August 10, 2011
Misuse Of Credit Report Service Draws Admonition
The summary of a recent admonition imposed in Massachusetts:
The respondent's practice includes collections litigation and domestic relations
cases. In connection with his collections work, the respondent established a subscription
for his firm with a credit reporting service. The respondent agreed when he set up the
subscription to use it only for permissible purposes and otherwise in strict compliance
with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 USC § 1681 et seq. (FCRA).
During 2009, the respondent represented a client in a contempt action by the
client's former wife for nonpayment of child support and in a modification brought for
the client to reduce the client's support obligation. The ex-wife had provided a number
of addresses during the proceedings. The chent suspected that one of his children for
whom he was providing child support did not actually live with the ex-wife.
The respondent wanted to verify the ex-wife's current address. To do so, in June
2009, he used the credit reporting subscription to obtain an on-line collection report on
the ex-wife. The report provided address information as well as, among other things,
credit accounts, account numbers and account status. Address verification is not a
permissible purpose for obtaining such a report under § 1681b ofthe FCRA, and the
respondent had no entitlement to credit information on the ex-wife. In addition, the
respondent had requested and obtained the report in circumstances where it was illegal
for the credit agency to furnish the information under the FCRA and G.L. c. 93, § 51.
The respondent did not print the collection report and did not use information
from the report in the probate court proceedings. The ex-wife subsequently learned of
the respondent's inquiry when she obtained a copy of her own credit report.
The attorney is not identified by name. He must take a CLE course. (Mike Frisch)
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