A debt collection law firm and agency in Minnesota has posted a response to allegations that one of its representatives used extremely harsh language and tactics with a disabled veteran. The allegations were made public when a story about the consumer’s lawsuit went viral.
Details of the lawsuit surfaced Friday when the web site Courthouse News Service posted an article about a U.S. veteran’s Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) lawsuit titled “The Worst Debt Collector in the World?” The article spread very quickly on the Internet over the weekend.
The lawsuit was filed by Michael Collier, an Army veteran that had been declared “100 percent disabled” due to head and spine injuries, and his wife. In it, they claim that law firm and debt collector Gurstel Chargo failed to obey a court order to unfreeze exempt funds in the Colliers’ bank account. The law firm had initially won a garnishment order from Collier over his wife’s unpaid student loans, prompting his credit union to freeze a savings account. But a judge later determined that the funds were exempt from garnishment and ordered the credit union to unfreeze the account and for Gurstel to release the money.
When the Colliers approached Gurstel about the order, a representative of the firm allegedly said that the couple would need to sue to get the money back. Later, Collier called Gurstel to again inquire about the funds and was again told that they would have to sue to get it back. When Collier pointed out that the funds were ruled to be exempt, things allegedly got very nasty very quickly.
According to the suit, the person on the call used a litany of expletives, wished that Collier’s wife would divorce him, challenged his service to the country, and ended the call by noting that Collier should have died.
With details like that, it’s no wonder that the story spread very quickly.
Under mounting pressure, Gurstel posted a response Monday on the home page of their web site:
We learned late last week of the lawsuit filed by Michael Andrew Collier and Kim Collier-Dingman. Gurstel Chargo takes the allegations made in the lawsuit very seriously and we have immediately launched an internal investigation to determine the facts. We are extremely disturbed by the allegations stated in the Complaint, as they are contrary to the policies, practices and values of our firm. We expect that all Gurstel Chargo employees fully comply with all state and federal laws, and we thoroughly train our employees to perform their job in a lawful and respectful manner. Under no circumstances does our firm tolerate the type of conduct alleged in the Complaint.
The Complaint states that the wrongful remarks were made during a telephone call. We have requested from the attorney that filed the Complaint the phone number of the phone that Mr. Collier was allegedly on, an approximate date on which the call occurred, whether the person who made the alleged wrongful comments was male or female, all in order to help us to get to the truth about what occurred. We have been informed by Mr. Collier’s attorney that he is unaware of any of this information. To date, we have discovered no information to substantiate the allegations, but our investigation continues. Should these allegations prove to be true, we will take immediate corrective and disciplinary action.
Is there a takeaway here for ARM firms? Well, for one, don’t do anything described above. Secondly, you should probably look into call recording. But mostly, just don’t defy court orders and berate consumers.