Three collection companies used forged Wells Fargo (WFC) and U.S. Bank (USB) documents to recoup debts from defaulted borrowers, according to a complaint filed by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers.
United Credit Recovery, a collection agency in Florida that bought charged-off debt from the two banks, created hundreds of thousands of fake affidavits and other documents in their names, according to a civil complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Denver last month. It then used the fake affidavits to collect from borrowers and to sell the debt to third parties, the complaint says.
The complaint also names GTF Services, a collection agency that bought debt from United Credit, and Standley & Associates, a debt-collection law firm that allegedly filed the forged documents in hundreds of lawsuits to recover delinquent accounts.
GTF and Standley & Associates declined to comment. United Credit could not immediately be reached for comment.
Colorado sued the three companies, as well as the owner of United Credit, to force them to pay damages and restitution to harmed borrowers and to pay the state all profits from any illegal activities, plus court and attorney costs.
The lawsuit was reported Tuesday by the Denver Post.
Debt-sale agreements often require the transfer of only minimal documentation attesting to the validity and accuracy of the accounts sold. In this case, United Credit is accused of forging the supporting documents it needed to collect on accounts.
United Credit purchased about $857 million in unpaid principal from U.S. Bank between 2007 and 2011, and $289 million from Wells Fargo in 2010 and 2011, largely in the form of overdrawn checking accounts, but it did not receive supporting documents as part of the purchase, the complaint says. After the sale the banks periodically provided United Credit with supporting documents, for a fee, as the debt-sale agreements stipulate. The collection agency then allegedly used the legitimate documents to create fakes, including certifications of having been signed by bank officers before a notary public.
Large banks have lately been coming under fire for their debt-collection practices, including the sale of charged-off accounts to debt buyers. Wells Fargo stopped selling unpaid consumer loans to third-parties earlier this year, and JPMorgan Chase (JPM) halted its sale of nearly all charged-off debt.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said in July that it would hold banks responsible for misconduct by the third-party vendors they hire to pursue debts, and would increase its scrutiny of debt buyers and collectors.