The meat grinder: When the debt-collection machine comes for its pound of flesh

On the 38th floor of a Minneapolis skyscraper,Spokane attorney Kirk Miller begins to interview a so-called “robo-signer.”

Miller, a young, tireless consumer law attorney, is after information about the robo-signer’s work at Midland Credit Management, an arm of Encore Capital. Every year, Encore buys billions of dollars in credit-card debts and then sets out to collect — filing hundreds of thousands of lawsuits against the debtors.

That’s where robo-signers, like the one Miller is deposing, come in.

The woman tells Miller she was paid $12.50 an hour to sign affidavits for those lawsuits. Those documents testify to the veracity of the debts owed and are used to garnish wages, empty bank accounts and repossess property — so their accuracy is essential.

But on busy days, the woman says, she would sign 300 such affidavits in an assembly-line-like process. In batches, she’d sign the documents, the person next to her would notarize them, and another would stuff them in envelopes to be mailed to out-of-state law firms. There, someone would print out a legal package, attach documentation, have a lawyer sign it and finally mail it to local courts like Spokane County Superior Court.

Read on.

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