4. März 2021

FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION v. FORTRESS LAW GROUP LLC

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 restricted obligation business, 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 when an owner, officer, supervisor, and/or agent associated with above-mentioned entities, Defendant – countertop Claimant – Appellant, FORTRESS LAW GROUP, LLC, a Florida restricted liability business, et al., Defendants.

This situation calls for us to think about 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 statutes that are federal laws associated with the purchase of mortgage help relief solutions. Lanier contends that the region court must not have awarded summary judgment for many reasons, including that the region court improperly admitted proof against him, overlooked disputes of product fact, making factual findings in the FTC’s benefit. 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 some other entities Pinnacle that is including Legal, Fortress Legal Services, plus the Department of Loss Mitigation and Forensics (“DOLMF”) (collectively, the “staffing agencies”). These entities supplied staffing, recommendations, as well as other solutions to Lanier Law.

In 2012, the Florida Bar filed a grievance against Lanier associated with their foreclosure relief solutions. Lanier fundamentally entered a conditional bad plea, admitting he was suspended briefly from the practice of law that he had improperly solicited clients and failed to supervise non-lawyers, and.

Just before Lanier’s suspension system, he became involved in three newly developed 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, offered customers with home loan help solutions. 2 These entities purported become law offices situated in the District of Columbia, nonetheless they had been 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 into the D.C. organizations, any mail delivered to D.C. ended up being forwarded immediately 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 function with respect to the D.C. businesses. Also to collect re re payments, the D.C. businesses utilized the merchant processing portal that Lanier had employed for Lanier Law.

In order that Lanier Law as well as the D.C. businesses could attract consumers nationwide, they related to “of counsel” attorneys across the nation. The counsel that is“of solicitors had been compensated a month-to-month retainer of around $300 each month; the work they performed ended up being generally speaking restricted to reviewing retainer agreements for customer contact information and also to ensure the agreements had been finalized and dated.

Together, Lanier Law as well as the D.C. businesses operated a volume company consumers that are recruiting buy home loan support relief solutions (“MARS”). The staffing agencies solicited customers over the internet, letters, and leaflets mortgage assistance that is offering. The ads promoted the “of counsel” network, noting that the law practice “has working arrangements with experienced and competent attorneys and law offices in a lot of other states.” 2013 Flyer at 56 (Doc. 246-5). One a advance payday Mercedes Texas flyer, entitled the “Economic Stimulus Mortgage Notification” (the “Flyer”), which seemed to be a federal federal government document, informed customers that their house was indeed “selected for the program that is special the national Insured Institutions,” that will “bring your home re re payments current for under you borrowed from or your principal balance down.” 2012 Flyer at 66 (Doc. 246-1). Other leaflets identified the transmitter as DOLMF, that was owned by Robles. Lanier denies any right part in “drafting, delivering, approving, or us[ing]” the Flyer. Lanier Aff. at 9 (Doc. 253).

Customers who taken care of immediately the ads had been described Lanier Law or the D.C. companies. Throughout the enrollment procedure, instance supervisors told customers that the firm would get loan alterations with somewhat reduced re payments and interest levels. The representatives guaranteed consumers that the organizations had very high success prices in bringing down re payments—over 90 %. When new customers enrolled, Lanier Law together with D.C. companies delivered them paperwork that is similar. The customers had been necessary to spend advance charges in excess of $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 even the D.C. companies alternatively.

When the customers started making re re payments, Lanier Law additionally the D.C. companies stopped interacting using them or transferred them to different case supervisors whom guaranteed them that really work had been done on the loan adjustments. Some consumers discovered from their lenders that Lanier Law while the D.C. businesses had never tried to get hold of lenders. Almost all of the customers reported that the organizations did not get any changes for the kids. Other people stated that even though some alterations had been acquired, they certainly were never as promised and often needed higher payments than consumers had compensated formerly.

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