A federal consumer agency has petitioned federal court to compel the Law Offices of Crystal Moroney PC to produce records for an investigation of abusive debt-collection practices.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau claims that the New City firm does not intend to fully comply with a demand for records, according to the petition filed Feb. 25 in U.S. District Court in White Plains.
The Crystal Moroney firm has produced some records, according to court papers, but has refused to turn over many more, citing attorney-client and work product privileges.
The law firm did not immediately respond to voicemail and email requests for comment.
The bureau demanded the records in June 2017, “as part of a nonpublic investigation,” the petition states, to determine whether debt collectors or others are “engaging in unfair, deceptive or abusive acts or practices.”
The petition does not specifically identify the Moroney firm, or clients, as the target of an investigation.
Crystal Moroney bills itself as a “firm, fair collection solution” that “ensures that your company image and our firm’s reputation remain in a positive light throughout the process.”
The law firm provided some records in July 2017 and asked for more time to consult with a lawyer about the rules of professional responsibility in New York and New Jersey, where Ms. Moroney is licensed to practice.
The bureau agreed to limit some of its demands and to extend the deadline.
The firm produced redacted records in September 2017, according to the bureau. It also asked the government to “promptly return or destroy a significant number of previously produced materials” that it claimed should not have been disclosed under rules of professional responsibility.
The bureau says it honored the request.
But since then, the bureau claims, the firm has withheld records of telephone calls, correspondence with consumers and contracts for services with creditors.
The law firm has cited confidentiality restrictions, according to the bureau, and an inability to search for or access data.
The firm reportedly told the bureau, for instance, that it would take 22,500 hours to produce information from 500,000 telephone calls recorded over an 18-month period.
It also asked the bureau to narrow the request for records by two-and-a-half years, beginning in June 2016 instead of January 2014. The bureau declined.
Administrative agencies are given wide latitude to investigate by subpoena, the bureau argues.
It cites legal precedent that gives it “a power of inquisition,” and allows it to “investigate merely on suspicion that the law is being violated, or even just because it wants assurance that it is not.”