COA deals blow to AG’s foreclosure lawyer consumer suit

May 23, 2016

An effectively disbarred Florida attorney whose company hired Indiana lawyers to represent people in foreclosures must face a consumer lawsuit brought by the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, but her company is largely exempted, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Monday.

The Indiana Attorney General’s Office began receiving numerous complaints about McCann Law Group LLP and Consumer Attorney Services, P.A., in 2012. Residents said they executed foreclosure agreements with MLG/CAS but had little communication with any Indiana attorney and in some cases were never told who their Indiana lawyer was. MLG/CAS owner and one-time Florida attorney Brenda McCann was never licensed to practice in Indiana, but her company was registered to do business here.

McCann in 2014 filed a petition for disciplinary revocation without leave to reapply to the Florida Bar as she faced 34 disciplinary charges, according to Florida Supreme Court records.

Customers who used the company’s services agreed to have sums deducted monthly from their bank accounts, and the payments increased if a customer’s mortgage company initiated foreclosure proceedings. The company entered into arrangements with five Indiana lawyers — Jonathan Albright, Jeffrey Branstetter, Eric Jackson, Kimberly Vereb and Justin Wall. None are named in the litigation.

The AG’s office sued McCann, MLG and CAS, alleging violations of Indiana Credit Services Organization Act, I.C.24-5-15; the Mortgage Rescue Protection Fraud Act, I.C. 24-5.5; the Home Loan Practices Act, I.C. 24-9, and the Deceptive Consumer Sales Act, I.C. 24-5-0.5. The suit alleged the defendants violated the CSOA by receiving payment for services before they were completed and by failing to post and file a surety bond of $25,000 before conducting business in Indiana. Deceptive acts alleged included “representing to consumers that the Defendants had the characteristics of experienced consultants with in-depth industry knowledge on how to avoid and stop foreclosure."

A trial court denied summary judgment in favor of the CAS parties, prompting this interlocutory appeal. They argue the CSOA and MRPFA expressly do not apply to lawyers and that lawyers are exempt from the HLPA and DCSA.

In a 27-page opinion, Judge Michael Barnes wrote for the panel that reversed denial of summary judgment for the law firms on all counts except some alleged Deceptive Consumer Sales Act violations. But because McCann was not an attorney, she is not entitled to summary judgment.

"MLG/CAS is entitled to summary judgment on the Attorney General’s claims against it under the CSOA, the MRPFA, and the HLPA, and as to the claim under the DCSA based upon violations of the CSOA. We reverse the denial of summary judgment with respect to those claims and direct that summary judgment be entered in MLG/CAS’s favor.  MLG/CAS is not entitled to summary judgment on the independent DCSA claim for deceptive representations, and we affirm the denial of summary judgment as to MLG/CAS to that extent,” Barnes wrote in Consumer Attorney Services, P.A., et al. v. State of Indiana, 49A05-1504-PL-274.

“McCann personally is not entitled to summary judgment on any of the Attorney General’s claims, and we affirm the denial of summary judgment as to her in its entirety,” Barnes wrote.


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