Synchrony Bank and the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office announced a $3.5 million settlement Monday over allegations that the bank made harassing calls to debtors across the state.
The complaint against Utah-based Synchrony Bank alleged that its agents made “an excessive and unreasonable” amount of calls to debtors and, in some cases, continued to call people even after confirming that they called the incorrect number.
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen jointly investigated and prosecuted with case with the California Debt Collection Task Force, an investigation and prosecutorial team composed of the district attorneys from Santa Clara, San Diego, Los Angeles and Riverside counties.
“Banks must play by the rules of civility and law when they pursue consumers for alleged debts,” Rosen said in the Nov. 15 statement. “These rules protect consumers against unreasonable and harassing behavior.”
The settlement, which does not include an admission of wrongdoing, according to Rosen's office, includes a $2 million civil fine and covers $975,000 in investigative costs.
Synchrony will also be required to pay $525,000 in restitution to a charitable trust fund that will support other consumer protection investigations and will be required to limit the number of calls the bank's agents make to debtors and honor requests to stop calling.
“Synchrony is pleased to be the first financial institution to commit to this standard,” Synchrony spokeswoman Lisa Lanspery said in a statement. “Synchrony is always seeking to enhance its customer service and (assist) its customers, including through our ongoing debt relief programs.”
As part of the settlement, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office will receive $500,000. According to Rosen's office, the money will be used to support the office's consumer protection efforts.
Eli Walsh is a reporter with Bay City News.