A debt-collection firm backed by a JPMorgan Chase & Co. private equity unit agreed to pay $3.2 million to settle a Federal Trade Commission complaint that it illegally harassed consumers.
The fine, the largest levied by the FTC against a third-party debt collector according to an agency news release today, stems from charges that the firm used tactics including calling consumers multiple times a day, calling them early in the morning or late at night, and calling at consumers’ workplaces. The company, Expert Global Solutions Inc., was also accused by the FTC of continuing to call consumers who denied owing a debt to its clients.
Under the settlement, if a consumer disputes the validity of the debt, the company must either end collection efforts or suspend them until they’ve conducted a “reasonable investigation” to establish the debt’s validity. The agreement also prohibits the company from treating consumers in the manner outlined in the FTC’s charges, according to the agency’s statement.
NCO, an Expert Global subsidiary cited in the FTC complaint, said in an e-mailed statement that it has “already implemented systems and procedures to help address their areas of concern. We believe that the quality of our consumer interaction is best-in-class in our industry today.”
JPMorgan’s stake in Expert Global is held by its private investment arm, One Equity Partners. JPMorgan does not use the debt collector’s services, Paul Hartwick, a bank spokesman, said in an e-mail.
According to One Equity’s website, Expert Global is based in Horsham, Pennsylvania, and has revenue of about $2 billion dollars, and 40,000 employees in 14 countries. The FTC news release describes the company as “the world’s largest debt collection operation.”