A debt collection law firm that allegedly used unfair and deceptive practices to collect debts from thousands of Massachusetts consumers will pay $1 million and change its practices under a court settlement, Attorney General Maura Healey announced Thursday.
Lustig, Glaser & Wilson, P.C., the largest debt collection law firm in the state, and its two principals, Ronald E. Lustig and Kenneth C. Wilson, allegedly broke state consumer law as they collected the debts.
“This firm has clogged our court system with more than 200,000 lawsuits against Massachusetts residents. In case after case, the firm has used faulty or inaccurate information to intimidate people into making payments,” Healey said in a statement.
“We will not stand by while debt collectors exploit consumers and demand money that doesn’t belong to them. This settlement will make the business of debt collection fairer and more transparent for the people of Massachusetts,” she said.
Ruthie Liberman, vice president of public policy at EMPath, a nonprofit that works to lift families out of poverty, also said in the statement, “For low-income families, breaking the cycle of poverty is complex enough without getting harassed for unsubstantiated debt. It can be a barrier to landing a job or finding an apartment. Our thanks to the Attorney General for looking out for them.”
Wilson said in a telephone interview, “We fully cooperated with both the attorney general and the court. We produced tens of thousands of documents. And the consent order that entered had no findings of wrongdoing, had no findings of harmed consumers, and, in many respects, memorialized many of the longstanding policies and procedures that the firm has had for many years.”
He said some of the company’s policies and procedures had been modified, “but, in many respects, the various requirements of the consent order reflect things we’ve been doing for many, many years.”
He said the attorney general’s allegations of unfair and deceptive practices were “unfounded.”
Thousands of Massachusetts consumers could get a portion of the $1 million settlement, the attorney general’s statement said.
More details on the settlement were to be released at a news conference at the attorney general’s office late Thursday morning.
The attorney general’s office alleged in a lawsuit filed in 2015 that the company had filed 100,000 lawsuits against Massachusetts residents and collected more than $110 million from them since 2011, preying on some of the state’s poorest people, the Globe reported at the time.Deirdre Fernandes of the Globe staff contributed to this report.