JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) was sued by California Attorney General Kamala Harris over claims that JP Morgan pursued lawsuits against defaulted borrowers based on insufficient evidence.
The Attorney says that from January 2008 to April 2011, JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) filed more than 100,000 lawsuits against consumers in the state over uncollected credit-card debt, including 469 in a single day.
Harris’ accusations for JPMorgan
Harris’ office alleges JPMorgan’s use of illegal robo-signing was widespread. The practice involved automatic signing of various documents, some sworn, without reviewing the paperwork or bank records. Robo-signing was used on a massive scale during the foreclosure crisis, with banks scrambling to complete foreclosures around the country as the housing market went south. It was among the foreclosure-related abuses cited by regulators in a pair of multi-billion-dollar settlement reached with JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) and other large mortgage servicers over the past year and a half.
The Attorney’s complaint also indicated that the bank couldn’t have won the judgments so quickly if it had complied with minimum consumer protections under state law. The lawsuit claims JP Morgan effectively used California’s judicial system like a “mill” to obtain default judgments and garnish borrowers’ wages.
Harris’ complaint also claims that JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) failed to notify Californians that they were being sued, as it was required to do. The complaint says at nearly every stage of the collection process, defendants cut corners in the name of speed, cost savings, and their own convenience, providing only the thinnest veneer of legitimacy to their lawsuits.
According to the complaint, based on alleged violations of California’s unfair competition law, JPMorgan sent letters to consumers demanding payment of a balance due, claiming they may be liable for attorney’s fees, and threatening to garnish income and place liens on property.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) could end up on the hook for a significant sum should a judge find in California’s favor. Each violation carries a maximum penalty of $2,500, and a spokesman for Harris said there were likely multiple violations per case on average among the more than 100,000 consumers JPMorgan targeted.
Harris said in a statement JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) must be held accountable for systematically using illegal tactics to flood California’s courts with specious lawsuits against consumers. Her office will look for a permanent halt to these practices and redress for borrowers who have been harmed.