a per se violation of TILA or any other Federal or State law makes the act also per se violations of the FTC act, (and the applicable little FTC acts passed in various states). Florida is used here as an example.
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Anyone who has done even the most cursory research knows that a pattern of behavior in which the name of the creditor or lender is withheld is a “per se” predatory loan. While Judges don’t care whether the borrower knows the actual lender, clearly Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court and the executive branch DO care ( and so their state counterparts); the courts are required to follow the law not create it by inaction or action contrary to the express wording of statutes. As we have discussed this will be shortly revealed as the rescission cases go back to SCOTUS which has already ruled unanimously that there is nothing wrong with the rescission statute, it clearly states the procedures and nothing unconstitutional about its process or effect.
Pretender lenders are rushing as many cases to forced sale through foreclosure because their days are numbered in which they can continue to do so. One reason is that their violations of Federal and State statutes prohibiting unfair trade practices are violations per se and another is that their violations are still prosecutable even if they are not on some list somewhere in some statute or group of cases interpreting deceptive trade and lending practices.
For along time, it has been known, accepted and understood that withholding the name of the actual lender as a matter of practice makes each such loan and each such practice “predatory per se” under Reg Z of the Federal truth in Lending Act. The purpose of this article is to suggest that a per se violation of TILA or any other Federal or State law makes the act also per se violations of the FTC act, (and the applicable little FTC acts passed in various states). Florida is used here as an example.
While the recognition that the alleged loan transaction was by definition unto itself predatory, there has been no attempt or agreement to arrive at any consequences that should befall the “ pretender lender” violator because TILA has enforcement provisions and self executing punishment like TILA rescission but it does not specifically provide an easy route to assessing substantial damages by way of disgorgement, which probably cannot be barred by the defense of the statute of limitations.
If a loan is predatory per se under Reg Z as a table funded loan then it is hard to imagine how that act of “lending” would not also be a per se violation of the FTCA and, in Florida, the FDUTPA 501.204 et seq. A table funded loan by definition withholds the identity of the true lender. Table funded loans were not only part of the pattern and practice of creating illusions they called “loans” but became industry standard.
It is neither an exaggeration nor over-reaching to say that table funded loans that were predatory per se became industry practice from around 2001 through the present. In other words it became industry standard to violate the Federal Truth in Lending Act, the FTC Act, and the state versions of the FTC act (in Florida §501.204 et seq). As we have seen with construction defect lawsuits starting back in the 1970’s, the fact that it became custom and practice to violate the the local building codes does not in any way raise a valid defense to violating those codes.
This would fall under the Florida FDUTPA category of “Per Se by Description. “ It doesn’t matter whether the judge “feels” that some bank or “lender” or “servicer” might be hurt. That question has been decided by the Federal legislative branch, the Federal Executive Branch and the Federal Judicial branch as enunciated by the highest court in the land. Under the powers vested in the Federal government laws were passed in which the Federal government pre-empted or restricted state action in circumstances where ordinary consumers were fooled by deceptive practices. And the test is whether the least sophisticated and most gullible consumer was tricked and hurt by the trick. The same line of thought applies to state laws like the little FTC act in Florida.
Once the violation becomes a per se violation, the question is not whether there is injury but rather how much should be awarded to the consumer as a punishment to the violator and as a means to settle the score with the consumer. This calls for disgorgement which is not considered to be “damages” since it is described as merely preventing the violator from keeping ill-gotten gains. Attorneys fees and court costs are almost always provided by the Federal and state FTC statutes. The violations under the FDCPA may be barred by the expiration of a statute of limitations but the per se violations of the of the FDCPA and its equivalent state statutes probably is a trigger for declaring the FDCPA violation a per se violation which in turn triggers the rest of the applicable statutes for disgorgement of ill-gotten gains.
•Per Se by Description
The reference in §501.203(3)(a) and (c) to FDUTPA violations based on FTC or FDUTPA rules, or “[a]ny law, statute, rule, regulation, or ordinance” can further be interpreted as a formal acknowledgment of violations of a second type of per se violation which occurs when a rule, statute, or ordinance is violated, and the rule, statute, or other ordinance expressly describes unfair, deceptive, or unconscionable conduct, without necessarily referring expressly to FDUTPA.
•Rules Adopted by the FTC
Pursuant to the FTC act, the FTC has adopted rules which describe unfair or deceptive acts in several contexts, and which appear in 16 C.F.R. ch. 1, subch. D, entitled “Trade Regulation Rules.” Some of the more well known of these include the FTC rules governing door-to-door sales,16 franchises,17 holders in due course,18 negative option sales plans,19 funeral industry practices,20 and mail or telephone order sales.21 According to the definition of “violation of this part,” in §501.203(3)(a) a violation of FDUTPA can occur when federal administrative rules promulgated by the Federal Trade Commission pursuant to the FTC act are violated. Along these lines, the 11th Circuit has confirmed that §501.203(3)(a) of FDUTPA creates a private cause of action for violation of an FTC rule even though none exists under federal law.22
[Whether or not the facts alleged by the consumer are sufficient for rescission, damages remain available under the FTC act and little FTC acts in various states. The damages extend up to and including all money paid by the debtor. And according to recent case law following a long prior tradition, the statute of limitations does not apply to petitioners for disgorgement of ill-gotten gains. 16 CFR 433 — Preservation of consumer claims and defenses, unfair or deceptive acts or practices]
Much of the material for this article has been inspired by the following article:
Florida Bar Journal May, 2002, Volume LXXVI, No. 5 Page 62 by Mark S. Fistos. “Per Se Violations of Florida Deceptive and Unfair Practices Act §501.204(1)”
Relevant passages quoted:
FDUTPA broadly declares in §501.204(1) that “[u]nfair methods of competition, unconscionable acts or practices, and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce” are unlawful. By design, FDUTPA does not contain a definition or “laundry list” of just which acts can be “deceptive,” “unfair,” or “unconscionable.” No specific rule or regulation is required to find conduct unfair or deceptive under the statute.1
There is, however, an entire body of state and federal rules, ordinances, and statutes which serves to identify specific acts that constitute automatic violations of FDUTPA’s broad proscription in §501.204(1). These rules, ordinances, and statutes, if violated, constitute “per se” violations of FDUTPA, and could automatically expose parties to actual damages, injunctions, and civil penalties up to $15,000 per violation. An assessment of potential per se FDUTPA violations, therefore, should play a part in any commercial law practice, and is imperative for any lawyer bringing or defending against a claim for deceptive or unfair trade practices.
Approaches to FDUTPA Liability
There are two basic approaches to analyzing FDUTPA liability: one is to determine whether an act or practice in trade or commerce violates broadly worded standards relating to unfairness, deception, unconscionable acts or practices, or unfair methods of competition; a second is to assess whether conduct in trade or commerce constitutes a per se violation.2
FDUTPA tracks the broad language of the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC act)3and declares “[u]nfair methods of competition, unconscionable acts or practices, and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce” to be unlawful. Subsection 501.204(2) of FDUTPA in turn provides that “due consideration and great weight” be given interpretations by federal courts and the Federal Trade Commission of what constitutes unfairness and deception.
Based on FTC interpretations and federal case law dating from the 1960s, Florida courts have adopted and applied in various contexts a broadly worded standard of unfairness under which a practice is unfair, “if it offends public policy and is immoral, unethical, oppressive, unscrupulous or substantially injurious to consumers.”4
Categories of Per Se Violations
The rules, regulations, ordinances, and statutes referenced in the above-quoted §501.203(3) refer to sources which may serve as a basis for a per se FDUTPA violation. These sources can be broken down into three categories:
1) Per se violations whereby a statute, ordinance, or rule expressly refers to FDUTPA and provides a violation thereof to be a violation of FDUTPA; [per se by reference]
2) Per se violations whereby a statute, ordinance, or rule expressly describes deceptive, unconscionable, or unfair conduct without referring expressly to FDUTPA and when violated constitutes a per se violation of FDUTPA; [per se by description] and
3) Per se violations whereby a court, in the absence of any such reference or description, construes a statute, ordinance, or rule to be a per se violation of FDUTPA.
Examples from Footnotes: Fla. Stat. §§210.185(5) (cigarette distribution), 320.03(1) (DHSMV agents), 320.27(2) (vehicle dealer licensing), 624.125(2) (service agreements), 681.111 (lemon law), 501.97(2) (location advertising), 400.464(4)(b) (home health agencies), 400.93(6)(b) (home medical equipment providers), 483.305(3) (multiphasic health testing centers), 496.416 (charitable contributions), 501.160(3) (price gouging), 501.0579 (weight loss centers), 501.34 (aftermarket crash parts), 509.511 (campground memberships), 559.934 (sellers of travel), 624.129(4) (location and recovery services), 817.62(3)(c) (credit card factoring);Code of Ordinances, City of Ft. Walton Beach, Florida §23-145(a) (title loans).
Filed under: foreclosure | Tagged: 501.203, 501.204, disgorgement, FDCPA, FDUTPA, federal preemption, FTCA, Little FTC, per se by court, per se by description, per se by reference, per se violations, predatory per se, Reg Z | 5 Comments »