In Meyer v. Santander Consumer USA, 2012 WL 3528117 (E.D.Cal. 2012), Judge Hollows held that an automobile finance company was a ‘creditor’ and not a ‘debt collector’ under the FDCPA. Judge Hollows found no difference that the finance company had purchased the portfolio of the Plaintiff’s original creditor.
Here, Santander has produced substantial evidence that it was plaintiff’s creditor as opposed to a debt collector. Santander submitted a declaration from Wayne Nightengale, Santander’s Senior Vice–President of Servicing and a custodian of records for Santander, who stated that Santander is an automobile finance company, whose principal business is originating automobile retail installment sales contracts on direct and indirect lending program platforms; only services its own obligations, some of which includes the obligations owed to companies that Santander purchased and which are related by common ownership or affiliated by corporate control; and does not service obligations that are owed to other persons or companies that were not purchased by Santander or which are not related by common ownership or affiliated by corporate control. (Dkt. No. 64, ¶¶ 1–2.) Mr. Nightengale further states that: On June 20, 2008, Santander began purchasing Triad Financial. The portfolio purchase of Triad, which included approximately $3.1 billion in un-encumbered receivables and $1.6 billion in unsecuritized debt, was completed August 2008. The purchase of Triad’s remaining facilities and employees was completed November 2008. Santander acquired Plaintiff’s account as a result of this acquisition/conversion. (Dkt. No. 64, ¶ 3.) Mr. Nightengale adds that Triad’s records of plaintiff’s account were transferred in whole without alteration to Santander on or about November 8, 2008 and became Santander’s business records. (Dkt. No. 64, ¶ 6.) He attaches to his declaration the Retail Installment Sales Contract executed by plaintiff, the payment history of plaintiff’s account, and the activity logs related to plaintiff’s account as maintained by Triad and Santander. (Dkt. No. 64, Exs. A, B, & D.) Mr. Nightengale states that Santander has never operated as a third-party debt collector for Triad, but was servicing its own obligation that Santander had purchased from Triad when it ultimately repossessed plaintiff’s vehicle on August 31, 2010 and attempted to collect any deficiency remaining on the loan. (Dkt. No. 64, ¶¶ 2, 9, 12, Ex. C.) According to Mr. Nightengale, Santander did retain third party debt collectors to assist with collection on defaulted loans. (Dkt. No. 64, ¶ 5.) ¶ . . . The uncontroverted evidence demonstrates that by virtue of Santander’s purchase of Triad’s assets and operations, Santander became plaintiff’s creditor and was collecting the debt on its own behalf. Additionally, in light of the fact that Santander purchased Triad’s entire assets and operations, which no doubt included loans in default and loans not in default, the court cannot draw a reasonable inference that Santander is merely a debt collector masquerading as a creditor by buying up selected loans in default. For these reasons, the court concludes that Santander is a creditor exempt from the FDCPA, and that Santander’s motion for partial summary judgment with respect to plaintiff’s FDCPA claim should be granted.