In Daugherty v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, 2017 WL 3172422, (4th Cir. July 24, 2017), the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the jury’s finding of improper reinvestigation and willfulness against a furnisher, but found the punitive damages award to be constitutionally excessive.

We must affirm the district court’s judgment regarding Ocwen’s liability for willful misconduct if there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict. Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a)(1); Bresler, 855 F.3d at 196.  The jury was presented evidence that eight separate dispute verification requests were transmitted to Ocwen with the “007” dispute code. This dispute code signaled a broad challenge to the accuracy of Ocwen’s report of account status, payment history profile, and payment rating. Four of these eight dispute verification requests, transmitted in March 2013, April 2014, June 2014, and July 2014, contained account information that erroneously showed that Daugherty’s account was in foreclosure or that amounts owed were past due more than 120 days. Ocwen’s responses to the erroneous information in the dispute verification requests of March 2013 and July 2014 was “Verified As Reported.” With regard to the dispute verification requests of April and June 2014, Ocwen replied, “Modify As Shown,” but provided corrections to only some of the erroneous information.  The evidence further showed that Ocwen possessed the information in its own records necessary to correct the erroneous data identified by Equifax as “disputed” in its “007” verification requests. Thus, the jury could have concluded that it was reckless for Ocwen, after having received the “007” dispute verification requests, not to investigate and correct the erroneous information regarding Daugherty’s current balance, past due amounts, last payment date, actual payments, and foreclosure status. In addition, the fact that Ocwen responded to all the dispute verification requests by confirming only Daugherty’s ownership of the account, regardless whether those requests also contained a “007” dispute code, would support a conclusion that Ocwen systematically ignored the “007” dispute code on any dispute verification request that contained more than one code.  The evidence at trial also showed that Ocwen lacked any procedure for correcting erroneous reports that an account is currently past due or in foreclosure, when that account previously had been past due or in foreclosure but had been fully reinstated. Indeed, Ocwen’s corporate representative testified that Ocwen had no obligation to correct the foreclosure or past due codes appearing in the dispute verification requests, because Daugherty’s account formerly had been in foreclosure and payments had been 120 days past due back in April 2012.  A jury also could conclude from the evidence that Ocwen was reckless in processing each dispute verification request independently, without consulting the context of prior correspondence from Daugherty, the CFPB, or Equifax regarding the same account. For example, Ocwen received the March 2013 dispute verification requests only five days after receiving a letter from Daugherty stating that his Equifax credit report erroneously indicated that he is “currently behind $6,128.00 [in his payments to Ocwen] … [and] in foreclosure.” (emphasis added). Despite this information in its records, Ocwen responded to the dispute verification requests merely by verifying Daugherty’s ownership of the account. Thus, Ocwen’s procedures completely failed to recognize that the “007” dispute code referred to the same issue presented in Daugherty’s letters to Ocwen. In addition, Ocwen’s practice of assigning each dispute verification request to a different investigator, without regard for another dispute verification request filed at the same time about the same account, would support a conclusion that Ocwen recklessly disregarded its FCRA obligations. See Saunders, 526 F.3d at 151.  Ocwen’s repeated failure to correct errors over a 17-month period also would support a conclusion that Ocwen acted recklessly. By July 2014, Ocwen had received 23 dispute verification requests concerning Daugherty’s account, eight of which contained “007” codes, and four of which contained “007” codes regarding erroneously reported information. Nevertheless, in July 2014, despite receiving direct correspondence from Daugherty and inquiries from the CFPB describing erroneous credit reporting related to Daugherty’s account, Ocwen still transmitted “Verified As Reported” in responding to a dispute verification request containing erroneous account information and a “007” dispute code. Ocwen’s repeated noncompliance with its FCRA obligations over this extended period of time therefore would support a finding that Ocwen acted recklessly and was not merely negligent. See Am. Arms Int’l, 563 F.3d at 85.  We are not persuaded by Ocwen’s argument that it relied on a reasonable interpretation of the FCRA and, therefore, under the safe harbor of Safeco, could not have acted “willfully.” Safeco, 551 U.S. at 69–70. The district court correctly instructed the jury, consistent with Johnson v. MBNA America Bank, NA, that Ocwen had a duty to “conduct a reasonable investigation into the information identified as disputed” on each dispute verification request and to conduct a “careful inquiry” into its own records. See Johnson, 357 F.3d at 431. The court further instructed that this duty “does not necessarily require Ocwen to consult external sources.” Nothing in the record suggests that Ocwen acted in reliance on any other interpretation of the statute.5 In light of this evidentiary record, we hold that there was abundant evidence from which the jury reasonably could have concluded that Ocwen willfully violated the FCRA. Accordingly, we affirm the district court’s denial of Ocwen’s renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law.