SAN FRANCISCO (9/20/12)--A man who thought his name was on a terrorist watch list has sued the credit bureau Trans Union, alleging it broke California laws by failing to alert him to all the information it sells about him to third parties such as the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) .
The class action lawsuit by Brian D. Larson of Lake Forest, Calif., was filed Sept. 12 in the Superior Court of California in San Francisco. Trans Union is headquartered in Chicago and is the third-largest credit reporting bureau.
The lawsuit alleges the credit reporting bureau violated the California Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies Act (CCRAA), which oversees state consumers' rights to inspect and correct consumer information sold about them. Trans Union "deprives consumers of these rights by willfully failing to provide consumers with complete and truthful 'OFAC alert' information it sells about them to third parties," said the complaint.
OFAC alerts supposedly advise credit grantors whether the credit applicant is a match to terrorists, money launderers, narcotics traffickers and other enemies of the U.S. defined on OFAC's Specifically Designated National and Blocked Persons List. OFAC requires credit unions and others to block property and reject transactions involving any country, entity or individual on OFAC's list (News Now June 20, 2008).
In the complaint, Larson said he obtained a copy of his personal credit report from Trans Union on Oct. 26, 2011. The report disclosed information under the headings "Personal Information," "Adverse Accounts," "Satisfactory Accounts," "Regular Inquiries" and "Account Review Inquiries," then stated it was the "End of Credit Report."
Beneath that heading, under "Additional information," was a paragraph indicating that the following information was provided as a courtesy and was not part of the credit report but may be provided when TransUnion received an inquiry about the plaintiff from an authorized party. The report noted, "This additional information can include Special Messages, Possible OFAC Name Matches, Income Verification and Inquiry Analysis Information," said the court document.
Because the bureau stated that the OFAC alerts are "additional information" provided only as "a courtesy," "consumers such as plaintiff are misguided into believing that they cannot dispute, and have corrected, inaccurate OFAC information that defendant alone is attributing to them," said the complaint, which added the file did not disclose the actual OFAC alert used to determine potential or actual matches with the plaintiff.
In previous litigation, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit rejected Trans Union's argument that it did not need to reinvestigate or correct erroneous OFAC alerts that it placed on consumer reports because the alerts were not part of the consumer's file, the complaint said. It also indicated the defendant failed to maintain reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of the OFAC alert information it sells.
The suit is seeking damages of $100 to $5,000 per class member per violation, punitive damages. injunctive relief and costs and attorney's fees.