Lawyers on the take, exposed by Noseweek,

Februarie 28, 2012 in Sonder kategorie

Lawyers on the take Issue #149, 1st March 2012 www.noseweek.co.za

Johannesburg law firm Munnik Basson Dagama Inc (MBD) is having a fine old time with job lots of prescribed debts bought from companies that have written them off – for their associated collections company, MBD Credit Solutions, to pursue. Several aggrieved recipients of letters of demand have voiced their outrage on internet complaints sites, while one reader turned to Noseweek. On 30 January, he received a demand with a difference, framed as a special offer: “We offer you an opportunity of settling your debt at a reduced amount, FNB Card will grant you a discount of % [sic] on your outstanding balance. Contact us today to find out what your final discounted balance will be.” It was an offer our reader most certainly would refuse, responding: “Please stop pestering me with this rubbish.

 

As I have explained when I phoned you at my cost, if I had an FNB card, it was so long ago, this debt has long since prescribed. “When I asked you for details of this claim, you said you had none, just a balance going back many years ago. This is total rubbish, with the banks scraping the bottom of the barrel for more consumers to rip off with their bully tactics.” Noseweek phoned the call centre number on the letter of demand and an operator told us that R4 710 was owing. It related to an FNB account where the last payment was made on 9 January 2003. “But surely the debt has long prescribed?” we asked. This was followed by the kind of silence you might expect if you ask someone to explain Einstein’s theory of relativity. Eventually it was broken: “I can offer you a discount – pay R3 297 and we’ll close the file.”

 

Noseweek then phoned the law firm and asked for one of the partners. We were put through to partner, Philemon Magolego, who intimated that this was not the first complaint he had received. He took our details and promised that someone would get back to us. That someone turned out to be an employee of MBD Credit Solutions, Stephan Venter. He quickly dropped out of the picture when he realised our questions dealt with tricky stuff like ethics and morality.

 

Then on 7 February our reader received a letter from Munnik Basson Dagama, signed Tediya Mathibe, saying that the firm was acting for MBD Securitisation (Pty) Ltd, a comprules of prescription – and be in a position to confirm to irate callers that those debts that were incurred more than three years ago have fallen away. But the letter MBD sent our reader certainly proves what we at Noseweek have long suspected – that law firms specialising in collections buy the debtors’ books of major corporations, presumably at heavily discounted prices. MBD Credit Solutions boasts on its website that the company offers “debt sale and acquisition solutions”, and describes itself as “a substantial buyer of consumer debt in South Africa”.

 

This does, of course, explain why these attorneys have no interest in weeding out claims that have prescribed, or those that for other reasons are unenforceable. The attorneys have a direct financial interest in recovering as many claims as possible, and they will have no compunction about sending out claims that are bad in law when they know that a significant number of people will simply pay up because they don’t know better. There’s the usual disconnect between what’s said and what’s done.

 

MBD – the law firm that sends out demands for debts that have prescribed and employs call centre staff who believe that prescription is something you get at the pharmacy – boasts on its website of “maintaining the highest levels of ethics and integrity”, “compliance with all laws and regulations”, and “highly competent management and staff”. And MBD Credit Solutions boasts on its website that it upholds “a zerotolerance approach to any form of unethical behaviour”, and that it is “compliant with the letter and spirit of the law”. Attorneys, who like to describe themselves as “officers of the court”, have a duty to uphold the law And a duty not to intimidate people into paying money that they don’t owe.

 

Not for the first time Back in 2010, Noseweek reported that a Randburg law firm-cumcollections company, Van de Venter Mojapelo Inc (VVM), had been sending out threatening SMSes and emails for debts that had clearly prescribed or been incurred by people other than those to whom the demands were sent (noses124, 138). One reader had received a demand for rates owing on a house registered in her husband’s name which had been sold nearly 40 years earlier, while another reader, David Wolpert, had received a demand for the debt of a company with whom he had merely been associated – (an inconvenient truth that VVM tried to get around by sending out the demand nonsensically to “Business David Wolpert”).

 

People receiving these demands had found it impossible to get beyond VVM’s call centre, and the firm’s hard-nosed approach went along the lines of, “We’re in possession of your ID and you must pay unless you can prove you’re not liable”. VVM came back with some rubbish about providing a public service because South Africa was “being held hostage by a culture of non-payment”. The firm boasted about having created an enormous collections operation – every month it processed more than 10 million transactions, received over 150 000 calls and made over two million outbound calls. The firm’s website provided a fascinating look at a law firm that saw itself as a business rather than a provider of professional legal services, with all the dull obligations entailed.

 

The firm made it clear that it saw no obligation to screen the claims it was being instructed to collect or to satisfy itself that they were in fact owing: “VVM’s clients have established processes in place to screen arrear accounts prior to handover to VVM, the ultimate onus on proving the claim vests with the particular client”. Wolpert had asked the Law Society to help him “stop this unlawful terrorising of an uninvolved citizen”, but he was given short shrift, and told that attorneys are simply middlemen acting on their clients’ instructions and “representing their clients regarding a claim that their client alleges they have against a debtor”.

 

When Noseweek approached the Northern Provinces Law Society, the response was a little less extreme, with the secretary admitting that the society had considered the issue of “misleading and unacceptable letters of demand used by attorneys to intimidate debtors”, and that “the Law Society has, on occasion, discussed the contents of the letters of demand sent by attorneys Van de Venter Mojapelo Inc with members of this firm”.any “who acquired the rights, title and interest in above mentioned account”. The letter went on to say that “we have since received an instruction from our client to close our collection file herein, which we have duly done.” Problem solved.

 

Blikskottel: Wonder how many people get robbed by “officers of the court”?

 

5 antwoorde op Lawyers on the take, exposed by Noseweek,

  1. Dis sommer alles ‘n foefie – maar mens moet pasop, of die ouens kry sommer ‘n bevel!

  2. Dis so, maar alhoemeer mense is besig om terug te baklei en self bietjie oor die wet en hul regte te leer. Die groot geheim is om nooit enige iets te ignoreer nie en nooit per telefoon met hulle te praat nie.

    Alles moet per geregistreerde pos gedoen word of tenminste met epos waarvan mens rekord kan hou of hulle iets ontvang en gelees het.

  3. dis hoekom ek hulle “Prokerowers” noem!!!

  4. Meestal is dit presies wat hulle is…maar ek erken daar is so hier en daar ene wat probeer goed doen ook.

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