Last week, Wells Fargo settled two separate Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) class action lawsuits. Both cases were filed in federal court in Georgia. The first case was Luster v. Wells Fargo Dealer Services, Inc. et. al. (Case No. 15-cv-01058, N.D. GA). The second case was Prather v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (Case No. 15-cv–04231, N.D. GA).
Luster v. Wells Fargo Dealer Services, Inc. et. al.
According to the lead plaintiff, Frederick Luster, Wells Fargo Dealer Services made autodialed phone calls to his cellphone number for the past four years trying to collect debts apparently owed by two people he didn’t know. Luster said that he never gave Wells Fargo permission to call his cellphone.
Luster alleged in the complaint, that Wells Fargo’s calls to his cellphone which allegedly violated the TCPA were initiated “intentionally, willfully and knowingly.”
Wells Fargo denied the material allegations contained in the complaint contending it did not make any calls to class members using an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS). According to the settlement motion, Wells Fargo continues to maintain that it had prior express consent to call the members of the proposed class.
According to the proposed settlement, Wells Fargo Dealer Services, Inc. and its parent company, Wells Fargo Bank N.A., must pay approximately $15.7 million to compensate an estimated 3,385,048 members of the proposed class. Class members include anyone with a cellphone number who received an autodialed collection call about an auto retail installment sale contract from Wells Fargo Dealer Services between April 1, 2011 and March 30, 2016.
If approved, the settlement will amount to $4.65 per class member.
As noted in the proposed settlement, Luster has indicated that he intends to ask the court for an incentive award not above $20,000. Plaintiff’s counsel will ask the court for attorneys’ fees not to exceed 30% of the settlement fund, which would be roughly $4.7 million.
Prather v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.
In the Prather case, Wells Fargo agreed to pay over $2 million to resolve a lawsuit brought by consumers who claimed that Wells Fargo violated the TCPA by using an ATDS to make student loan collection calls to cell phones without prior express consent. According to the settlement memo, Wells Fargo initiated the unlawful calls between April 21, 2011 and December 19, 2015. The estimated size of the class is 446,252.
As in Luster, Wells Fargo denied the material allegation in the complaint by contending that it did not make any calls using an ATDS without prior express consent.
According to the proposed settlement, Wells Fargo will pay over $2 million to the Settlement Fund. The per-class-member cash award is estimated to be in the range of $20 to $60.
Before the final fairness hearing is held, the named plaintiffs will ask the court for an incentive award not to exceed $15,000, and Plaintiffs’ counsel will ask the court for an award of attorneys’ fees not to exceed 30% of the settlement fund.
Wells Fargo is not new to TCPA litigation. In July 2016, Wells Fargo agreed to pay $16.3 million to settle a class action lawsuit that alleged Wells Fargo used an ATDS to call customers’ cell phones without consent in connection with home equity loans and residential mortgage loans. According to the settlement memo, approximately over 3 million customers would potentially receive an award of $25 to $75.