Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Class Action Settlement Near In NJ Bid-Rigging Lawsuit Involving Municipal Tax Lien Auctions

In Hunterdon County, New Jersey, the Hunterdon County Democrat reports:

  • Several defendants in a class action suit regarding municipal tax lien certificates (TSCs) have reached agreements on settlement proposals.

    A dozen New Jersey homeowners are now parties in a suit claiming that they were victims of a conspiracy. The homeowners were either facing foreclosure or had been foreclosed upon.

    Many of the more than two dozen defendants in the federal suit are among those pleading guilty to federal criminal charges.

    One defendant, Crusader Servicing Corp., purchased a lien in Lebanon Township. In March 2012, the owner of that home was the first to file suit in Superior Court in Hunterdon County. The suit was transferred to federal court and then consolidated with other suits like it.

    So far, 17 defendants have reached six different settlement agreements. Attorneys for the property owners are asking the court to certify the proposed settlement class and to give preliminarily approval to five of the most recent settlement agreements.

    A hearing is scheduled on the matter for Aug. 5.

    Under the proposed settlements the tax lien holders will offer discounts of 10% to 15% for property owners to redeem the certificates. The lien holders also agreed to delay any foreclosure proceedings until at least 90 to 120 days following approval of the settlement.

    The defendants also made payments to a settlement fund.

    Due to the number of property owners involved, the attorneys are seeking a delay of having to notify all the potential class members until the settlement fund reaches at least $1 million, or for two years, whichever comes first.

    So far the settlement fund totals $955,000.

    Attorneys are still negotiating with the other defendants.

    The Department of Justice said that the conspiracy limited competition in public auctions for municipal tax liens so the liens could be purchased at higher interest rates, many at the maximum 18% interest rate.

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