FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION v. FORTRESS LAW GROUP LLC

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FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION v. FORTRESS LAW GROUP LLC

Usa Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.

FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION, Plaintiff – countertop Defendant – Appellee, v. LANIER LAW, LLC, a Florida liability that is limited, d.b.a. Redstone Law Group, d.b.a. What the law states Offices Of Michael W. Lanier, LIBERTY & TRUST LAW BAND OF FLORIDA, LLC, a Florida liability that is limited, Defendants – countertop Claimants, MICHAEL W. LANIER, independently so that as an owner, officer, supervisor, and/or agent regarding 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 take into account whether or not the region court correctly awarded summary judgment to your Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on its claims that defendant Michael Lanier violated a few federal statutes and laws associated with the purchase of home loan support relief solutions. Lanier contends that the district court must not have awarded summary judgment for many reasons, including that the district court improperly admitted proof against him, overlooked disputes of product reality, making findings that are factual the FTC’s favor. We conclude that none of the 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 various other entities including Pinnacle Legal Services, Fortress Legal Services, together with Department of Loss Mitigation and Forensics (“DOLMF”) (collectively, the “staffing agencies”). These entities supplied staffing, recommendations, along with other solutions to Lanier Law.

In 2012, the Florida Bar filed a problem against Lanier linked to their foreclosure relief services. Lanier ultimately joined a conditional accountable plea, admitting which he had improperly solicited customers and did not supervise non-lawyers, in which he was suspended quickly through the training of legislation.

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Ahead of Lanier’s suspension, he became associated with three newly produced entities when you look at 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, supplied customers with mortgage support solutions. 2 These entities purported become attorneys situated in the District of Columbia, nonetheless they were 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 towards the D.C. businesses, any mail provided for D.C. ended up being forwarded instantly to Jacksonville, Florida, where Lanier Law operated. Lanier Dep. at 37 (Doc. 269). The Pinnacle and DOLMF employees that has formerly caused Lanier Law customers proceeded to get results on behalf of the D.C. businesses. And also to gather re re payments, the D.C. companies utilized the vendor processing portal that Lanier had utilized for Lanier Law.

To ensure that Lanier Law together with D.C. organizations could attract customers nationwide, they related to “of counsel” attorneys across the united states. The counsel that is“of lawyers had been paid a month-to-month retainer of around $300 every month; the work they performed had been generally speaking restricted to reviewing retainer agreements for customer email address and also to verify the agreements had been finalized and dated.

Together, Lanier Law additionally the D.C. organizations operated an amount company recruiting customers to buy mortgage support relief solutions (“MARS”). The staffing agencies solicited consumers through online, letters, and leaflets mortgage assistance that is offering. The advertisements promoted the “of counsel” community, noting that the law practice “has working arrangements with skilled and competent solicitors and law offices in several other states.” 2013 Flyer at 56 (Doc. 246-5). One flyer, entitled the “Economic Stimulus Mortgage Notification” (the “Flyer”), which appeared as if a federal government document, informed customers that their home have been “selected for the program that is special the national Insured Institutions,” that will “bring your property re re re payments present for under your debt or your major balance down.” 2012 Flyer at 66 (Doc. 246-1). Other leaflets identified the sender as DOLMF, that was owned by Robles. Lanier denies any part in “drafting, delivering, approving, or us[ing]” the Flyer. Lanier Aff. at 9 (Doc. 253).

Customers who taken care of immediately the ads were known Lanier Law or even the D.C. organizations. Throughout the enrollment procedure, situation managers told clients that the company would get loan alterations with somewhat reduced re re payments and interest levels. The representatives guaranteed consumers that the businesses had acutely high success prices in decreasing re re payments—over 90 %. When new business enrolled, Lanier Law additionally the D.C. businesses delivered them paperwork that is similar. The customers had been expected to spend advance fees of greater than $2,000, often payable in installments. Some customers had been told to get rid of their mortgage repayments and also to pay Lanier Law or the D.C. organizations alternatively.

After the customers started making re re re payments, Lanier Law additionally the D.C. organizations stopped interacting 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 as well as the D.C. companies had never tried to contact lenders. The majority of the customers complained that the businesses didn’t get any customizations with the person. Other people stated that though some customizations had been acquired, these were much less guaranteed and often needed higher payments than customers had compensated formerly.

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