FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION v. FORTRESS LAW GROUP LLC

FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION v. FORTRESS LAW GROUP LLC

United states of america Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.

FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION, Plaintiff – countertop Defendant – Appellee, v. LANIER LAW, LLC, a Florida limited obligation business, d.b.a. Redstone Law Group, d.b.a. What the law states Offices Of Michael W. Lanier, LIBERTY & TRUST LAW SELECTION OF FLORIDA, LLC, a Florida liability that is limited, Defendants – countertop Claimants, MICHAEL W. LANIER, independently so when an owner, officer, supervisor, and/or agent for the above-mentioned entities, Defendant – countertop Claimant – Appellant, FORTRESS LAW GROUP, LLC, a Florida restricted obligation business, et al., Defendants.

This instance calls for us to think about if the region court precisely awarded summary judgment to your Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on its claims that defendant Michael Lanier violated a few statutes that are federal laws associated with the purchase of home loan help relief solutions. Lanier argues that the region court must not have given summary judgment for a number of reasons, including that the region court improperly admitted evidence against him, overlooked disputes of product reality, making findings that are factual the FTC’s benefit. We conclude that none of those arguments has merit and affirm the region court.

Factual Background

An attorney based in Jacksonville, Florida, offered mortgage assistance relief services to people in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure. 1 Lanier and his affiliates promised homeowners that in exchange for an upfront fee, he would negotiate more affordable monthly mortgage payments, lower interest rates, and reduced principal balances on their behalf through Lanier Law, LLC, his law firm, Michael Lanier.

Lanier Law shared work place with Rogelio Robles and Edward Rennick, two of Lanier’s co-defendants, whom operated some other entities including Pinnacle Legal Services, Fortress Legal Services, plus the Department of Loss Mitigation and Forensics (“DOLMF”) (collectively, the “staffing agencies”). These entities supplied staffing, recommendations, as well as other solutions to Lanier Law.

In 2012, the Florida Bar filed a problem against Lanier pertaining to their foreclosure relief solutions. Lanier sooner or later joined a conditional responsible plea, admitting which he had improperly solicited customers and did not supervise non-lawyers, in which he ended up being suspended briefly through the training of legislation.

Just before Lanier’s suspension system, he became involved in three newly produced entities within the District of Columbia: Fortress Law Group, LLP; Redstone Law Group, LLP; and Surety Law Group, LLP (collectively, the “D.C. firms”), which, like Lanier Law, provided customers with home loan help solutions. 2 These entities purported become law offices situated in the District of Columbia, however they had been in fact office[s that are“virtual” for Lanier’s operations in Florida. Rennick Dep. at 33 (Doc. 271). 3 Although Lanier “transferred” their foreclosure protection cases to your D.C. organizations, any mail sent to D.C. ended up being forwarded immediately to Jacksonville, Florida, where Lanier Law operated. Lanier Dep. at 37 (Doc. 269). The Pinnacle and DOLMF employees who’d formerly caused Lanier Law customers proceeded to function with respect to the D.C. businesses. And also to gather re re payments, the D.C. businesses utilized the vendor processing portal that Lanier had employed for Lanier Law.

Making sure that Lanier Law as well as the D.C. organizations could attract customers nationwide, they related to “of counsel” attorneys across the united states. The “of counsel” lawyers had been compensated a month-to-month retainer of approximately $300 each month; the task they performed had been generally speaking limited by reviewing retainer agreements for customer contact information also to ensure that the agreements had been finalized and dated.

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Together, Lanier Law and also the D.C. organizations operated an amount company consumers that are recruiting buy home loan help relief solutions (“MARS”). The staffing agencies solicited consumers over the internet, letters, and leaflets mortgage assistance that is offering. The adverts promoted the counsel that is“of network, noting that the law practice “has working arrangements with skilled and competent attorneys and law offices in a lot of other states.” 2013 Flyer at 56 (Doc. 246-5). One flyer, entitled the “Economic Stimulus Mortgage Notification” (the “Flyer”), which appeared as if a government document, informed customers that their home have been “selected for a unique system by the national Insured Institutions,” that will “bring your property re re payments present at under you borrowed from or your major balance down.” 2012 Flyer at 66 (Doc. 246-1). Other leaflets identified the transmitter as DOLMF, that was owned by Robles. Lanier denies any part in “drafting, giving, approving, or us[ing]” the Flyer. Lanier Aff. at 9 (Doc. 253).

Customers whom taken care of immediately the adverts had been known Lanier Law or even the D.C. companies. Through the enrollment procedure, instance supervisors told customers that the company would get loan changes with notably lower re payments and rates of interest. The representatives guaranteed customers that the businesses had very high success prices in reducing re re payments—over 90 percent. When new customers enrolled, Lanier Law in addition to D.C. businesses delivered them paperwork that is similar. The customers had been needed to spend advance charges of greater than $2,000, often payable in installments. Some customers had been told to get rid of their home loan repayments and also to pay Lanier Law or the D.C. companies alternatively.

When the customers started making payments, Lanier Law additionally the D.C. businesses stopped communicating that work was being done on their loan modifications with them or transferred them to various case managers who assured them. Some consumers discovered from their lenders that Lanier Law therefore the D.C. organizations had never tried to get hold of lenders. All of the customers reported that the organizations did not get any alterations on their behalf. Other people stated that however some customizations had been acquired, they certainly were much less guaranteed and often needed higher payments than customers had compensated formerly.