Civil legal aid programs across the country have a great opportunity for new funding thanks to a settlement reached earlier this month.
As a result of investigations into JP Morgan Chase’s practices of selling “zombie debt” and robo-signing court documents, the firm will pay $106 million to attorneys general in 47 states and the District of Columbia. Chase also will pay $50 million in consumer refunds and $30 million to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), as well as $30 million to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in a related action.
A description of the findings made by the CFPB and states and of Chase’s obligations under the settlement are available on the CFPB’s website. Of the $106 million being paid to states, $95 million will go to attorneys general in 47 states and the District of Columbia. (California, Mississippi and Wyoming were not party to the settlement.) An additional $11 million will go to the attorneys general offices in the states that investigated the action — Iowa, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington — for future expenditures related to investigating and prosecuting cases of illegal conduct related to financial services or state consumer protection laws. On page 37 of Ohio’s version of the agreement (Exhibit B) is a list of the amounts going to each state.
While some states may already have decided how to use their payments, this is a great opportunity to make the case for civil legal aid funding. Illinois’ $7.2 million will be allocated entirely to legal services, including consumer debt counseling for poor and elderly residents. Under the settlement, each attorney general has discretion for how its money is allocated, so if you are interested in receiving some of this money, we encourage you to reach out to your attorney general. The Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable’s toolkit on how legal aid helps protect consumers is an advocacy piece that can help make the case. Download it here.