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Friday, October 30, 2009

Federal Judge Holds Red Flags Rule Over-Reaches When Applied to Lawyers

A federal judge has called the Federal Trade Commission’s Red Flags Rule over-reaching in its application to lawyers, and granted partial summary judgment on October 29, 2009 to the American Bar Association (“ABA”). Counsel for the ABA says it has won all the relief it sought in its challenge to the regulation, including injunctive relief.

The Red Flags Rule is an identity-theft prevention matter. It requires creditors who defer payments for goods and services to develop and implement written programs to identify, detect, and respond to warning signs of identity theft. In spring 2009, the FTC concluded that lawyers are considered creditors under the rule.

On August 27, 2009, the American Bar Association filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the Federal Trade Commission, seeking an injunction to block the application of the "Red Flags Rule" to practicing lawyers.

After the October 29, 2009 hearing, ABA President Carolyn B. Lamm issued a statement:

“This ruling is an important victory for American lawyers and the clients we serve. The court recognized that the Federal Trade Commission’s interpretation of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act over-reaches and its application to lawyers is unreasonable. By voiding the FTC’s interpretation of a statue that was clearly not intended to apply to the legal profession, the court has ensured that lawyers stay focused on the mission of their work: providing aid and counsel to the individuals and organizations that need us.”

An account of the hearing quotes Walton as saying, “I have a real problem with concluding that Congress intended to regulate lawyers when these statutes were enacted.”

On October 30, 2009, Judge Walton entered an Order granting summary judgment as to Count I of the ABA’s Complaint alleging that the Commission's application of the Red Flags Rule to attorneys violates 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(C) as it is "in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations, or short of statutory right." A memorandum opinion with points and authorities will issue within 30 days.

1 comment:

Bluesburner said...

This is a followup comment. At the request of Members of Congress, the Federal Trade Commission is delaying enforcement of the “Red Flags” Rule until June 1, 2010, for financial institutions and creditors subject to enforcement by the FTC.