Third Circuit and similar developments.