A Tale of “Debt Restructuring”?April 19, 2017 | By: Sean Murray
Here’s a doozy for you: A merchant signed an agreement with a purported law firm on September 29, 2016 for assistance with restructuring their debts. As part of that agreement, the law firm, which goes by the name Protection Legal Group, LLC, also offers “Litigation Defense Services” in case the merchant gets sued for non-payment of debts. The basic “non-legal” services alone, however, required that this merchant pay approximately $100,000 to Protection Legal Group, according to court filings. That’s a pretty hefty service fee for a business that was only claiming $400,000 in debts, most of which it improperly classified as debt since they were actually sales of future receivables.
The very next day, a merchant cash advance (MCA) company sued the merchant in New York for breach of contract, claiming that they were owed more than $300,000. And three months later, the merchant, represented by an attorney named Amos Weinberg, sued the first law firm that they hired. According to that complaint, filed on January 6, 2017, Protection Legal Group never even contacted the MCA company even though they were hired to negotiate with them specifically. Stranger yet, the merchant alleges that Protection Legal Group could not even have defended them in litigation because the MCA agreement’s jurisdiction was New York and Protection Legal Group has no lawyers that are licensed in that state. Naturally, the complaint further alleges that Protection Legal Group accepted payments anyway and has refused to return it.
The merchant’s new attorney, Amos Weinberg, is no friend to MCA companies, according to New York court records. Nevertheless, he offers harsh words for these new purported debt restructuring companies on his blog. “A growing industry that preys on people all over the country who are sued in New York is the debt resolution industry,” he wrote. “These companies promise to settle lawsuits for a portion of the sum sued by inducing the client to stop paying the creditor and instead pay sizeable weekly sums into an escrow account.” He then goes on to call out Protection Legal Group by name.
To summarize, a merchant hired a lawyer for an exorbitant fee to restructure their debts that weren’t debts, got sued and then had to hire a lawyer to sue their lawyer.
Protection Legal Group is also being sued by Forward Financing, an MCA company, for interfering with its contracts. That story has made the news in legal circles.
Court documents show that Protection Legal Group is fighting on another front as well since less than three weeks ago, a class action lawsuit (Case: 1:17-cv-02445) was filed against them for violating the TCPA. According to the complaint, they are allegedly marketing their services via pre-recorded voice messages to cell phones.
As an aside, most MCA contracts already permit merchants to have their payments lowered in the event that their revenues drop. Typically, they just need to send in their recent banking activity to demonstrate the drop and the MCA company will reimburse the merchant for anything collected above the specified percentage of sales. As this is a fundamental part of the agreement, the merchant shouldn’t require a debt negotiator or an expensive attorney to aid them with this.Last modified: April 19, 2017
Sean Murray is the founder of deBanked, an 11-year veteran of the merchant cash advance industry, a casual Lending Club and Prosper note investor, the co-founder of Daily Funder, an alternative lending speaker, consultant, writer, and enthusiast. Connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on twitter.