A Chicago federal judge has been asked to sign off on a settlement worth $17.5 million - and worth perhaps as much as $5.7 million for lawyers - to end a class action lawsuit over alleged improper cell phone calls.
In a motion filed Sept. 15 in federal court in Chicago, plaintiffs Keith Snyder, Susan Mansanarez and Tracee A. Beecroft asked Judge Matthew F. Kennelly to approve an agreement with Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC, which they said violated the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act on calls to nearly 1.7 million unique cellphone numbers. They alleged unwanted calls were made to loan clients and others who were not Ocwen customers, and said the company ignored verbal requests to stop the calls because they allegedly lacked sufficient systems to track who should and should not be called.
Under the terms of the deal, class members who file qualified claims would get a cash payment estimated between $55 to $90, based on the claims rate and other expenses the fund would cover. Further, Ocwen agreed to an injunction regarding its practices for gathering consent, as well as to pay enhanced damages to anyone who gets future unwanted automated calls because of flaws in its record keeping.
The plaintiffs’ motion said the settlement followed “three years of heated litigation and three contentious, in-person mediations.” Snyder, Mansanarez and Beecroft each would collect an “incentive award” of $25,000.
On top of reimbursement of actual expenses of up to $100,000, a maximum of a third of the overall settlement fund would be set aside for the plaintiffs’ attorneys, including Terrell Marshall Law Group LLC, of Seattle; Ankcorn Law Firm PLLC, of Chicago; The Cabrera Firm APC, of San Diego; Burke Law Offices LLC, of Chicago; and Heaney Law Firm LLC, of Minnetonka, Minn.
Representing Ocwen in the matter are Locke Lord LLP, of Chicago; and Hunton & Williams LLP, of New York.
Snyder filed the original complaint in the matter on Oct. 27, 2014, in Chicago, alleging nationwide violations of both the TCPA and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. He amended that complaint on April 16, 2016, to add Mansanarez as a representative for the TPCA class.
Beecroft filed her complaint, also a nationwide class action, on Jan. 25, 2015, in Minnesota. That complaint also carried individual claims for violations of the FDCPA and the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Her complaint was transferred to Chicago and consolidation with Snyder’s. According to the plaintiffs, Ocwen “consistently asserted that it obtained ‘the called parties’ prior express consent before making the calls that allegedly violated the TCPA.’ ” They filed for limited class certification on Oct. 4, 2016, and on June 28, Kennelly ruled they were entitled to preliminary injunctive relief, but deferred a class certification order.
On May 26, the plaintiffs moved to certify a damages class; Ocwen filed its opposition July 24. But four days earlier, the parties began their third mediation, ultimately leading to the tentative settlement.
The deal would require Ocwen to notfy people who received unwanted calls, including by email, the U.S. Postal Service and targeted online banner ads. For calls made to numbers not associated with any other information in Ocwen’s database, the company would use reverse lookup procedures to ascertain a mailing address.
Class membership would cover unwanted call recipients dating back to Oct. 27, 2010.