CHICAGO (CN) – A federal class action accuses Accuity (formerly Thomson Financial Publishing) and Sourcemedia of selling a private database that accuses innocent people of being terrorists, narcotics traffickers and money launderers, damaging their job chances, their credit and their lives.
“Defendants are Investcorp companies, an investment entity and hedge fund incorporated in the Kingdom of Bahrain,” the complaint states. “They have taken it upon themselves to supposedly identify – for a fee – terrorists, narcotics traffickers and money launderers with whom American businesses must have no dealing. Defendants assemble and maintain a private database of information purportedly about persons on certain U.S. government watch lists, including the list of suspected terrorists, narcotics traffickers and money launderers promulgated by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC list). Defendants regularly sell their own reports purportedly concerning such persons from their private database to third parties. The reports are used and are expected to be used in connection with ordinary consumer credit, employment, insurance and other transactions. Persons whom defendants identify in their reports as being on the OFAC list are understood to be legally ineligible to conduct any business in the United States, cannot be employed, cannot receive any insurance or extension of credit, and may even be subject to arrest. Notwithstanding the fact that defendants are in the business of regularly selling highly critical character and credit information in their reports to be used in daily consumer transactions within the United States, defendants fail to assure the accuracy of this information or to comply with the FCRA in any respect. As a result, consumers such as plaintiff Sandra Jean Cortez, who are not actually on the OFAC list or any government watch list, are routinely misidentified in defendants’ reports as suspected terrorists, money launderers and narcotics traffickers, and thus are considered ineligible for credit or for conducting any business in the United States. Also sued to defendants’ noncompliance with the FCRA, innocent consumers wrongfully identified as being on the OFAC list have no means of discovering, disputing or correcting the erroneous information defendants are selling about them.”
Accuity, formerly Thomson Financial, is based in Skokie, Ill. SourceMedia owns and controls it, according to the complaint.
Lead plaintiff Cortez says the defendants misidentified her as a Colombian drug trafficker, Sandra Cortes Quintero, who is more than 30 years older than the plaintiff. She says the false report prevented her from buying a car, from renting an apartment, and damaged her reputation. She demands punitive damages.
Plaintiffs’ lead attorney is Larry P. Smith, with co-counsel Francis & Mailman and Donovan Searles, both of Philadelphia.