In Calogero v. Shows, Cali & Walsh, L.L.P., No. 19-30558, 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 26109 (5th Cir. Aug. 17, 2020), the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said that the US Government’s retention of private debt collectors to collect overpayment of compensation to victims of Hurricane Katrina arose out of a “transaction” under the FDCPA.
When Congress passed the FDCPA in 1978, many dictionaries defined “transaction” as an agreement, negotiation, or business dealing. See, e.g., Oxford English Dictionary 251 (1933) (defining “transaction” as “the adjustment of dispute between parties by mutual concession, compromise; hence gen, an arrangement, an agreement, a covenant”); American College Dictionary 1285 (1970) (defining “transaction” as “an act of transacting” and defining “transact” as “to carry through (affairs, business, etc.) to a conclusion or settlement” or “to carry through affairs or negotiations”); Random House’s College Dictionary 1394 (1973) (defining transaction as “an act of transacting” and defining “transact” as “to carry on or conduct (business, negotiations, activities, etc.) to a conclusion of a settlement”); Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language 2425-26 (1976) (defining “transaction” as “an adjustment or compromise in Roman or civil law of a disputed claim effected by mutual agreement and resembling the accord and satisfaction of the common law” or “a communicative action or activity involving two parties or two things reciprocally affecting or influencing each other”); Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary 1239 (1977) (indicating that the most common meaning4 of the term “transaction” is “a business deal” but that meaning is subsumed within the more general definition “an act, process, or instance of transacting”). Black’s Law Dictionary defined “transaction” as “act of transacting or conducting any business; negotiation, management; proceeding that which is done” and said that the term “may involve selling, leasing, borrowing, mortgaging, or lending.” Black’s Law Dictionary 1341 (5th ed. 1979). It further noted that the word “is a broader term than ‘contract'” and “must therefore consist of an act or agreement, or several acts or agreements having some connection with each other, in which more than one person is concerned, and by which the legal relations of such persons between themselves are altered.” Id. HN10 We have also determined that the “ordinary meaning of the term ‘transaction’ is a broad reference to many different types of business dealings between parties, and does not connote any specific form of payment.” Hamilton v. United Healthcare of La., Inc., 310 F.3d 385, 392 (5th Cir. 2002) (citing one definition of “transaction” from a 1986 version of Webster’s New World Dictionary but interchangeably using the word “contract”); see also Oppenheim, 627 F.3d at 837 (recognizing “the broad scope of ‘debt’ in the FDCPA” as long as the “transaction creates an obligation to pay” (internal citation omitted)). The consensus among circuit courts also strengthens our view that the term “transactions” refers to business dealings best characterized as “a consensual exchange involving an affirmative request” and “the rendition of a service or purchase of property or other item of value.” St. Pierre, 898 F.3d at 360 (internal citations and quotations omitted); see also Turner v. Cook, 362 F.3d 1219, 1227 (9th Cir. 2004) (limiting FDCPA’s reach “to those obligations to pay arising from consensual transactions, where parties negotiate or contract for consumer-related goods or services” (quoting Bass v. Stolper, Koritzinsky, Brewster & Neider, S.C., 111 F.3d 1322, 1326 (7th Cir. 1997))); Hawthorne v. Mac Adjustment, Inc., 140 F.3d 1367, 1371 (11th Cir. 1998) (“[A]t a minimum, a ‘transaction’ under the FDCPA must involve some kind of business dealing or other consensual obligation . . . .”).