Monarch promises in promotional materials and advance agreements that it will «provide litigation services in the event that the client receives a subpoena and complaint» from a creditor or collection agency for non-payment. But defendants continue to break that promise, leaving it up to consumers to defend themselves in court, even though consumers pay hundreds to thousands of dollars in legal fees. The absence of a response to the defendant means that consumers will have to bear all the negative consequences of a judgment against them, including the garnishment of their wages. The following example of a Chicago consumer illustrates the defendant`s failure to provide legal advice in connection with a settlement. The defendants entered into a contract with a local lawyer who is not employed by Monarques to represent the consumer in a dispute with a creditor. The lawyer did not appear in the proceedings and the creditor received a default judgment against the consumer. After the verdict was delivered, the defendants negotiated a settlement. The consumer signed a settlement agreement requiring substantial monthly payments, which he knew would come from his account with the defendants. But the defendants settled the bill for more than the consumer could pay. The references of the person negotiating the debt are important to potential clients.
A reasonable consumer would conclude that the defendant`s higher rate structure is justified because the company has legal expertise. However, the city`s investigation shows that the services of the accused are not provided by lawyers and that lawyers do not actually supervise non-lawyers who pay debts. The lawyers` notes show that they did not interact meaningfully with the clients. Lawyers who use the defendant`s internal case management system copy and paste the same short notes that record «attorney`s opinions» without mentioning client-specific information. Lawyers use scripts for these calls. Based on the above, as well as information and beliefs, monarch lawyers often, if not always, provide individual legal advice and are therefore not engaged in the practice of law. With respect to the practices at issue in this case, Monarques does not offer legal advice or representation. In addition, external lawyers with whom Monarchs contracts repeatedly fail to appear in court and bless negotiated settlements, even if a consumer could not comply with the conditions. As a result, Monarques` lawyers – both in-house counsel and those hired on a contract basis – do not practice law. In the examples the city has seen, and according to information and faith in other cases as well, the monarch`s lawyers do not do debt settlement work.
However, Monarch tells consumers that they will pay for legal services and seek the help of lawyers. Although a section of Monarch`s nearly 40-page agreement states that third parties may perform certain work related to the program, it later states that Monarch has a «non-exclusive reciprocal referral agreement with independent contractors to provide,» which it describes as «non-legal services related to implementation, the management and maintenance of the client`s debt negotiation plan». Monarch`s agreement and other promotional materials distort the truth: Strategic`s non-lawyers not only provide certain administrative services, but they also provide Monarch`s debt resolution service. After an initial phone call, defendants send paralegals or notaries from third-party companies to the homes of potential consumers or these representatives make a virtual presentation. Representatives read a text about the Monarch program and asked consumers to sign an agreement after the meeting. Consumers indicated that they did not understand the terms and conditions of the program after these short delays. According to the text that paralegals or external notaries read at these short meetings, a «monarch lawyer» reviews the consumer`s file after the meeting and calls the consumer within «a few days» of the meeting. One consumer wrote, «I want at least a refund of $995.00 because I have not received legal representation.» The defendant`s refund policy does not provide for such a right to reimbursement of attorneys` fees.
Monarch www.monarchlegalgroup.com describes itself on its website as a «debt relief agency» and a «law firm.» Monarch`s website says the company can help people with debt by helping them declare bankruptcy or through its debt resolution program. To further reduce the likelihood of legal representation, Monarques` advance contracts significantly restrict the provision of these services. For example, Monarch reserves the right to refuse to provide legal defense services if the client does not have to submit all pages of the subpoena, complaint, evidence, and briefs to Monarch and be filed within 15 or 7 days, depending on the state. Monarch also requires that payments in the client`s account be up to date. Importantly, consumers pay legal fees, even if Monarch refuses to provide these services. If you determine that this is a scam and stop your registration, Monarch will not do anything with the accounts. You will continue to act as a representative, although I asked for clarification on a transition letter during the cancellation appeal. I received a garnishment notice on an account to which Monarchs did not send the termination letter. The exact letter that was sent to me as a «copy of what would go to creditors.» Run away! Monarch tells potential consumers that its customer service team (which is actually made up of strategic staff in another state) will «help [clients] talk to an attorney» to provide legal advice or answer legal questions. However, the city`s investigation shows that Strategic`s client service team does not provide lawyers for client calls. Consumers told the city that they were unable to get answers from the lawyer identified on the monarch`s papers and were instead forced to ask questions of non-lawyers who did not know their situation.
The defendant`s legal fees also reinforce the deception that lawyers will do the work of settling the debt, including representing consumers in court. As explained in paragraph 36 above, clients pay an «upfront fee» (often approximately $1,000) and a fixed monthly administration fee ($55 to $85). In terms of information and persuasion, Monarques and Strategic Financial Solutions refer clients primarily, if not exclusively, to the debt resolution program for two reasons. First, this program is the most cost-effective for defendants. Second, Monarch`s lawyers do not appear to offer legal advice or representation in bankruptcy matters. The city`s investigation did not reveal any bankruptcy filings on the part of Monarchs. None of the many publicly available consumer complaints filed against Monarques mention bankruptcy proceedings, although one consumer has requested it. Working with the group will be so good, they are easy to talk to and they understand your situation and they help you. I like the way everything was explained to me.
I know it will be a pleasure to work with them. To escape the defendant`s fraud, Monarques structured itself as a «law firm» to avoid liability under consumer protection laws and leave consumers without meaningful recourse. Monarch provides the front of the company, while Strategic Financial Solutions manages the debt resolution program. The city`s research shows that consumers do not have access to legal advice and that many never receive any form of legal representation. In response to the city`s subpoena, Monarch provided information from a limited number of consumer records. In one of these files, Monarch contained a call script for another legal entity, Option 1 Legal. The text of the appeal script for Option 1 Legal and Monarch is identical, except for the name of the law firm. The presentation to potential consumers is also essentially the same: based on public filings and information and beliefs, Strategic also worked with Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, a Chicago-based consumer debt firm that operated nationwide as a purported law firm.