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Miffed Judge Grants One Technologies’ Bid to Strike Class Claims

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One Technologies persuaded a Texas federal court to rethink its initial holding and strike class claims in a lawsuit alleging violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act and the Credit Repair Organizations Act.

Although One Technologies waived its right to compel arbitration against plaintiff Vickie Forby, it had not waived the right with respect to potential class members, the Wednesday ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas said.

Although Judge Sam A. Lindsay took “no umbrage” with the challenge to his prior ruling and was willing to change his mind, Lindsay admonished One Technologies for describing the decision as “nonsensical,” saying it was the equivalent of using the term “B.S.” Lindsay called counsel’s tone “astounding” and threatened sanctions if it happened again.

One Technologies initially succeeded in persuading the judge to compel arbitration, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed, concluding the company had “substantially invoked the judicial process” and consequently waived its right to enforce the agreement.

Forby revised the complaint, adding a CROA claim. After rejecting One Technologies’ argument that Forby had in effect revived its right to enforce arbitration, Lindsay declined to dismiss Forby’s class claims, concluding the arbitration clause excluded class or consolidated actions.

One Technologies sought reconsideration, or alternatively interlocutory appeal, arguing that absent class members—who presumably agreed to arbitrate their claims when they accepted its terms and conditions—can’t circumvent the agreement by participating in Forby’s case as class members.

It said the court misunderstood the argument to be that the arbitration clause extended to class action claims, when the argument was that, “the fact no class claims can be brought in arbitration does not mean that such claims can be pursued in a judicial forum.”

The first clause of the agreement required arbitration for “any claim” under a specified amount. The second stated that the arbitrator couldn’t preside over any class proceeding. In In re Online Travel Co., the court read similar language to mean that the right to bring a class action had been waived.

Lindsay agreed with One Technologies, partially reversed the prior ruling, and concluded the company hadn’t waived the right to arbitrate with respect to absent class members.

Lindsay also agreed that the determination would take an individualized analysis, and, concluding the class wouldn’t be ascertainable, dismissed the claims.

One Technologies LP and affiliated entities are represented by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, Venable LLP, and Lynn Pinker Hurst & Schwegmann LLP.

Forby’s lead attorney is Nelson & Nelson.

The case is Forby v. One Techs., LP, N.D. Tex., No. 3:16-cv-856-L, 7/22/20.

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China to take steps to improve bad faith deterrent mechanism

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China will adopt policy steps to optimize the mechanism for deterring acts of bad faith and refine the social credit system to underpin the development of the socialist market economy, the State Council’s executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang decided on Wednesday.

“In recent years, China’s social credit system has continued to develop. A market economy relies on credit, and a credit-based economy must follow the rule of law. Work in this regard shall be effectively carried out pursuant to laws and regulations,” Li said.

Those at the Wednesday meeting decided on measures to refine the bad-faith deterrent mechanism to promote the orderly and healthy development of the social credit system. The principles include adhering to laws and regulations, protecting rights and interests, taking a prudent and appropriate approach and implementing list-based management.

The scope and procedures of credit information shall be formulated in a science-based way. Including certain behaviors in public credit information will require strictly following laws and regulations and a catalog management approach. Such information will be made accessible to the public.

Administrative departments must determine acts of bad faith on the basis of legally binding documents. The scope and procedures for sharing credit information shall be standardized. The principle of legality and necessity shall be observed when deciding whether and to what extent credit information is shared and disclosed. Such decisions shall be made clear when compiling the credit information catalog.

The meeting underlined the need to strengthen information security and privacy protection. Access to and procedures for credit information inquiries shall be strictly enforced. Leaking, tampering, damaging or stealing credit information or utilizing credit information for personal gains will be seriously investigated and dealt with. Illegal collection and transaction of credit information will be strictly cracked down on.

“In the development of the social credit system, it is important to pay attention to protecting personal privacy and trade secrets. Credit reference shall be conducted in accordance with law, with science-based scope and definition and appropriate penalties. Information must be used in a safe and secure manner,” Li said.

Identification of list of entities with serious acts of bad faith will be better regulated. The list shall be limited to those who put public health and safety in grave jeopardy, seriously sabotage the fair market competition order or disrupt normal social order. The list shall not be willfully expanded without authorization.

Punishment against bad-faith acts shall be enforced in accordance with laws and regulations, to make sure that penalties are meted out commensurate with dishonest behaviors. Disciplinary measures taken against entities with serious dishonest behaviors that reduce their rights or increase their duties shall be based on facts of bad faith and on laws and regulations. Punishments should be appropriate and not be added or increased at will. Financial institutions, credit service agencies, industry associations, chambers of commerce and news media should not be forced to punish entities with serious acts of bad faith.

A credit repair mechanism, which is conducive to self-correction, will be established. Entities will be allowed to fix negative credit records, unless otherwise stipulated by laws and regulations, should they correct dishonest behaviors and eliminate adverse impact. Relevant departments shall remove entities, who meet credit repair eligibility, from the list in a timely manner.

All localities and relevant departments shall promptly overhaul measures that have been rolled out for the determination, recording, disclosure and punishment of bad-faith acts, and those that do not meet the requirements shall be regulated in a timely manner.

The meeting also decided on measures to advance high-quality development of the credit reference sector. Cross-sectoral and cross-regional connectivity of credit information involving finance, government affairs, and public services will be promoted as provided by law. Disclosure and orderly utilization of data in government departments will be promoted in faster pace.

Market access of individual credit reference agencies will be promoted in an active yet prudent manner, and openness of the credit reference sector will be scaled up. Matching regulations and supporting institutions for the credit reference sector shall be improved and accountability mechanism strengthened. Fraudulent credit rating shall be strictly punished according to law.




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Developers plan 13 new homes in Muskegon Heights to help ‘people of color bring their community back’

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MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, MI – Two pastors from Indiana have a plan to build 13 new homes in the city of Muskegon Heights as part of an initiative to help “people of color bring their community back.”

The Rev. Rodney Lynch and the Rev. Willie Thompson, both of West Lafayette, Indiana, recently purchased 13 vacant lots from the city on which they plan to build single-family homes.

Thompson grew up in Muskegon Heights.

“He remembers when it was a thriving community — in the years he grew up there — and he sees it now,” Lynch told MLive. “We were talking one day, and he said this city is under new leadership, and because there’s new leadership, there’s new hope.”

Troy Bell became the city’s new manager at the beginning of this year. One of his early initiatives was a plan to formalize and add development requirements to the city’s tradition of selling city-owned vacant lots for $100 each.

Lynch and Thompson purchased 13 lots on Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, McIlwraith, Elwood and Superior streets.

Calling themselves Muskegon Heights Investors LLC, Lynch and Thompson will look for builders to construct “high quality” homes with sale prices of about $100,000 to $130,000, Lynch said.

Home buyers will be provided “wrap around services,” such as help preparing their credit for home purchase and education on how to properly maintain their properties, Lynch said.

“I’m more interested in the humanitarian part of this — helping quote, unquote minorities rebuild their own community (and) be a part of bringing their community back,” he said.

Under the city’s lot sale policy, lots are sold for $100 each and purchasers are required to pay for document and other fees, estimated at about $150 per lot. They also must pay three years’ worth of taxes, estimated at about $270 per lot.

Construction on the lots is to begin within two years of purchase, and owners must maintain the property, or it will revert to the city through a quick claim deed.

Requirements include planting grass and shrubs, removing dead trees and weeds and keeping structures in good repair.

The objectives of the lot-sales program are raising revenue, reducing crime and blight and encouraging development in the city.

Lynch said he visited Muskegon Heights twice and was dismayed by some of what he saw, but also encouraged by the “great opportunity for people of color to bring their community back.”

“When I first came up there, I was like ‘Wow, the city needs help.’ It’s depleted. The roads are bad, a lot of boarded-up houses,” Lynch said. “But I said, ‘Yeah, this is a great opportunity right here.’”

Bell said he has worked for several months with the Indiana developers as the city refined its process for approving lot sales.

“I appreciate their commitment to the community,” Bell said. ”I appreciate them trying to be part of the renaissance of this community.”

The “key to spurring economic development” in Muskegon Heights is improving the city’s housing stock which has an average age of 100 years, Bell said. New homes have not built in the city since 2014, and that was just three new homes, he said.

The city owns 350 vacant lots and the Muskegon County Land Bank owns another 450, Bell said.

While Muskegon Heights has been selling vacant lots for $100, the process was informal and didn’t require development of the lots, he said. That resulted in many of the lots being used to park vehicles, and often owners didn’t pay the property taxes and the land reverted to the city, Bell said.

“That’s why the city is barely making it by now — because it has no tax base,” Bell said.

He said he has encouraged builders to shoot for “high quality” homes and to include credit repair, first-time home buyer and homeowner education programs like the ones Lynch said his group is planning.

The next “phase” of the city’s plan to improve housing involves tackling renovations of boarded-up and vacant homes and better enforcement of building codes, Bell said.

The city of Muskegon recently embarked on an ambitious effort to improve its housing stock by encouraging developers to build single family homes. The $49.5 million plan to build 240 homes in the city over the next three years involves the use of Brownfield tax credits to help make the homes affordable.

Among those are 13 homes under construction on Webster Avenue between Eighth and Ninth streets near the city’s downtown.

Also on MLive:

Muskegon police identify shooting victim, look for killer

Frauenthal Center’s $7 million preservation campaign looks to ‘the next 90 years’

Man rescued from Lake Michigan after being swept off breakwall

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Fund launched to support women business owners affected by COVID | News

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A fund has been launched to support female business owners affected by the continuing economic challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The partner plan-like facility called the Win-Win Partner Fund, has been designed by the Women Entrepreneurs Network of the Caribbean (WENC). It is targeted to the organisation’s member-base of 150 women business owners. 

Although declining to  provide disbursement data, WENC said entrepreneurs have already accessed loans from the facility to stock their businesses; invest in e-commerce opportunities and to bring their businesses in line with COVID-19 norms. Financing for business start-ups has also been disbursed.    

In a release WENC described the fund as a hybrid of the traditional partner plan. 

“Yes, members are required to pay a monthly ‘hand’ and yes, they will receive funds when it is their turn; however that’s perhaps where the similarity to the traditional partner ends,” the organisation said. 

“This atypical hybrid is designed to have built-in mechanisms to facilitate sustainability and scalability. This is because the organisation is well-aware that its members will need support long after the world waves its final good-bye to COVID,” it explained. 

Women more stressed by COVID

President, Ethnie Miller Simpson said the idea for the fund emerged from the frustrations women generally face. She argued that women have had to bear the brunt of the economic fallout from COVID-19 in Jamaica. 

“This developing trend has long-term implications for our community. We, therefore, need to ensure that we will have the capacity to support them beyond the crisis.” said Miller Simpson.

She said women tend to earn less, have lower amounts of savings and are disproportionately represented in the informal economy and service sectors, which have been hard-hit by the pandemic. 

“These facts when added to the certain knowledge that the majority of single-parent households are led by women and that within two-parent homes women are more likely to be burdened with unpaid care and domestic work, it is astonishing that these factors have not sufficiently informed state relief packages nor private sector loans” she .

Although operational, WENC acknowledged that it is working on strengthening its model.  

“To ensure its long-term viability, the architects of this pioneering plan are exploring alternative credit scores and credit repair facilities that are suited to women-led MSMEs (micro small and medium enterprises),” the organisation said. It noted that its working with the Asian Development Bank identify suitable integration models. 

WENC is also looking at integrating digital payment options for the facility and to develop an app for the fund.

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