Debt Collection Empire Upends Credit Card Disputes
New York Financier J. Michael Cline had built a complex, billion dollar empire in the debt collection business, handling both sides of arbitration disputes for debt collectors through Minneapolis based NAF (National Arbitration Forum) and Axiant, LLC, a firm he acquired that handles debt collection.
In a July complaint, the Minnesota attorney general’s office alleged NAF deceived consumers and engaged in false advertising. Consumers didn’t realize NAF was financially affiliated with “one of the country’s major debt collection enterprises,” the complaint alleged. Accretive created Axiant in tandem with employees of Mann Bracken, a debt collector that represented credit-card companies in NAF arbitrations, the complaint alleged. At the same time, Accretive funds and NAF Inc. jointly own the back-office entity for NAF, called Forthright.
For more than a decade, most credit-card companies have required customers to use arbitration, rather than the courts, to resolve disputes over unpaid bills. Minneapolis-based NAF has mediated the vast majority of these claims. But both NAF and another arbitrator have stopped hearing arbitrations of consumer-debt cases, and major banks are dropping arbitration requirements.
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