Attorney Facing Civil RICO Claim Ordered to Produce Attorney–Client Communications Made in Furtherance of Alleged Scheme to Manufacture TCPA Claims

A federal court presiding over a civil RICO action recently ordered prolific plaintiff’s attorney Jeffrey Lohman to produce his firm’s communications with its clients. See Navient Sols., LLC v. Law Offices of Jeffrey Lohman, P.C., No. 19-461, 2020 WL 1172696, at *1 (E.D. Va. Mar. 11, 2020). This decision shows that the crime-fraud exception may overcome the attorney–client privilege where a lawyer allegedly participates in a scheme to manufacture TCPA claims. It also suggests that such conduct might form the basis of a civil RICO claim.

The plaintiff in that case, Navient Solutions, alleged that the defendants, including Lohman, operated a fraudulent scheme to manufacture TCPA lawsuits. The defendants allegedly recruited student-debtors into signing up for a sham debt-relief program and told them to stop making loan payments owed to Navient, to pay defendants instead, and to follow a script to induce telephone calls from Navient that would — and ultimately did — form the basis for TCPA claims that were filed by Lohman and others. After patiently uncovering these facts in discovery in various TCPA cases, Navient went on the offensive by bringing a civil RICO claim predicated on alleged mail and wire fraud involved in the scheme.

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Court Lets Debt-Collector Amend Answer and Assert Counterclaim for Plaintiff’s Debt

In a TCPA class action case concerning debt collection calls, the Southern District of California recently granted a debt-collector defendant’s motion to file an amended answer and assert a counterclaim for breach of contract arising from the plaintiff’s approximately $22,000 debt for the purchase of a used vehicle. See Horton v. Calvary Portfolio Servs., LLC, No. 13-cv-0307, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 102569 (S.D. Cal. July 24, 2014).

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