TransUnion headed to trial over government watch list alerts


5/12/17 REUTERS LEGAL 21:04:10
REUTERS LEGAL
Copyright (c) 2017 Thomson Reuters
https://1.next.westlaw.com/Document/I2a42a570375811e78b72d2bf6c8db419/View/FullText.html?transitionType=CategoryPageItem&contextData=(sc.Default)
May 12, 2017

TransUnion headed to trial over government watch list alerts
Dena Aubin
(Reuters) – Credit bureau TransUnion will try to convince a jury next month that it took reasonable steps to check the accuracy of its reports as it defends itself against accusations that it wrongly tagged consumers as being on a federal list of security threats.
In a trial brief filed on Thursday in San Francisco federal court, lawyers for TransUnion said plaintiffs suing the credit bureau have no evidence that it violated anyone’s rights or acted recklessly.
Filed in 2012, the class action accuses TransUnion of wrongly reporting that consumers were on a list of terrorists, drug traffickers and other security threats maintained by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
Companies and individuals are prohibited by OFAC rules from doing business with anyone on the list, with steep penalties for violations, and TransUnion provides OFAC alerts to lenders as a service to help them comply.
The lawsuit said many consumers were wrongly tagged as being on the blacklist because TransUnion reported an OFAC red flag when a name partially matched a name on the government’s list.
A spokesman for TransUnion and lawyers for the plaintiffs could not immediately be reached for comment. Trial is set for June 12 in the case, brought on behalf of thousands of consumers nationwide.
The case is believed to be the first major class action to go to trial against a credit bureau over OFAC alerts. The other two major credit bureaus, Experian and Equifax, also offer OFAC screening for their customers, although they have not faced class actions over their practices.
The named plaintiff in the TransUnion lawsuit, Sergio Ramirez of Fremont, California, said he was denied an auto loan in 2011 after the dealer ordered a credit report from TransUnion and saw a notation that he may be on the government’s blacklist.
When Ramirez contacted TransUnion and asked for a copy of his credit report, the OFAC alert was not on it, his lawsuit said.
Plaintiffs accused TransUnion of violating the U.S. Fair Credit Reporting Act, which requires credit bureaus to take reasonable steps to assure their reports are accurate.
TransUnion also violated the act by not including OFAC alerts in copies of reports requested by consumers, plaintiffs alleged. Plaintiffs seek punitive damages to be determined at trial.
In its trial brief, TransUnion said in 2011, when the alleged conduct occurred, the company knew of no technology that could have achieved greater accuracy than the screening process it used.
TransUnion’s OFAC alerts also stated that the individual was only a potential match to the government’s list, alerting users that further review was needed, the credit bureau’s lawyers said.
In their own brief, lawyers for Ramirez said TransUnion’s procedures were inadequate because they screened only for a first and last name, or an approximation of those names, and did not check any other identifying information.
When a consumer requested a copy of his credit report, TransUnion sent information about the OFAC alert in a separate letter, saying it was being provided as a courtesy. At best that created an ambiguity about whether that information was in the consumer’s report, plaintiffs said.
The case is Sergio Ramirez v. TransUnion, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 12-0632.
For the plaintiffs: Andrew Ogilvie at Anderson Ogilvie & Brewer and James Francis and John Soumilas at Francis & Mailman
For the defendant: Julia Strickland and Stephen Newman at Stroock Stroock & Lavan and Bruce Luckman at Sherman Silverstein Kohl Rose & Podolsky
—- Index References —-
Company: EQUIFAX INC; EXPERIAN PLC; TRANSUNION
News Subject: (Business Lawsuits & Settlements (1BU19); Class Actions (1CL03); Consumer Protection (1CO43); Judicial Cases & Rulings (1JU36); Legal (1LE33); Liability (1LI55))
Industry: (Banking (1BA20); Credit (1CR60); Financial Services (1FI37); Retail Banking Services (1RE38))
Region: (Americas (1AM92); California (1CA98); North America (1NO39); U.S. West Region (1WE46); USA (1US73))
Language: EN
Other Indexing: (John Soumilas; Bruce Luckman; Julia Strickland; James Francis; Stephen Newman; Andrew Ogilvie; Sergio Ramirez)
Keywords: banking; fedlit (MCC:OVR); (MCCL:OVR); (N2:USA); (N2:AMERS); (N2:NAMER); (N2:US)

Alan Judd/AJC: State still sending mentally ill people to homeless shelters


State still sending mentally ill people to homeless shelters

By ALAN JUDD The Atlanta Journal-Constitution 3 hrs ago
http://www.mdjonline.com/neighbor_newspapers/news/state/state-still-sending-mentally-ill-people-to-homeless-shelters/article_b4537c5d-8212-5a63-bc39-e2766efb57c0.html#tncms-source=infinity-scroll-summary-siderail-latest

ATLANTA (AP) — Mentally ill patients often left Georgia’s state psychiatric hospitals with just a bus token and directions to a homeless shelter.

For people with disabilities, these same institutions became places of permanent confinement.

This is the system that Georgia, under pressure from the federal government, pledged seven years ago to radically overhaul. But with a court-enforced deadline fast approaching, the state increasingly seems unlikely to fulfill its promises.

Georgia has less than 14 months – until June 30, 2018 – to comply with a settlement it reached with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2010. The agreement followed an investigation that concluded the state had systematically violated the rights of people with mental illness and developmental disabilities.

But the state continues to discharge patients with mental illness to places where they are unlikely to get psychiatric treatment: extended-stay motels, for instance, and even the massive Peachtree-Pine homeless shelter in midtown Atlanta. All patients with disabilities are supposed to be moved into group homes or other community-based facilities, but at the current rate of progress, the state might not meet that requirement for another 10 years.

As officials try to comply with the agreement, they also are investigating an alarming number of deaths in community-based treatment: about 350 since 2014. Those apparently include five dozen suicides.

A court-appointed monitor credits the state with making many promised improvements, especially regarding crisis intervention and other services for people with mental illness.

Still, a grim picture emerges from the monitor’s most recent report, as well as from interviews and documents reviewed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

It is “absolutely essential” that the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability “act with urgency to meet its obligations,” the monitor, Elizabeth Jones, wrote in late March in a report to U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell. “Although there has been noteworthy progress in certain discrete areas of implementation, the reform efforts require additional diligent and effective actions if compliance is to be achieved within the anticipated timeframe.”

Department officials declined to be interviewed.

In a statement, the agency did not say whether it expects to meet the deadlines next year. But the department said it is moving at “a reasonable pace” to move. “Transitions are carefully and individually planned to meet the unique needs and preferences of each individual and to provide the best opportunities for success in the community.”

The agency said it welcomed the monitor’s “reflections and recommendations.”
Neighbor News Online Updates

The Justice Department began investigating Georgia’s psychiatric hospitals in 2007 after a Journal-Constitution series, “A Hidden Shame,” exposed a pattern of poor medical care, abuse, neglect and bad management that had caused dozens of unnecessary deaths.

Transforming a historically troubled mental health system has been a slower process than perhaps anyone envisioned when state and federal authorities put together a plan. Already, a judge extended the deadline for compliance once, from 2015 to 2018.

The state has spent millions of dollars and reorganized the bureaucracy that oversees the hospitals and community treatment. It also closed two state hospitals, in Rome and Thomasville. All that’s left of Central State Hospital, the notorious facility in Milledgeville that once warehoused as many as 12,000 people, is a unit for people committed through the criminal justice system.

In past years, the state hospitals, especially Georgia Regional Hospital/Atlanta, sent scores of newly discharged patients to locations where continued treatment seemed unlikely: homeless shelters, street corners, even an abandoned van on a street in Atlanta’s West End.

But from 2016 to 2017, according to the monitor’s report, the hospitals cut discharges to homeless shelters by half. At the same time, however, the number of patients placed in extended-stay motels quadrupled.