In CFPB v. Weltman, Weinberg & Reid, Co., 2018 WL 1709408, at *3 (N.D.Ohio, 2018), Judge Nugent denied the CFPB’s and a debt collection law firm’s motions for summary judgment as to whether the law firm had meaningful involvement in the collection of the debts. Interestingly, the law firm defended the CFPB’s MSJ on the basis that the law firm engaged in portfolio level review, rather than account level review, and Judge Nugent found that the argument created a sufficient factual question to defeat the CFPB’s motion.
Further, the Bureau alleges that WWR’s attorneys do not exercise the kind of account level review or professional judgment when issuing the debt collection letters that is necessary to satisfy “meaningful attorney involvement” standard, arguing that the attorney must exercise some “professional judgment as to the delinquency and validity of any individual [ ] debt before he issued a letter to that debtor,” and that the Court must focus on “the sufficiency of the attorney’s independent review of a particular case prior to the issuance of a debt collection letter.” Nielsen v. Dickerson, 307 F.3d 623, 636 (7th Cir. Ill. 2002); Miller v. Upton, Cohen & Slamowitz, 687 F. Supp. 2d 86, 102 (E.D.N.Y. 2009). The Bureau argues WWR attorneys do not (1) review account-level documents, (2) make any individual determination that the balance stated is due and owing, (3) form a professional judgment that a demand letter is appropriate for a particular account, or (4) decide to send demand letter to individual consumers, and that a general oversight of the collection process by WWR attorneys is insufficient. . .In response, . . .WWR asserts that WWR “lawyers are involved in and oversee every step of the collection process;” “communicate with their clients to gather information that the lawyers feel, in their professional judgment, is necessary to evaluate a portfolio of debt and verify the accuracy of representations that the client makes;” “develop a collections strategy;” and, “oversee the use of technology to identify accounts that should be treated differently,” thereby satisfying the “meaningful involvement” standard. . .In this case, genuine issues of material fact persist which preclude summary judgment for either party, including, but not limited to, whether the least sophisticated debtor would believe WWR was acting as an attorney relative to the letters and phone calls in question and, if so, whether WWR attorneys were in fact meaningfully involved in the collections process so as to render any claim that the letters were misleading moot. . .