March 30, 2017
For many people, a tax refund means a chance to fund a vacation or splurge on a big purchase. For some, though, it’s a way to wipe out crushing debt — not by paying it off, but by giving them enough money to pay for bankruptcy. A review of the past four years supports what attorneys know anecdotally: Filings of Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the most common form for individuals, have a seasonal spike...Many consumers rely on their refunds as a way to manage big expenses. “People use it to get caught up on rent or bills, and if they’re too far behind to get caught up, they hire a bankruptcy attorney to discharge their debts,” says Roger Bertling, an instructor in consumer protection at Harvard Law School.
December 23, 2015
A Waltham law firm used unfair and deceptive practices to collect debts from hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts consumers in recent years, in one instance taking out a civil arrest warrant against a 90-year-old woman, Attorney General Maura Healey alleged in a complaint filed this week in Suffolk Superior Court. The firm, Lustig, Glaser & Wilson PC, has filed 100,000 lawsuits against Massachusetts residents and collected more than $110 million from them since 2011, preying on some of the state’s poorest people, Healey alleged in court documents...Roger Bertling, director of the Consumer Protection Clinic at Harvard Law School, said that the practices alleged by Healey and the consumer protection agency are fairly common. “Debt-collection work is still the wild, wild West,” he said. “The system is built on volume and getting in and getting out very quickly.”
...Uber, with a head-spinning valuation of $50 billion, has become a dominant force in the passenger transportation industry in large part by luring more drivers to its platform than anyone else. In an effort to maintain that edge and expand its pool of self-employed drivers beyond those who already own a car, the company has been steering potential drivers with bad credit to subprime lenders whose leases lock borrowers into years of weekly payments at sky-high interest rates...Roger Bertling, an attorney and Harvard Law School instructor who specializes in predatory lending, says these terms are bad even compared with those generally used with subprime borrowing. “That [lease] is as bad as any I’ve seen on the predatory lending level for autos,” he says of the Santander agreement. While borrowers with poor credit always face high interest rates, Bertling cites the automatic weekly payment deductions and restrictions against personal use of the vehicle as being unique in the subprime auto loan industry.
July 25, 2008
There are now 16 clinics at HLS, enabling students to do fieldwork at home and abroad. Here are stories from three of them, taking students inside inner cities and inner sanctums.