Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC has agreed to pay $17.5 million to resolve putative class action claims on behalf of more than 1.6 million consumers. It was alleged that the mortgage loan servicer auto dialed their cellphones without their consent, in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Under the settlement, eligible consumers are each expected to receive between $55 and $90, according to a motion for preliminary settlement approval.
The West Palm Beach, Florida-based mortgage firm has also agreed to alter its consent-gathering practices, and it has agreed to pay enhanced damages to consumers who may receive automated calls in the future due to gaps in Ocwen’s consent record keeping practices. For those future violations, Ocwen has agreed to pay a minimum of $1,000 for the first 10 illegal calls, $1,250 for the next 11-50 calls and $1,500 for any calls over 50, according to the motion. The motion says:
Persons who seek higher amounts – for example $1,500 per call for all calls – are free to do so; these amounts represent guaranteed minimums.
Once divided, any funds remaining would be distributed evenly to the National Consumer Law Center and Public Justice Foundation, and no amount of the settlement would revert to Ocwen. If approved, the settlement would mark an end to a suit that named Plaintiff Keith Snyder initially filed against Ocwen in October 2014. A year later, in January 2015, consumers Tracee Beecroft and Susan Mansanarez filed a separate proposed class action. The two lawsuits were consolidated in late 2016. The consumers claim that between October 2010 and December 2014, Ocwen didn’t have a policy in place for obtaining consent before calling borrowers’ cellphones using its “Aspect” automated telephone dialing system. As a result, Ocwen placed 105,831,658 unauthorized calls to nearly 1.2 million unique cellphone numbers belonging to borrowers during that time period.
In May, the pair asked the court to certify two nationwide classes that received unwanted calls, arguing that phone records obtained from Ocwen during discovery supported their allegations. Beecroft also sought to represent a subclass of more than 60,000 borrowers. For that group, Ocwen allegedly obtained their numbers through third-party sources, using a method known as “skip-tracing,” and then called to determine whether they were in fact their numbers. The TCPA prohibits companies from obtaining numbers in such an indirect way.
In June, the court held that the consumers had established the basis for certification of a limited class and those members were likely entitled to preliminary injunctive relief. But the judge deferred ruling on the issue, asking the parties to submit additional documents. Before the judge issued a final order on the matter, the parties reached the settlement.
The consumers are represented by Beth E. Terrell and Adrienne D. McEntee of Terrell Marshall Law Group PLLC, Mark Ankcorn of Ankcorn Law Firm PLLC, Guillermo Cabrera and Jared Quient of the Cabrera Firm APC, Alexander H. Burke and Daniel J. Marovitch of Burke Law Offices LLC, and Mark L. Heaney of Heaney Law Firm LLC.
The consolidated case is Snyder et al. v. Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC, (case number 1:14-cv-08461), in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.