In Infante v. Law Office of Joseph Onwuteaka, 2018 WL 2438153 (5th Cir. 2018), the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found in an unpublished decision that Henson did not protect a lawyer claiming that he owned the debts that he’d purchased.
On appeal, Onwuteaka claims that he deserves “creditor” status by proxy. His argument (though only barely more elaborate than those he has forfeited) seems to run as follows: Samara owns the debts, Onwuteaka owns Samara, and therefore Onwuteaka owns the debts. According to this argument, because Onwuteaka owns the debts, he was not collecting another’s debts and is therefore not a debt collector under the “regularly collects” alternative. Onwuteaka never clarifies why, in his view, that status should also extend to Onwuteaka, P.C. He seems simply to assume it should based on common ownership. Onwuteaka’s creditor-by-proxy argument lacks support in the law and defies logic. Under Texas law, Onwuteaka, his limited liability company, and his professional corporation are distinct legal personalities. Spates v. Office of Att’y Gen., Child Support Div., 485 S.W.3d 546, 550-51 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2016, no pet.) (limited liability company); Newman v. Toy, 926 S.W.2d 629, 631 (Tex. App.—Austin 1996, writ denied) (professional corporations). Onwuteaka could have bought the debts himself. Instead, he decided to take advantage of the benefits of limited liability. See Shook v. Walden, 368 S.W.3d 604, 613 n.10 (Tex. App.—Austin 2012, pet. denied). But he must accept the bitter with the sweet. Samara—not Onwuteaka or Onwuteaka, P.C.—owns the debt. Cf. Tex. Bus. Orgs. Code § 101.106 (“A member of a limited liability company … does not have an interest in any specific property of the company.”). Thus, Onwuteaka was collecting “debts … asserted to be owed or due another,” not himself. 15 U.S.C. § 1692a(6).