by Structured Settlement Watchdog®
Independent Professional Advice is a mandatory under the Maryland Structured Settlement Protection Act for structured settlement sellers in the State of Maryland. The logical conclusion for this requirement is to provide greater assurance that a structured settlement annuitant knows what he or she is doing and makes an informed decision, without the influence of the cash now pusher or buyer.
Yet shocking news has emerged as a Montgomery County Maryland attorney's alleged actions have further shaken the credibility of the under-regulated structured settlement factoring world and confidence in the current system in place to protect annuitants.
Derwood MD lawyer Charles E. Smith and CES Law Group LLC have been sued over allegedly bogus independent professional advice. Smith allegedly advised an illiterate, intellectually disabled young woman on the sale of a structured settlement (designed to protect her throughout her lifetime) for a small and severely discounted amount of cash, without meeting her or providing counsel on the potential consequences of selling the structured settlement payments. Attorney Smith did not make any inquiry or investigation into whether Maryalice Rose had the financial capacity and ability to handle a sum of money all at once, according to a Daily Record report of the complaint (emphasis added)
The victim of the alleged intentional misrepresentation is 20 year old Baltimore resident Maryalice Rose. The result of Charles E. Smith's alleged negligence is that Maryalice Rose lost a significant portion of the structured settlement she was due to receive for damages, arising from a lawsuit settlement for brain-related injuries from childhood exposure to lead-based paint. The legal action against Charles E. Smith and his firm seeks compensatory damages and over $5 million in punitive damages.
Easy Access Funding Assisted by Questionable IPA
The proposed sale of the settlement began when Rose received an unsolicited phone call from a representative of a Access Funding LLC, who told her she would receive a “fair and substantial sum of cash” if she agreed to sell her settlement to the company, the lawsuit claims.
A number of settlement purchasers such as Access Funding use "mini-max" imagery ( the concept of "sell your teensy weensy payments for a huge lump sum") as misleading bait. I will deal with the common predatory sales pitch in another post.
In Rose we see a disturbingly familiar "coaching" allegation, similar to what we saw in the Terrence Taylor and Michael Lafontant complaints, where the Rose complaint alleges that Brendan Franks, allegedly a representative of Access Funding, asked Rose what she planned to do with the money, she responded that she wanted to help her mother out financially with her mother’s house. Because Franks knew a Maryland court had to approve the transaction, he told Rose to say that she wanted the cash payout so she could purchase her own home, according to the complaint.
In November 2013, a notary public hired by Access Funding gave Rose multiple documents to sign, despite, according to the complaint,
1. She was unable to read them or determine if they were accurate before signing them
2. No “reasonable attorney” would have recommended the transaction
Please note that at the time of posting Access Funding has not been named in the lawsuit.
Read Structured Settlement Protection Act IPAs | What's the Standard?, my December 27, 2014 blog post in which I question the standard of independent professional advice.
Also Montgomery Lawyer faces Malpractice Suit Maryland Daily Record June 16, 2015
Also see Maryalice Rose v Charles E. Smith etal. Circuit Court for Baltimore City Case Number 24C15002960
The State of Maryland has had it share of problem actors in the structured settlement secondary market of late.
- In March, a Mount Airy Maryland man, David Springer, was found by Judge Marvin Garbis to have engaged in questionable business practices, including but not limited to running a "purported company" and using fake identities in social media and other advertising to the public. We exposed how there was also use of fake paid testimonials that were held out to the public as real customers of the purported company Sovereign Funding Group. The BBB of Greater Maryland has been lambasted for continuing to give the nonexistent purported company its highest rating and misleading consumers.
- In the last 6 months I have exposed Maryland rooted JRR Funding for, among other things, using fake paid testimonials that were held out to the public as real customers on one of its websites, Einstein Structured Settlements.