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Plattner v. Edge Solutions

March 22, 2006

DONALD PLATTNER, PLAINTIFF
v.
EDGE SOLUTIONS, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan B. Gottschall

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Donald Plattner ("Plattner") sued Edge Solutions Inc. ("Edge") for violations of the Credit Repair Organizations Act ("CROA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1679, et seq. (Counts I-IV) and for breach of fiduciary duty (Count V). The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Edge's motion for summary judgment is granted, and Plattner's motion for summary judgment is denied.

I. Background

Plattner began experiencing financial difficulties following a divorce, and so in September 2000, he spoke with an Edge "financial counselor" to learn about the Debt Melt Down Program. On December 19, 2000, Edge sent Plattner a Debt Melt Down Program Agreement Letter ("Agreement Letter"), along with documentation explaining the Debt Melt Down Program. On December 22, 2000, Plattner signed the Agreement Letter to participate in the Debt Melt Down Program.

The Agreement Letter states: "The program is structured in a way to eliminate your debt over a period of time through settlement arrangements with your creditors." Under the heading "Creditor Action and Credit Rating Disclosure," the Agreement Letter states: "It is understood that no representation about any aspect of your credit rating can be made. Depending upon circumstances, credit can be enhanced, damaged, or not be altered, but in any case, it is beyond the control or scope of this program." Under the heading "Post Debt Meltdown Procedures," the Agreement Letter states:

If the fee paid to Edge is $600.00 or greater, you are entitled to participate in The Post Closing Credit Restoration Program. The purpose of this program is to assure that your credit reports properly reflect the settlement and paid accounts that involved this program. This program is voluntary for you and its success is dependent upon your proper participation and follow through as directed. Edge Solutions, Inc. cannot guarantee any specific results with regards to this program.

Under the heading "Debt Free Life Membership and Coaching Program," the Agreement Letter states that, for a monthly fee, Edge provides coaching about "combating debt problems and building future wealth." Richard Mauro, Chief Operations Officer for Edge, testified that this coaching does not include information on how to repair previously damaged credit, but may include information on how to re-establish credit, such as obtaining a "passbook loan" or a "secured credit card." Mauro Dep., 205:9-21.

Plattner also received a letter titled "How the Debt Melt Down Program Works," which he signed on December 22, 2000. This letter states:

This program cannot make any assurances as to the state of your credit while on this program. It is likely that your credit score and rating will deteriorate while on the program. Upon completion of the program, Edge will work with you for 12 months in a best effort rehabilitation of your credit rating.

Edge sent another letter ("Dear Customer Letter"), which Plattner signed on December 22, 2000. This letter states: "We will make every attempt to minimize any damage to your credit while you are on the program, though it is probable for some deterioration to occur. This is not unusual and we will help modify it upon completion of the program."

Plattner also received a document titled "Frequently Asked Questions." Under the heading "How Does the Program Effect Credit?" the document states:

While on the program, the credit, will in all likelihood, [sic] suffer damage that occurs when accounts are not being paid. Of course, if you are late or delinquent at present, the difference may be minimal. However, once you are debt free, the accounts will indicate a paid or settled status. Within 6 to 12 months, you will be well on your way to total recovery.

Plattner paid Edge $7,000 (in $1,000 monthly installments) until he ceased participating in August 2001. The monthly installments were deducted directly from Plattner's bank account. Edge collected an initial retainer from Plattner of two times the monthly installment, or $2,000. Edge also collected fees equal to forty percent of the difference between the amount of the debt and the settlement amount when each debt was settled, and Edge collected a $50 monthly fee for the Coaching Program.

While Plattner was participating in the Debt Melt Down Program, Citibank refused to settle Plattner's debt and filed a lawsuit against him. Edge disclaimed representation of Plattner and recommended that he consider bankruptcy. It is disputed whether Edge told Plattner it would stop providing him services and Plattner then stopped payment on the monthly withdrawals from his account, or whether Plattner simply stopped payment without prompting from Edge. Edge refunded $221.61, the balance in Plattner's account.

During Plattner's participation in the program, Edge reached a settlement with Household, one of Plattner's creditors. Under the terms of this settlement, Edge was to make six payments of $676 to Household from Plattner's account. At the time Plattner ceased participating in the program, Plattner's account with Edge reflected that three of the payments were made, but Household had only received two. Thus, after Plattner ceased participating in the program, he made four payments to fulfill his remaining obligation to Household (the three remaining as well as the one that Edge deducted from his account ...


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