EXPERIAN PUBLIC RECORD SETTLEMENT

Case No. 3:16-cv-32-MHL (E.D. Va.) and Case No. 3:16-cv-670-MHL (E.D. Va.)

United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia

Frequently Asked Questions


Basic Information

1. What is the notice about?

The Notice has been made available because members of the Settlement Class have a right to know about a settlement of a class action lawsuit. This notice explains the lawsuits, the settlement, your legal rights, and what benefits are available. A full copy of the Settlement Agreement may be reviewed by clicking here. The Notice contains only a summary of the Settlement Agreement.

The Court in charge of this settlement is the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in front of Judge M. Hannah Lauck. Two lawsuits settled, Clark v. Experian Info. Sols., Inc., No. 3:16-cv-00032 (E.D. Va.) and Brown v. Experian Info. Sols., Inc., No. 3:16-cv-00670 (E.D. Va.), and they have now been consolidated. The people who brought the lawsuits are called the Named Plaintiffs or Class Representatives, and Experian is the Defendant.

2. What are the lawsuits about?

The lawsuits claim that Experian failed to disclose its third-party vendor from which it obtains its public record information and Experian reported inaccurate and out-of-date tax lien or civil judgment information in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Experian has disputed that it has any liability and contends that it acted lawfully and in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act at all times.

The Court did not decide whether Experian violated the law. Instead, both sides agreed to the settlement to resolve the cases and provide benefits to consumers.

3. What is a class action?

In a class action lawsuit, one or more people called “Class Representatives” sue on behalf of other people who have similar claims. One court resolves the issues for everyone in the class. The Class Representatives filed the cases as proposed class actions.

4. Why is there a settlement?

The Court has not decided which side is right or wrong in the cases. Instead, both sides agreed to a settlement to avoid the costs and risks of a lengthy trial and appeals process.


Who Is In The Settlement

5. How do I know if I am part of the settlement?

You are included in the settlement if either:

(a) you requested and received a copy of your credit report from Experian between January 15, 2011 and September 21, 2018 and the credit report contained a tax lien, civil judgment, or bankruptcy, but the identity of the vendor who provided the information to Experian was not disclosed;

AND/OR

(b) between January 15, 2014 and September 21, 2018, Experian communicated your credit report to a third party (such as a lender) and the credit report contained a tax lien or civil judgment that was not accurately described or did not belong to you. The settlement includes state tax liens, federal tax liens, and civil judgments, and includes claims that Experian misreported those liens or judgments as unpaid, when they had in fact been paid, dismissed, or vacated.

6. What if I am not sure whether I am included in the Class?

If you are still not sure whether you are included in the Class, you can call 1-866-893-8437 or email info@ExperianPublicRecordSettlement.com for more information.

You may contact the attorneys representing you for further information or assistance at: Experian Settlement Class Counsel, 763 J Clyde Morris Blvd., Suite 1A, Newport News, VA 23601.


The Settlement Benefits—What You Get

7. What does the settlement provide?

The parties agreed to this “Injunctive Relief” settlement. An injunction occurs when a court orders a person or company to do or not do something – in this case, changes to Experian’s business practices, including stopping reporting tax liens and judgments through at least December 31, 2019, and disclosing to consumers the third-party vendor(s) hired by Experian to collect those records.

The settlement requires Experian, at its own expense, to design, implement, and maintain specific and substantial procedures that address the lawsuits’ concerns about how Experian reports public records. All members of the Class will receive the benefit from these changes in business practices.

The settlement does not guarantee that you will be paid money, but it does create an opportunity for monetary recovery for some people. You will not give up any rights you have to bring an individual claim against Experian unless you ultimately receive a payment in the Mediation Program or participate in the Arbitration Program (which bind the parties to accept the Arbitrator’s decision).

A.    Changes to Experian’s Reporting and Disclosure Practices.

Specifically, the changes in Experian’s business practices will require Experian to do the following:

  • Experian stopped reporting state and federal tax liens and civil judgments through the Effective Date (February 22, 2019).
  • For three years from the Effective Date (February 22, 2019), Experian may only report newly acquired civil judgments and state and federal tax liens after providing Class Counsel with the details of the new record collection process. If Class Counsel objects to the new proposal, Experian will be required to obtain Court approval.
  • At a minimum, any new process must ensure that sufficient information is gathered about public records and their current status, so the records are conclusively matched to a consumer’s file. This match must include, at a minimum, first and last name, full date of birth, and/or at least the last four digits of the consumer’s social security number. Further, all public records must be a collected at a frequency of every 60 days or less, and the collection process must be sufficiently standardized and rigorous to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the records (including updates) obtained.
  • For all consumer file disclosures that contain a civil judgment or state or federal tax lien, Experian will provide the name, mailing address, and web address for its public records vendor, currently LexisNexis.

Because these procedures are being accomplished through a Court injunction, District Judge Lauck will retain ongoing supervision of these changes. The specific terms of the changes are included in the Settlement Agreement, a copy of which is available here.

Settlement Class Members do not have to pay or buy anything to benefit from the changes in business practices or the other options provided under the settlement.

B.    Mediation and Binding Arbitration Programs.

Under the settlement, all Settlement Class Members have until August 22, 2020 (18 months following the Effective Date), with the assistance of Class Counsel, to determine whether or not they have a viable individual claim against Experian regarding civil judgment and/or tax lien reporting, and if so, mediate such claim with Experian.

Class Counsel will assist the Settlement Class Member in preparing a Mediation Request, with necessary documentation and an initial monetary demand. Only Class Counsel may represent Settlement Class Members in the Mediation and Arbitration Programs, but there will be no additional attorneys’ fees charged or demanded for such representation.

Information on the types of claims eligible for mediation and the documentary evidence needed for purposes of making a claim in the Mediation Program is found on the Mediation Program Website.

Should a Mediation Payment be accepted, the Settlement Class Member will give a full, general release of his or her individual claims relating to civil judgment and/or tax lien reporting against Experian.

Should a Mediation Request not be resolved in the Mediation Program, the Settlement Class Member will have the option to proceed to the binding Arbitration Program, where the claim would then be submitted to Magistrate Judge Novak of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia for binding arbitration. Class Counsel will continue to represent the Settlement Class Member and submit a proposal on his or her behalf to the Magistrate, as will Experian. Judge Novak will select one of the two proposals to resolve the claim. Binding Arbitration Program participants will give a full, general release of his or her individual claims relating to civil judgment and/or tax lien reporting against Experian.

Participation in these Programs is voluntary and is available until August 22, 2020 (18 months following the Effective Date). This will save you the expense and difficulty of having to file your own lawsuit to obtain damages. The provision of these Programs does not limit the right of any Settlement Class Member who does not choose to participate to bring their individual claims in federal or state court.

C.   Credit Monitoring.

All Settlement Class Members will also have the ability to claim two years of Experian IdentityWorksSM Plus credit monitoring.

To receive a free activation code for the product, Settlement Class Members will need to verify their identity, either through this Settlement Website’s online form or through Class Counsel (see FAQ 11) and certify that they fall within the Settlement Class definition. Settlement Class Members will also need to provide an email address that can be used to send them an activation code. Activation codes are now being provided to Settlement Class Members by email.

Settlement Class Members can request an activation code until August 22, 2020 (18 months following the Effective Date). The activation code, once sent to the Settlement Class Member, will be good for 180 days and then it will expire. Once activated, the Settlement Class Member will be enrolled in the Credit Monitoring for two years, after which the enrollment will end without further action by the Settlement Class Member.

Experian has agreed to pay for the costs of providing initial notice, implementing the procedures described in the Court’s injunction, administration of the Mediation and Arbitration Programs, the credit monitoring product, and Class Counsel’s attorneys’ fees and expenses.

8. When did the settlement go into effect?

The Court held a fairness hearing on February 1, 2019 and approved the settlement. The Effective Date was February 22, 2019.

9. How does the settlement affect my rights?

The settlement was finally approved by the Court and you gave up the right to file a class or mass action against Experian related to Experian’s reporting of public records. You kept your right to bring any and all claims for any kind of damages and other relief against Experian related to public record reporting on an individual basis. If you participate in the Mediation Program and accept an offer of a monetary payment, or if you participate in the binding Arbitration Program, you will be required to sign a release of individual claims against Experian.

The precise terms of the release are explained in the Settlement Agreement, which you can view by clicking here.

The Court’s decisions in this settlement apply to you even if you object to the settlement or have any other claim, lawsuit, or proceeding pending against Experian relating to the same claims. If you have any questions about the release, you can click here for more information or consult with a lawyer.

10. Can I choose not to be in the settlement?

No. This is an Injunctive Relief settlement under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(2). The settlement requires Experian to change its business practices and implement procedures to benefit all members of the Class equally. As explained in , this type of benefit is injunctive. Therefore, under this type of class action, you cannot exclude yourself from the Class or this settlement.

However, as explained in , if you are not paid through the Mediation Program and do not participate in the Arbitration Program, you will retain the right to file an individual lawsuit against Experian for any damages and have your case and Experian’s defenses heard in court.


The Lawyers Representing You

11. Do I have a lawyer in this case?

Yes. The Court approved the following lawyers as “Class Counsel” to represent you and the Settlement Class:

•    Leonard Bennett and Matthew Erausquin of Consumer Litigation Associates, P.C. in Newport News, Virginia;

•    Jim Francis and John Soumilas of Francis & Mailman, P.C. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania;

•    Kristi Kelly, Andrew Guzzo, and Casey Nash of Kelly & Crandall, PLC in Fairfax, Virginia;

•    E. Michelle Drake of Berger Montague PC in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and

•    Micah Adkins of The Adkins Firm, P.C. in Nashville, Tennessee.

You will not be charged for these lawyers. You may hire your own attorney to advise you, but if you hire your own attorney, you will be responsible for paying that attorney’s fees and may not participate in the Mediation or Arbitration Programs.

You may contact the attorneys representing you for further information or assistance at: Experian Settlement Class Counsel, Consumer Litigation Associates, 763 J Clyde Morris Blvd, Suite 1A, Newport News, VA 23601.

12. How will the lawyers and Class Representatives be paid?

The settlement requires Experian to pay the attorneys’ fees of the law firms that will serve as Class Counsel and additional law firms that are counsel in other lawsuits pending against Experian for the same issues as in these cases. Collectively, these law firms asked the Court for an award of attorneys’ fees and expenses for the time, effort, and money they have spent on these cases.

The Court awarded the law firm $15,935,000 in attorneys’ fees. Class Counsel also requested service awards for the Class Representatives who helped the lawyers on behalf of the whole Class. The Court approved service awards in the amount of $65,000 ($5,000 for each Class Representative). Under the terms of the settlement, Experian is not obligated to pay any amount for attorneys’ fees, expenses, and Class Representative service awards that exceed $16 million.

Class Counsel and the other settling law firms have worked on these cases entirely on a contingent basis. They have also financed all of the litigation, paying all applicable court fees, as well as all litigation costs and expenses. Had the attorneys not succeeded in settling or winning this lawsuit, they would have recovered nothing.

Experian will pay the approved amount of attorneys’ fees and expenses and service awards, and no Settlement Class Member will owe or pay anything for the attorneys’ fees and expenses or the Class Representative service awards.


Objecting To The Settlement

13. How do I tell the Court that I don’t like the settlement?

The deadline to object to the settlement has passed and was on January 15, 2019. You can no longer object to the settlement.

14. When and where did the Court approve the settlement?

The Court held a hearing on February 1, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, 701 East Broad Street, Richmond, Virginia 23219 in front of District Judge Lauck. The purpose of the hearing was to determine the fairness, reasonableness, and adequacy of the settlement terms; whether the Settlement Class was adequately represented by the Class Representatives and Class Counsel. The Court also considered Class Counsel’s application for an award of attorneys’ fees and expenses and the Class Representatives’ compensation.

The Court approved the settlement.

15. What happens if I do nothing at all?

You are not required to do anything to benefit from the settlement. The Court approved the settlement and you are bound by the Court’s final judgment and the release of claims explained in the Settlement Agreement.

However, you must submit a request for an activation code for the Credit Monitoring Product or a Mediation Payment. A monetary payment is not guaranteed.


Getting More Information

16. How do I get more information?

The notice is only a summary of the settlement. More details about the settlement, the date when appeals are no longer allowed, deadlines for certain actions and your options are available in a longer document called the Settlement Agreement. You can get a copy of the Settlement Agreement by clicking here.

The website also provides answers to commonly asked questions, plus other information, to help you determine whether you are a member of the Settlement Class. In addition, some of the key documents in the cases will be posted on the website.

You may contact the attorneys representing you for further information or assistance at: Experian Settlement Class Counsel, 763 J Clyde Morris Blvd., Suite 1A, Newport News, VA 23601.


Do not write or call the judge or any court personnel concerning this lawsuit or notice.