This lawsuit is about whether Defendants improperly collected debts from people in New York. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants used fraudulent practices to file debt collection lawsuits, obtain default judgments, and then collect on those judgments. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that:
Plaintiffs allege these actions violated the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), New York General Business Law § 349, and (for the Mel Harris Law Firm Defendants who are attorneys) New York Judiciary Law § 487. Defendants deny that they have engaged in any wrongdoing. The Court has not decided whether Plaintiffs’ claims have any merit. On May 24, 2016 the Court approved a settlement of this case.Back To Top
In a class action, one or more people (called “Class Representatives” or “Lead Plaintiffs”) bring a lawsuit and are appointed by the Court to sue on behalf of all people who have similar claims. The Lead Plaintiffs here are Monique Sykes, Rea Veerabadren, Kelvin Perez, and Clifton Armoogam. All of the people with similar claims are together called a “class,” and each person is a “class member.” One court decides the issues for all class members — except for those who opt out of the class. In this case, Class Members can choose to opt out of the Money Settlement but not the Injunctive Settlement.Back To Top
The Court has not decided in favor of Plaintiffs or Defendants. Both Plaintiffs and Defendants believe they would have prevailed in the case, but there was no decision in favor of either party. Instead, Plaintiffs and Defendants agreed to a Settlement. That way, they avoid the cost and delays of a trial. The Lead Plaintiffs and their attorneys think the Settlement is best for all Class Members.Back To Top
There are three groups of Defendants:
There are two Settlement Classes in connection with this Settlement.
Members of either Settlement Class who paid money to Defendants or whose judgment was sold to a third party may be entitled to a portion of the Money Settlement if they submitted a timely Claim Form. The deadline to submit a Claim Form has passed.Back To Top
Class members who paid money to LR Credit or whose LR Credit judgment was sold to a third party are entitled to a portion of the Money Settlement if they submitted a timely and valid Claim Form. The deadline to submit a Claim Form has passed.Back To Top
You are part of the Injunctive Settlement Class if you ever had an alleged debt that was owned by LR Credit, even if LR Credit later sold that debt to another debt collector. You are part of the Money Settlement Class if LR Credit ever obtained a default judgment against you, even if that judgment was later vacated or sold to another debt collector. If you are unsure whether you are a Class Member you can contact the Class Administrator at (877) 868-0034.Back To Top
Defendants have agreed to provide two types of relief:
Defendants have agreed to pay approximately $60 million as follows:
Three categories of costs were deducted from the Settlement Fund before money was made available to eligible Class Members:
Based on the formula approved by the Court, the money in the Settlement Fund (out of which administrative costs, Service Awards to the Lead Plaintiffs, and attorneys’ fees and costs were also paid) will be divided among the Class Members who had money collected from them or whose judgments were sold — but only if those Class Members did not opt out of the Class and submitted a valid Claim Form that was received by the Class Administrator by April 7, 2016. The deadline to opt out or submit a Claim Form has passed.
The amount each eligible Class Member receives will be based on:
The Plan of Allocation contains the exact plan for dividing the money.
Only Class Members who had money collected from them or whose judgments were sold are eligible to receive a payment.Back To Top
Every Class Member who had money collected from them or whose accounts were sold, and who returned a Claim Form by the deadline of April 7, 2016, will receive at least $100 and possibly much more. The amount you receive will depend on a number of factors, including how many people submitted valid and timely Claim Forms. (see FAQ 10).
All Class Members who had money collected from them or whose accounts were sold should have received in the mail a notice specific to them that explains: (1) the amount Defendants collected from you; (2) whether your judgment or account was sold; and (3) the amount you might receive if you submit a timely Claim Form. If you think you are a Class Member but did not receive this Notice, call the Administrator at (877) 868-0034.
The Court approved dividing the settlement money among class members who submitted valid claim forms by the deadline as follows:
A money payment from the Settlement may affect your eligibility for needs-based government benefits, like Public Assistance and SSI. (see FAQ 15 for more information on the effect of the Settlement on benefits.)
Also, even if you do not submit a Claim Form, LR Credit will transfer all debts it owns to a not-for-profit entity chosen by Plaintiffs. The not-for-profit entity will stop all collections and forgive the debt as a gift for you. Plaintiffs will also work with the New York State courts to try to vacate the judgments through a special proceeding under CPLR § 5015(c), upon such terms as the State Court deems to be just.
Neither Class Counsel nor Defendants make any representations concerning tax consequences of this Settlement or participation in it, and you are advised to seek your own personal tax advice.Back To Top
Unless your LR Credit account/judgment was sold (see FAQ 17 regarding your rights if your debt was sold), collection on your LR Credit debt should have stopped already. If you are still paying money to LR Credit, stop making payments until further notice and contact the Class Administrator at (877) 868-0034.Back To Top
On November 28, 2016, the Attorney General of the State of New York filed on behalf of the Office of Court Administration a petition under CPLR § 5015(c) seeking to vacate the default judgments obtained by the LR Credit Defendants against class members. The case is Fisher et al. v. Leucadia National Corp. et al., No. 452328/2016 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Cty.). Please check back here for updates.Back To Top
If an LR Credit judgment was entered against you more than seven years ago, it should no longer appear on your credit reports. If it still appears, you can write a letter to the credit reporting agencies and ask them to remove the judgment. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com to obtain and check free copies of your credit reports from the three major credit reporting agencies. For more information about disputing an entry on a credit report, please go to www.lawhelp.org to find free legal resources.
If the LR Credit judgments are successfully vacated through the special proceeding by the New York State courts (see FAQ 13), you can ask the credit reporting agencies to remove the judgment from your credit reports. Check back here for more information and updates.
If an LR Credit judgment appears on your credit reports and is causing you immediate harm, please contact the Class Administrator at (877) 868-0034.Back To Top
If you’re eligible for money from the settlement, receipt of that money may affect your eligibility for certain needs-based government benefits, depending on several factors, including the type of benefits you receive, the size of the refund, your age, your household income, and how many assets you already have.
To be sure whether or how your benefits may be affected, check with a government benefits specialist or find free legal resources at: www.lawhelp.org.Back To Top
Neither Class Counsel nor Defendants make any representations concerning tax consequences of this Settlement or participation in it. You should seek advice about any tax questions from a tax specialist. You can also go to www.lawhelp.org to find free legal resources.
Effect of forgiving debt: The non-profit Rolling Jubilee will be the not-for-profit that forgives your debt as a gift to you. Rolling Jubilee does not believe there should be tax consequences from forgiving your debt. You can receive more information on this at: www.rollingjubilee.org. But because neither Class Counsel nor Defendants make any representations of the tax consequences, you should speak with your own tax specialist.
Settlement money: You should also consult with your tax specialist regarding the consequences of receiving money from the settlement. The Settlement Administrator will not issue tax forms because class members did not receive more money from the Settlement than they paid to LR Credit.Back To Top
Class Members whose LR Credit debts were sold should have received an individualized notice explaining that their debt was sold. If you are not sure, please call the Class Administrator at (877) 868-0034. Collections on these debts will not automatically stop as a result of this Settlement, but you may be able to stop them in some other way. For legal advice about how to stop collections on a sold LR Credit debt, please go to www.lawhelp.org to find free legal resources.
Class Members whose debts were sold and who submit a timely Claim Form will receive at least $100 and possibly more, as detailed in the Allocation Plan.
If LR Credit sold your judgment to another debt collector, Plaintiffs will still try to work with the courts to try to have your judgment vacated. If you want to try to vacate the judgment on your own, you can file an Order to Show Cause by using court forms available at www.nycourts.gov/courthelp/diy/consumerdebt.shtml. If you file an Order to Show Cause, we suggest you include the following information:
“This alleged debt is part of a certified class action alleging widespread fraudulent practices, including the filing of false affidavits of service and merit. See Sykes v. Mel S. Harris & Associates LLC, 780 F.3d 70, 74 (2d Cir. 2015). More information can be found at www.sykesclassaction.com.”
If you paid money to a debt collector other than LR Credit, you may be entitled to get your money back from that debt collector. You should ask for your money back by requesting “restitution” in your Order to Show Cause.
You can find a helpful video about vacating a default judgment at www.lawhelpny.org/consumer and some additional resources at www.claronyc.org.Back To Top
If you did not opt out of the Money Settlement (see FAQ 21), you gave up your right to file your own lawsuit for money damages against the Defendants (or any related entities or individuals) arising out of LR Credit’s debt collection activities. All of the Court’s orders apply to you and legally bind you.
The claims that are released by the Settlement and the persons and entities who are released by it are defined in the Settlement Agreement. The Release is a very important part of the Money Settlement, and, if you did not opt out from the Money Settlement you will be bound by all of the terms of the Release. The Release is very broad and applies to all claims arising out the operative facts set out in the Complaint filed by Lead Plaintiffs that have been asserted or could have been asserted against the individuals and entities that are included in the definition of “Releasee.” The term “Releasee” includes not only the Defendants but also all of their related persons and entities (including, for example, their directors, officers, employees, members, agents, attorneys, and representatives). Companies that bought debts from LR Credit are not released. A copy of the full Release (with the relevant definitions) is available here. If you did not opt out, you cannot sue, continue to sue, or be part of any other lawsuit against the Defendants (or the Releasees) involving any of the claims that are released. If you have a pending lawsuit that involves any of the Defendants, you should speak to your lawyer in that case immediately to see if this Settlement will affect your other case.
The Court also entered “bar orders” barring anyone from suing the Releasees for any injury that relates to a released claim.
You will not be able to bring a lawsuit against Defendants for injunctive relief arising out of their collection of LR Credit debts.
If your debt was sold, the Settlement does not affect your right to bring a lawsuit against the company that bought your debt from LR Credit.Back To Top
To receive a payment, you must have submitted a Claim Form by April 7, 2016 We mailed settlement checks to those who submitted a valid claim by that deadline on August 5, 2016. Only class members who submitted a timely claim form and who paid money to LR Credit or whose LR Credit judgment was sold to a third party are entitled to a settlement check.Back To Top
We mailed settlement checks to those who submitted a valid claim by that deadline on August 5, 2016. Your check should arrive in 7-10 days. Please be patient.Back To Top
The deadline has passed to opt out of the settlement.
To have opted out of the Money Settlement, you must have sent a letter to the Administrator stating that you wanted to opt out of the Money Settlement in Sykes v. Mel Harris and Associates, LLC No. 09 Civ. 8486. If you opted out, you will not get any settlement payment, and you cannot object to the Money Settlement.Back To Top
The deadline to opt out has passed, but if you did opt out, you would not receive any money from the lawsuit through the Money Settlement. If you opted out, you may bring your own case, at your own expense, to seek damages from the Defendants relating to their debt collection activities on LR Credit debts. Simply not returning the Claim Form to receive the money payment is not enough to keep the right to bring your own lawsuit. Unless you actively opted out, you gave up that right. Even if you opted out from the Money Settlement, however, you will still (a) be a Class Member in the Injunctive Settlement and (b) not be able to bring another lawsuit against the Defendants for injunctive relief.Back To Top
The Court decided that the lawyers at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP, New Economy Project, and MFY Legal Services, Inc. are qualified to represent you and all Class Members in the Settlement. These lawyers are called “Class Counsel.” You will not be charged for these lawyers. You do not need to retain your own lawyer in order to participate as a Class Member. If you want to be represented by your own lawyer, you may hire one at your own expense.Back To Top
Class Counsel has committed significant time and expense to litigating this case for the benefit of Plaintiffs and the Classes. Class Counsel asked the Court to be paid for their fees and out-of-pocket costs out of the portion of the Settlement Fund set aside to cover Settlement Costs (see FAQ 9). The Court awarded $14,401,667 in attorneys’ fees and $192,230.30 in costs, which is less than one-third of the total Settlement Fund (which totals approximately $60 million). If you decided to hire your own attorney, you will be responsible for that attorney’s fees and expenses.Back To Top
The deadline to object to any part of the Settlement has passed.Back To Top
The Court held a Fairness Hearing on May 11, 2016 at 11 a.m. in Courtroom 519 at the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, 40 Foley Square, New York, New York. The court approved the settlement on May 24, 2016.Back To Top
No. The Settlement Agreement does not have any process for appeals. All awards are final.Back To Top
No. The Settlement Administrator will not issue tax forms because Class Members did not receive more money from the Settlement than they paid to LR Credit.Back To Top
Yes. Please have your financial institution contact the Administrator at (877) 868-0034.Back To Top
Please have your financial institution contact the Administrator at (877) 868-0034.Back To Top
Listed below are some financial institutions, including community development credit unions, throughout New York State where you may be able to open a no-fee or low-fee account and deposit your settlement check. Note that many credit unions have criteria concerning who is eligible to become a member; basic information regarding their eligibility criteria is provided below, but please call the specific credit union or visit its website for more details.
In addition, while we do not endorse any financial institution, Citibank may be able to cash settlement checks up to $5,000 at one of its branch locations, even if you are not a Citibank deposit accountholder. Please note that Citibank will require you to present valid, government-issued identification and to provide limited identification information for the purpose of satisfying regulatory reporting requirements. Importantly, Citibank does not guarantee that it will cash your check.
|BANK||CONTACT INFORMATION||ELIGIBILITY AND BRANCHES|
|Alternatives Federal Credit Union||125 N. Fulton St.
Ithaca, NY 14850
|You are eligible to join Alternatives FCU if you live or work in Ithaca, Tompkins County, or the adjacent counties (Cayuga, Chemung, Cortland, Seneca, Schuyler, and Tioga). For more details, see http://alternatives.org/membership.html.|
|Brooklyn Cooperative Federal Credit Union||
1474 Myrtle Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11237
|You are eligible to join Brooklyn Cooperative FCU if you live, work, volunteer, or worship in Bushwick or Bedford-Stuyvesant.|
723 Westcott St.
Syracuse, NY 13210
|You are eligible to join Cooperative Federal if you live, work, worship, or attend school in the City of Syracuse, or if someone in your immediate family or household does; or if you are involved with one of Cooperative Federal’s member organizations or if someone in your immediate family or household is. For more details, see http://www.cooperativefederal.org/en/howtojoin.|
|Genesee Co-op Federal Credit Union||
395 Gregory St.
Rochester, NY 14620
|You are eligible to join Genesee Co-op FCU if you live, work, worship, or attend school as well as businesses located in specific Rochester neighborhoods (see website for list); if you are a member of specific community organizations (see website for list); or if you are a family member (by blood, marriage, domestic partnership, or adoption) of a Genesee Co-op FCU member. For more details, see http://www.genesee.coop/about-genesee-co-op.|
|Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union||
37 Ave. B
New York, NY 10009
|You are eligible to join Lower East Side People’s FCU if you live, work, volunteer, worship, attend school, or belong to any organization located on the Lower East Side, Central Harlem, and East Harlem (see website for more specific geographic criteria); if you reside in New York City and earn less than $38,000 annually; if you live in an HDFC Co-op building; if you are affiliated with one of Lower East Side People’s FCU’s Select Partner groups; or if you are a family member of an existing Lower East Side People’s FCU member. For more details, see https://lespeoples.org/about-us/how-do-i-join.|
|USAlliance Federal Credit Union||
411 Theodore Fremd Ave.
Rye, NY, 10580
You can find USAlliance branchs in the following locations:
The Notice estimated a range of money you might receive. It stated that the exact amount you would receive depended on how many people submitted valid claim forms. It said that if few people submitted claim forms you would get more money and if more people submitted claim forms each person would get less money. Because a large number of people submitted claim forms, the amount you are entitled to receive is on the lower end of the estimate provided in your Notice. Everyone is receiving at least the minimum amount listed on the Notice.Back To Top
Depositing the check should have no impact on your credit score.
If the LR Credit judgments are successfully vacated through the special proceeding by the New York State courts, you can ask the credit reporting agencies to remove the judgment from your credit reports. You may continue to check this website for updates on the process of vacating judgments.
If an LR Credit judgment was entered against you more than seven years ago, it should no longer appear on your credit reports. If it still appears, you can write a letter to the credit reporting agencies and ask them to remove the judgment. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com to obtain and check free copies of your credit reports from the three major credit reporting agencies. For more information about disputing an entry on a credit report, please go to www.lawhelp.org to find free legal resources.Back To Top
If you have any questions about the Settlement, you should contact the Class Administrator at (877) 868-0034.Back To Top