Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Another data mining victim class action suit

More and more mis-information about everyone seems to be spreading as the data mining squaliformes obtain and peddle whatever they think has a value. Correct or not, as long as you have something to fulfill an information request and the victim can't reach out and find you it's gather, store and sell.

Well, maybe yet another giant leak in the hopelessly leaky dyke of privacy protection will be looked at in this case (08-cv-5250):

SANDRA JEAN CORTEZ on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated


1. This is a consumer class action based upon Defendant’s widespread violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681-1681x (FCRA). Defendants are Investcorp companies, an investment entity and hedge fund incorporated in the Kingdom of Bahrain. They have taken it upon themselves to supposedly identify -- for a fee -- terrorists, narcotics traffickers and money launderers with whom American businesses must have no dealings. Defendants assemble and maintain a private database of information purportedly about persons on certain U.S. government watch lists, including the list of suspected terrorists, narcotics traffickers and money launderers promulgated by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC list). Defendants regularly sell their own reports purportedly concerning such persons from their private database to third parties. The reports are used and are expected to be used in connection with ordinary consumer credit, employment, insurance and other transactions. Persons whom Defendants identify in their reports as being on the OFAC list are understood to be legally ineligible to conduct any business in the United States, cannot be employed, cannot receive any insurance or extension of credit, and may even be subject to arrest. Notwithstanding the fact that Defendants are in the business of regularly selling highly critical character and credit information in their reports to be used in daily consumer transactions within the United States, Defendants fail to assure the accuracy of this information or to comply with the FCRA in any respect. As a result, consumers such as Plaintiff Sandra Jean Cortez, who are not actually on the OFAC list or any government watch list, are routinely misidentified in Defendants’ reports as suspected terrorists, money launderers and narcotics traffickers, and thus are considered ineligible for credit or for conducting any business in the United States. Also due to Defendant’s noncompliance with the FCRA, innocent consumers wrongfully identified as being on the OFAC list have no means of discovering, disputing or correcting the erroneous information Defendants are selling about them. In this class action, Plaintiff seeks to represent consumers similarly situated to her who have been misidentified by Defendants in their reports to U.S. businesses as being on the OFAC list, when in fact they are not.

5. Defendant Accuity (Formerly TFP Thomson Financial Publishing) is an Investcorp business entity which maintains a principal place of business at 4709 Golf Road, Skokie, Illinois 60076.
6. Defendant SourceMedia, Inc. (SMI) is an Investcorp business entity which, like Accuity, maintains a principal place of business at 4709 Golf Road, Skokie, Illinois 60076, and whose corporate headquarters are located at One State Street Plaza, 27th Floor, New York, New York 10004.
7. Defendant SMI owns, operates and controls Defendant Accuity and its operations. Upon information and belief, the executives and employees at Accuity are employees and/or agents of SMI.

II Factual Allegations
A. Defendant’s Sale of Caution and Watch List Reports
8. Defendants assemble and maintain a series of caution and watch list screening databases. Through Accuity’s Global Watch List (GWL), Defendants maintain a comprehensive collection of information from all major legal sanctioning bodies, law enforcement agencies and financial regulators from around the world. Defendant Accuity’s database is purportedly comprised of the U.S. Treasury Department’s OFAC list, enhanced with some of the Defendant’s own proprietary sources. This service also includes the NS-PLC (Palestinian Legislative Counsel) list.
9. Pursuant to OFAC’s requirements and regulations there is a legal responsibility that financial institutions and businesses exercise due diligence to verify that they are not extending credit or employment, or doing any business with, individuals on the OFAC list.
10. Defendants sell reports to financial institutions and other businesses that purportedly help those entities to identify terrorists, narcotics traffickers and money launderers and to thus comply with OFAC’s requirements and regulations.
11. Defendants specifically sell OFAC list reports and information to institutions such as Trans Union, LLC, a national consumer reporting agency.
12. Defendants sell to Trans Union, LLC and other businesses an OFAC Advisor Alert pertaining to a particular individual, and identifying such individual as being a match to the OFAC list.
13. Defendants know that the OFAC Advisor Alert is used and expected to be used as part of a screening or credit background check in consumer transactions, such as credit, employment and insurance transactions.
14. By regularly selling such information for a fee with the anticipated or expected use of such reports by the entities referenced above, Defendants operate as “consumer reporting agencies” (CRAs), consumer reporting agencies “that compile and maintain files on consumers on a nationwide basis,” and national specialty consumer reporting agencies (NSCRAs) as defined by 15 U.S.C. § 1681a(f), a(p) and a(w), respectively.
15. Among other things, the FCRA regulates the collection, maintenance, and disclosure of consumer report information by CRAs and NSCRAs.
16. Despite the fact that Defendants assemble and compile consumer information for sale on a nationwide basis, Defendants will not disclose the same to the American public or the persons about whom they sell reports the contents of those reports.
17. Further Defendants do not maintain any toll-free telephone numbers or any other means available to consumers to dispute and correct any errors on the reports Defendants sell about them.
18. Importantly, Defendants do not comply with the FCRA’s requirement of following procedures that assure “maximum possible accuracy” concerning the information in their reports.
19. As a consequence of their failure to comply with the FCRA in any way, Defendants routinely make mistakes, misidentifying innocent consumers as being on the OFAC list, when in fact they are not on the OFAC list, and further have no procedure for correcting such harmful mistakes.

B. The Experience of The Representative Plaintiff
20. Plaintiff is but one innocent consumer who Defendants misidentified in a report as being on the OFAC list when in fact she was not on any such list.
21. Due to Defendants’ lack of any procedures to assure the accuracy of the information they sell in their reports, Representative Plaintiff Sandra Jean Cortez was unfortunately misidentified by Defendants in their reports as being on the OFAC list as a known narcotics trafficker.
22. Specifically, Defendants sold a detailed Advisor Alert report to Trans Union, LLC in connection with a credit transaction for an automobile that Plaintiff was seeking to purchase and also in a rental transaction for an apartment that Plaintiff was seeking to rent, among other transactions, stating in the reports, among other things, that Plaintiff was on the Government’s OFAC list.
23. This is grossly inaccurate as Ms. Cortez has never been designated as being on theOFAC list by the Treasury Department or otherwise, and her name and personal identifying information does not match the OFAC list.
24. Rather, there is a Columbian national and suspected narcotics trafficker with the name Sandra Cortes Quintero and a date of birth more than thirty years after Ms. Cortez’s, whose name does not appear on the OFAC list. Defendants’ standard and uniformly applied matching logic has resulted in incorrectly mixing up Plaintiff, and many other innocent Americans with a similar name to Plaintiff’s, with the Columbian national Sandra Cortes Quintero.
25. Because of Defendant’s failure to abide by the FCRA in any way, Ms. Cortez has been unable to obtain and review the information that the Defendants are reporting about her, dispute this gross inaccuracy with the Defendants, and ascertain all of the sources to whom Defendants have sold this information and the dates on which such information was sold.
26. Defendants do not notify or disclose to the American public or any of the individuals about whom they sell a report as being on their watch lists that they have reported such information. Neither Ms. Cortez nor any of the class members as set forth below are aware of the existence of the Defendants’ identity. It was only through Ms. Cortez’s retention of counsel that she came to learn of the Defendants.
27. Because of Defendants’ policy and practice of not accepting disputes or allowing corrections, Ms. Cortez was left without a means to have the Defendants cease reporting inaccurate information about her and has suffered credit, reputational and other harm.
28. At all times pertinent hereto, Defendants were acting by and through their agents, servants and/or employees who were acting within the course and scope of their agency or employment, and under the direct supervision and control of the Defendants herein.
29. At all times pertinent hereto, the conduct of the Defendants, as well as that of their agents, servants and/or employees, was malicious, intentional, willful, reckless, and in grossly negligent disregard for federal laws and the rights of the Plaintiff herein.

Attorneys for Plaintiff and the Class
120 W. Madison
10th Floor
Chicago IL 60602
(312) 222-9028

Land Title Building, 19th Floor
100 South Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19110
(215) 735-8600

1845 Walnut Street, Suite 1100
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 732-6067

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