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Putkowski v. Irwin Home Equity-FCRA Class Action Defense Cases: Mailer Offering Pre-Approved Equity Line From $15,000-$300,000 At Interest From 5.65%-16.9% Is “Firm Offer Of Credit” Under Federal FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) California Court Holds

California Court Dismisses Class Action Agreeing With Defense Attorneys that Federal Fair Credit Report Act (FCRA) Does Not Require Terms of Equity Line Offer in Mailer to be a Specific Dollar Figure or Interest Rate, and that No Private Right of Action Exists for Alleged Violations of § 1681m’s Disclosure Requirements

A putative class action was filed against a lender for allegedly violating the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681 et seq., by sending out unsolicited mailers offering equity lines of credit in broad amounts (in plaintiff’s case, $15,000 – $300,000) at a range of interest rates (in plaintiff’s case, 5.65% – 16.9%), and by failing to include the disclosures required by § 1681m(d). Putkowski v. Irwin Home Equity Corp., 423 F.Supp.2d 1053, 1055-56 (N.D. Cal. 2006). Defense attorneys moved to dismiss the class action; plaintiff’s lawyer argued that the mailer was nothing more than a “sales pitch” and that it did not constitute a “firm offer” under the FCRA because it “failed to state the rate of interest to be charged or the amount of credit to be extended.” Id., at 1057. The class action defense team also argued that no private right of action exists for alleged violations of § 1681m. The district court agreed with the defense.

Defense attorneys argued that “firm offers of credit” under the FCRA may be “conditional” – that it need not specify the amount of the loan offered or the interest rate, and that “the offeror may later withdraw the offer if the consumer does not meet the creditworthiness criteria.” Putkowski, at 1058. The district court distinguished Cole v. U.S. Capital, Inc., 389 F.3d 719 (7th Cir. 2004) [holding mailer failed to comply with FCRA], and found that the terms of the “offer” set forth in the mailer sent to plaintiff were sufficient “firm” to satisfy FCRA. Id., at 1059-60.

With respect to plaintiff’s claim that the disclosures required by § 1681m(d) were “buried in half-tone fine print,” Putkowski, at 1060, the district court held that the claim was not actionable, explaining at pages 1061 and 1062:

While § 1681n and § 1681o of the FCRA generally establish a private right of action for certain violations of the FCRA, § 1681m(h)(8) (added by FACTA) now expressly provides that there is no private right of action for violations of § 1681m.

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