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Fabrizio
April 2nd, 2010, 10:41 AM
I'm without words. Who is defending these people? How can banks get away with this? The modern version of the indentured servant:


Pay Garnishments Rise as Debtors Fall Behind
By JOHN COLLINS RUDOLF - NYTimes
Published: April 1, 2010


PHOENIX — When the bank sued Leann Weaver for not paying her credit card balance, her reaction was typical for someone in that situation. Personal and financial setbacks weighed her down, and she knew she owed the $2,470. So she never went to court to defend herself.She was startled by what happened next. When she swiped her debit card at the grocery store, it was declined. It turned out Capital One Bank had taken $224.25 from her paycheck, a quarter of her wages for two weeks of work at a retail chain, and her bank account was overdrawn.
“They’re kicking somebody who’s already in the dirt,” she said.

One of the worst economic downturns of modern history has produced a big increase in the number of delinquent borrowers, and creditors are suing them by the millions. Concern is mounting in government and among consumer advocates that the debtors are not always getting a fair shake in these cases. Most consumers never offer a defense, and creditors win their lawsuits without having to offer proof of the debts, much less justify to a judge the huge interest charges and penalties they often tack on. After winning, creditors can secure a court order to seize part of the debtor’s paycheck or the funds in a bank account, a procedure called garnishment. No national statistics are kept, but the pay seizures are rising fast in some areas — up 121 percent in the Phoenix area since 2005, and 55 percent in the Atlanta area since 2004. In Cleveland, garnishments jumped 30 percent between 2008 and 2009 alone. Debt collectors say they are being forced into the action by combative debtors who dodge attempts to settle. “I think there’s a lack of accountability among debtors, and a lack of interest in reaching out to their creditors to resolve things amicably,” said Fred N. Blitt, president of the National Association of Retail Collection Attorneys.

Bankruptcy can clear away most debts. Yet sweeping changes to federal law in 2005 — pushed by the banking lobby — complicated that process and more than doubled the average cost of filing, to more than $2,000. Many low-income debtors must save for months before they can afford to go broke. In some states, courts allow creditors to charge high interest rates for years after a lawsuit is decided in their favor. In others, creditors can win lawsuits by default and seize wages and bank accounts without a case ever appearing before a judge. Lack of participation is the most fundamental problem. Some consumers do not even know they are being sued; the people who are supposed to serve them with formal notice have sometimes been caught skipping that step and doctoring the paperwork. In far more cases, consumers are served but still do not offer a defense. Few can afford lawyers; others are intimidated or confused. In their absence, judges can offer little relief.

In the rare event that a consumer battles back, creditors frequently lack the documentation to prove their claim, and cases are dropped. That is because many past-due debts are owned not by the banks that issued them, but by debt collectors who bought, for cents on the dollar, a list of names and amounts due. “If the consumers were armed with more education about how to defend against these debts, they’d be successful,” said Jeffrey Lipman, a civil magistrate in Des Moines.

The case of Sidney Jones shows how punishing the system can be. In January 2001, Mr. Jones, 45, a maintenance worker from California Crossroads, Va., took out a $4,097 personal loan from Beneficial Virginia, a subprime lender now owned by HSBC, the big bank. He fell behind, and Beneficial sued. Mr. Jones did not appear in court. “I just thought they were going to take what I owed,” he said. By default, Beneficial won a judgment of $4,750, plus $900 in lawyers’ fees, with the debt accruing interest at 27.55 percent until paid in full. The bank started garnishing his wages in March 2003. Over the next six years, the bank deducted more than $10,000 from Mr. Jones’s paychecks, but he made little headway on his debt. According to a court order secured by Beneficial’s lawyers last spring, he still owed the company $3,965, a sum nearly equal to the original loan amount. Mr. Jones, who did not graduate from high school, was baffled. “Where did all this money go that I paid them?” he said.

Dale Pittman, a consumer law lawyer in Petersburg, Va. , took Mr. Jones’s case without charge, and found that all but $134 of his payments had gone toward interest, fees and court costs. “It’s a perfectly legal result under Virginia law,” Mr. Pittman said. HSBC said it ceased collection shortly after Mr. Pittman took the case, but declined further comment. “We are confident we are treating our customers fairly and with integrity,” Kate Durham, a spokeswoman for HSBC North America, said in an e-mail message.

The rare debtors who press their claims, and catch a sympathetic judge, have a shot at a result more to their liking. Ruth M. Owens, a disabled Cleveland woman, was sued by Discover Bank in 2004 for an unpaid credit card. Ms. Owens offered a defense, sending a handwritten note to the court. “After paying my monthly utilities, there is no money left except a little food money and sometimes it isn’t enough,” she wrote. Robert Triozzi, a judge at the time, heard the case. He found that over a period of several years, Ms. Owens had paid nearly $3,500 on an original balance of $1,900. But Discover was suing her for $5,564, mostly for late fees, compound interest, penalties and other charges. He called Discover’s actions “unconscionable” and threw the case out. Discover defended its actions. “This account was placed with an attorney only after all other efforts to reach the card member were exhausted,” Matthew Towson, a bank spokesman, said in an e-mail message.

Going to court is no guarantee of victory, of course. Consumers who do go are sometimes intercepted by collection lawyers, who press them to sign papers settling without a trial. These settlements may be against the interests of debtors, but they sign anyway. “We’re signing off on a lot of settlement agreements where we shake our heads and ask, ‘Why is this person settling to this?’ ” Judge Lipman said.

For the working poor, losing a lawsuit can mean disaster. A 1968 federal law exempts 75 percent of a worker’s wages, or 30 times the minimum wage per week, from being taken in garnishment — whichever is less. But increases in the minimum wage have failed to keep up with inflation. As federal law stands now, just $217.50 a week is exempt from seizure. (A few states set higher cutoffs.) The working poor “have difficulties maintaining payments on life’s necessities with their full paycheck,” said Angela Riccetti, a lawyer with Atlanta Legal Aid who represents indigent clients whose wages are being garnished. “You lose 25 percent of it and everything folds.”

For Leann Weaver, the woman at the grocery store, Capital One’s lawsuit made a bad situation worse. After being evicted from her apartment, she moved in with her grandparents. Without them, she might have ended up on the street or in a shelter, she said. Capital One declined to comment on Ms. Weaver’s case. “We encourage anyone facing difficulties meeting their financial obligations to contact us right away,” Tatiana Stead, a bank spokeswoman, said in an e-mail message. Ms. Weaver said she repeatedly asked Capital One for more time to pay her $2,470 debt, but last year the bank filed suit. She failed to show up in court, and a judgment was entered against her, swollen by $1,800 in interest and lawyers’ fees. Then the garnishment began, almost $500 a month, or a quarter of her pay. “I can’t even look at my paychecks any more,” she said.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/02/business/economy/02garnish.html?pagewanted=1&hp

----

A teen-age Stevie Wonder singing a knock-out version of the folk-song "16 Tons"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NkWy-OvWrk&feature=related

Ninjahedge
April 2nd, 2010, 11:04 AM
doubled the average cost of filing, to more than $2,000. Many low-income debtors must save for months before they can afford to go broke

Classic.

Maybe they can charge the fee?

BBMW
April 2nd, 2010, 11:53 AM
There should be a business opportunity for an enterprising lawyer here. Charge a reasonable fixed rate to defend these cases (which would probably not be too difficult), and do them in bulk. If advertised correctly, they'd probably have no shortage of clients.

User Name
April 2nd, 2010, 01:32 PM
Maybe they should just pay their bills in a timely manner and quit trying to live beyond their means.


Leann Weaver ....failed to show up in court


Sidney Jones ... did not appear in court

I have no sympathy for these people.

Fabrizio
April 2nd, 2010, 01:48 PM
Do you have sympathy for the banks that are charging how much in interest payments?

Do you have sympathy for loan sharks too?

Alonzo-ny
April 2nd, 2010, 03:48 PM
I completely agree with User Name. I feel sorry for them but it is all of their own making. I do however agree that the way the costs are recovered are pretty harsh. What is the point in bankrupting people? In the long run they will lose if everyone is broke.

User Name
April 2nd, 2010, 08:32 PM
Do you have sympathy for the banks that are charging how much in interest payments?

Not every borrower is a great investment, some are riskier and therefore end up paying higher interest rates.


Do you have sympathy for loan sharks too?

Nope, nor for those ignorant enough to use them.

lofter1
April 2nd, 2010, 09:19 PM
These banks are acting exactly like loan sharks.

If anyone disagrees please point out the difference.

OmegaNYC
April 2nd, 2010, 11:19 PM
They ( the banks ) won't bang you in the leg with a lead pipe, if you're late on a payment? :confused:

Merry
April 5th, 2010, 07:03 AM
^ Probably not, but they can legally do this \/ :confused: :mad:. I'm flabbergasted.


...It turned out Capital One Bank had taken $224.25 from her paycheck...

Fabrizio
April 5th, 2010, 07:20 AM
And this is a good one:



The case of Sidney Jones shows how punishing the system can be. In January 2001, Mr. Jones, 45, a maintenance worker from California Crossroads, Va., took out a $4,097 personal loan from Beneficial Virginia, a subprime lender now owned by HSBC, the big bank. He fell behind, and Beneficial sued. Mr. Jones did not appear in court. “I just thought they were going to take what I owed,” he said. By default, Beneficial won a judgment of $4,750, plus $900 in lawyers’ fees, with the debt accruing interest at 27.55 percent until paid in full. The bank started garnishing his wages in March 2003. Over the next six years, the bank deducted more than $10,000 from Mr. Jones’s paychecks, but he made little headway on his debt. According to a court order secured by Beneficial’s lawyers last spring, he still owed the company $3,965, a sum nearly equal to the original loan amount.

Merry
April 5th, 2010, 07:28 AM
Crikey :eek:. I was too busy flabbergasting to read the whole article. What comes after outrage?

Fabrizio
April 5th, 2010, 07:34 AM
"27.55 percent"... I can't believe this can be legal.

Alonzo-ny
April 5th, 2010, 07:39 AM
Tip of the iceberg. There are ads here for short term loan companies which charge over 2000% interest.

nick-taylor
April 9th, 2010, 03:35 AM
Tip of the iceberg. There are ads here for short term loan companies which charge over 2000% interest.While I don't believe such loans should exist, people need to take on more responsibility for their actions when putting their signature down.

I recall people moaning about bank charges (in the UK personal banking is free) when they had gone overdrawn or made late payments. Yet the same individuals were completely oblivious to the fact that they were at fault for living beyond their means.

If people can't live within their means what hope is there?

Fabrizio
April 9th, 2010, 07:24 AM
If people can't live within their means what hope is there?

I only buy with money I have and my idea of what constitues living well is probably different than most. I am probably the only person on this board without a credit card (I use a debit card).

But the fact is: there is a consumer society out there that convinces people to live beyond their means and the economy is set up to thrive on consumer spending and throw-away goods. And as a result people get into trouble.

The easy credit was like have a drug dealer on every corner.

Interest payments beyond a certain level should be illegal. I may be wrong about this, but I believe in the US there was a cap until sometime in the 1970's.

--

Ninjahedge
April 9th, 2010, 07:50 AM
It gets hard sometimes.

Looking to buy a new car recently, I have become acutely aware of the prices for these puppies and seeing how many people out there are driving relatively new $40K-$60 vehicles is kind of depressing.

You WANT to say "hey, it does not matter what I drive", but when you see so MANY of what is supposed to be the "elite"..... I begin to wonder when I see some of the drivers of these things.....

Fabrizio
April 9th, 2010, 09:44 AM
When I was a kid a million years ago back in the 60s the most expensive cars that anyone bought cost only maybe 2 or 2 1/2 times as much as a regular Chevy... and people who owned new ones were considered well-off... or it was something you bought when retired.

lofter1
April 9th, 2010, 11:05 AM
"Living within your means" has been totally altered within the last two years.

I write this as I'm getting ready to go the the Post Office and send the government some nice checks. Last week I had the joy of giving my health insurance provider an additional 10% above what I paid at this time last year. And this month there was a rent increase (I LOVE to keep me landlord happy).

All of those things are rising faster than they did before, and two years ago there was no way of knowing how much current increases would be. At the same time those who pay me are claiming pinches from all directions.

Makes one think of the old saying about a thousand cuts -- which now exceeds any sense of creeping normalcy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creeping_normalcy) ...

Ninjahedge
April 9th, 2010, 11:22 AM
Ah, you mean the Definition of Freedom, don't ya Loft? (normalcy...).



The problem was that one major portion of our lives, possibly two if you want to be more descriptive in your definition, were allowed to shoot up willy-nilly. Stock and Real Estate. After one crashed back to "normalcy", things shuddered for a while, but then Real Estate took off as well despite already being over-inflated.

The problem with Real Estate is that it is TOO expensive (many more people get property on debt than stock on debt) and that letting it fall back to regular prices would put a major monkey wrench in many financial systems all down the line.

The money got shifted to one side of the "balanced" platform, and the people who have it are not exactly willing to let it go. So most of us in the middle are being forced to chuck what we have at the other end to maintain balance.

It isn't working.

Don't know how that will be fixed, but I am hoping that it does not take my hard work and education and throw me back to Journeyman Carpenter.....

Fabrizio
April 9th, 2010, 12:05 PM
And the debts college students have? Come on.... KIDS with 20...30... 50,000$ debts for their education. It's just being a slave to the banks.

Ninjahedge
April 9th, 2010, 12:58 PM
Don't get me started.

The colleges have somehow rediculously expanded their tuition base for no good reason. When I went to school, the top 10 engineering schools were all within a few thousand of each other in Tuition costs (about $20K/yr).

That makes NO sense when they are located in wildly divergent areas, from MIT to Stanford to Lehigh (bethlehem PA) the COL and cost of operation at all these places CANNOT be that close together.

But they do this so that people do not think that one school is inferior because you pay less for it.

And it MAKES NO SENSE! Harvard's endowment is large enough to allow students to go for free, and yet they charge one of the highest rates in the nation!

The main problem is simple. College education USED to mean you were one of the elite. Very few ever made it that far 70 years ago.

then, about 50 years ago or so, that started to change, slowly at first. More people went to get their degrees. My mothers generation was the first to see that college was no longer a free ride after graduation.(in a manner of speaking). AAMOF, many jobs, such as teaching, paid squat and required much more education after employment.

Now almost ANY job requires a college degree of some sort. It has become a standard. the only problem being simple, the cost of education has not been matched to the available salaries after graduation.

With tuition easily topping, what is it now, $35K/yr, a 6 digit debt is hard to shoulder when all the jobs available for someone with 0 experience only pay $20K/$30K.

I am not saying that education is not important, but I think we should start putting pressure on these intitutions to lay off the fancy shmancy at the expense of the students that do not get anything from it and make it so that they can, realistically, pay off their debt in 10 years or so...

KenNYC
April 9th, 2010, 09:53 PM
While I don't believe such loans should exist, people need to take on more responsibility for their actions when putting their signature down.

I recall people moaning about bank charges (in the UK personal banking is free) when they had gone overdrawn or made late payments. Yet the same individuals were completely oblivious to the fact that they were at fault for living beyond their means.

If people can't live within their means what hope is there?

I find it surprising that people have so little insight and empathy for the position of others.

Yeah, there are people who end up in this situation because they spend excessive money on clothes and vacations and what not, but there's also a large portion of the population that end up in this problem simply because they have to put food on the table for their family. (Or food on their family as Bush would say). There's just no reason why any bank should be allowed to pillage these people for everything they got.

It's probably the number one thing as an outsider I notice with Americans, most of you (not all) really don't give a rats ass about what happens to anyone but yourself. "Their own fault" seems to be the mantra.


I am not saying that education is not important, but I think we should start putting pressure on these intitutions to lay off the fancy shmancy at the expense of the students that do not get anything from it and make it so that they can, realistically, pay off their debt in 10 years or so...

More interestingly, what are they spending all this money on? I'm currently paying approximate $40,000 a year in tuition. Back in Europe I paid about $100 a year. The quality of both the education and the facilities of the schools are way inferior here.

Where's my 40 grand going?

Merry
April 9th, 2010, 11:42 PM
I find it surprising that people have so little insight and empathy for the position of others.

Yeah, there are people who end up in this situation because they spend excessive money on clothes and vacations and what not, but there's also a large portion of the population that end up in this problem simply because they have to put food on the table for their family. (Or food on their family as Bush would say). There's just no reason why any bank should be allowed to pillage these people for everything they got.

It's probably the number one thing as an outsider I notice with Americans, most of you (not all) really don't give a rats ass about what happens to anyone but yourself. "Their own fault" seems to be the mantra.

Well said. There's a lot of it about, noticeably on here too lately.

hbcat
April 10th, 2010, 04:46 AM
Not every borrower is a great investment, some are riskier and therefore end up paying higher interest rates.


Nope, nor for those ignorant enough to use them.

But isn't the point that this is usary? Can't you imagine how some innocent person might easily -- and, yes, foolishly -- sign a contract without properly reading it and then get caught up in this world of hurt? You would place the ignorant/naive on the same level as those perpetrating this legalized exploitation?

The Inferno has nine circles of hell for good reason.

User Name
April 10th, 2010, 08:03 AM
I'm currently paying approximate $40,000 a year in tuition. Back in Europe I paid about $100 a year. The quality of both the education and the facilities of the schools are way inferior here.

Then why are you spending $40k a year for something inferior to what you could get back in Europe for $100?


Where's my 40 grand going?

A slick marketing campaign to part European students from their money?

KenNYC
April 10th, 2010, 11:54 AM
Then why are you spending $40k a year for something inferior to what you could get back in Europe for $100?

Because I'm in the fortunate position that I 1) have $40k a year to spend and 2) wanted to live a few years in NYC.


A slick marketing campaign to part European students from their money?

I don't pay a dollar more than any of the American students in my class, so that really doesn't make much sense.

Gregory Tenenbaum
April 10th, 2010, 02:39 PM
Ken, what course are you doing?

Ninjahedge
April 12th, 2010, 08:12 AM
Ken, a few small things.

One is sort of what User was talking about. Why would you attend here rather than Europe? Even the COL (rent/food/etc) would be cheaper for a year in France than 1 year of tuition here, so why here?

Also, aside from name, most schools teach at about the same level (some are arguably better than others). Why not Rutgers instead of Princeton? CUNY instead of NYU?

Finally, as innocent as many people may think they are, many of them are not. you just have to look at what they define as "food on the table". Shopping for pre-processed foods, eating out much more than what people did in the past and other minor transgressions DO add up. Also, as I do my car shopping, I am acutely aware of the PLETHORA of people driving around $40K+ vehicles all over the NJ/Metro area (in many monetarily "average" neighborhoods).

You pull into CostCo and see a land rover next to you, you have to wonder (especially when you see the Lexus next to it, and the Infinity next to it!).

It has become too easy to get into debt. And once in debt, getting out is incredibly difficult with mafioso-exceeding "interest" rates.

Why do so many spend more than they have? Especially on common items (not cars or houses, mind you).