Jury Awards Record Damages of $60 Million after Finding Credit Reporting Agency Violated FCRA

FCRA-graphic

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On June 20, 2017, a federal jury in California awarded a record $60 million in statutory and punitive damages after finding that major credit reporting agency TransUnion allegedly violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) when performing credit checks by confusing consumers with individuals found in the United States Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) database.

The $60 million award stems from the case of Ramirez v. Trans Union LLC that was filed in February of 2012. The jury awarded each of the 8,185 class members $984.22 in statutory damages and $6,353.08 in punitive damages, more than six times the statutory amount. The jury determined that Trans Union – one of the three major credit reporting agencies along with Equifax and Experian – violated the FCRA by:

  • Willfully failing to follow reasonable procedures to assure the maximum possible accuracy of the OFAC information it associated with members of the class;
  • Willfully failing to clearly and accurately disclose OFAC information in the written disclosures it sent to members of the class; and
  • Failing to provide class members a summary of their FCRA rights with each written disclosure made to them.

The plaintiffs claimed the TransUnion “OFAC Name Screen Alert” service for credit reporting associated class members with a known terrorists, narcotics traffickers, or money launderers on the OFAC list when none of them were on the list. The plaintiffs also claimed TransUnion failed to provide enough accuracy in reports by only matching first and last names to associate consumers with persons on the OFAC list.

In addition, the plaintiffs argued OFAC information was not included on credit reports they requested from TransUnion. Instead, they were notified by separate letter regarding OFAC information contained in their files. The plaintiffs argued that this TransUnion letter to class members did not clearly disclose that it was providing the consumer with information from the consumer’s file in violation of the FCRA.

The plaintiffs also argued that the follow-up letter with the OFAC information failed to include a copy of the document “A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act” in violation of the FCRA, which requires credit reporting agencies to ensure the information contained in credit reports is as accurate as possible in order to protect consumers from misinformation being used against them.

“Employment Screening Resources does not report the presence of a person on any government database without first establishing sufficient identifiers to do so. This includes OFAC and any other government maintained excluded parties listings,” explains ESR president and chief compliance officer Brad Landin, a background screening industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience in legal compliance matters.

“While some background screening firms may falsely claim that they are the first to use an FCRA compliant terrorist list process, the fact is that ESR’s policy since its inception in 1997 is to not report someone’s presence on a terrorist list or any other database without first following procedures to determine if there is a true match between the record and the person,” Landin says.

Whitepaper on FCRA Lawsuits from ESR

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) founder and CEO Attorney Lester Rosen has written a complimentary whitepaper entitled “Common Ways Consumer Reporting Agencies are Sued Under the FCRA” that employers should keep in mind when choosing a CRA to help them conduct background checks. The whitepaper is available at www.esrcheck.com/Whitepapers/Ways-CRAs-Sued-Under-FCRA/.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

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