Attorney General Pam Bondi News Release
July 29, 2014
Contact: Whitney Ray
Phone: (850) 245-0150
$92 Million Settlement Reached Against Deceptive Military Consumer Lender
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.— Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Office, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and 12 other states obtained $92 million in debt relief from Colfax Capital Corporation and Culver Capital, LLC, also collectively known as Rome Finance, for deceiving about 17,000 servicemembers and other consumers in a predatory lending scheme. Rome Finance, which is based in California and Georgia, allegedly financed consumers’ debts for items such as computers, gaming systems, and other goods and services from retailers online or at mall kiosks near military bases. Payments were deducted from the servicemembers’ paychecks and were secured with access to bank accounts. Rome Finance allegedly used deceptive lending schemes by promising no money down and instant financing on these products and services without disclosing the amounts the consumers would pay for financing. More than 800 Florida servicemembers were affected in this scheme and will receive more than $4 million in outstanding debt relief.
“Our military members sacrifice so much for us, and we will not allow predatory lenders to deceive them,” said Attorney General Pam Bondi. “This settlement provides for more than $4 million in debt relief for Florida’s military members.”
· Hid finance charges when marketing products: Rome Finance and merchants it worked with masked expensive finance charges by artificially inflating the disclosed price of the consumer goods being sold. As a result, they provided consumers with disclosures that had inaccurately low finance charges and annual percentage rates. Consumers received disclosures, for example, indicating the APR was 16 percent when in fact they were being charged as much as a 100 percent or more APR. That inaccurate information prevented consumers from making informed decisions about whether to take out credit.
· Withheld required financial information from billing statements: Billing statements that Rome Finance sent to consumers failed to include certain disclosures required by law, such as: the annual percentage rate, the balance that was subject to that interest rate, how that balance was determined, the closing date of the billing cycle, and the account balance on the closing date.
· Deceptively, unfairly, and abusively collected debt that was not owed: Rome Finance was not licensed to provide consumer lending in any state and charged annual percentage rates higher than some states allowed, which voided or limited the collectable debt in some states under state lending law. Rome Finance deceived consumers in these states by failing to inform them that some or all of their debt was void or otherwise did not have to be repaid. As a result, many consumers were misled into thinking that they had to repay the entire loan balance and making those payments, when they did not have to.
The settlement liquidates Rome Finance and its successor corporations, provides $92 million in debt relief to United States servicemembers worldwide, marks all outstanding debt paid with consumer finance reporting agencies, and permanently bans the company from doing business in the field of consumer lending. Additionally, all servicemembers will keep all merchandise purchased and the debts associated will be erased and judgments will be vacated upon request.
Consumers who suspect scams or other fraudulent activity can file a complaint by calling 1(866)-9-NO-SCAM or by visiting MyFloridaLegal.com.