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LexisNexis to Pay $13.5M, Reform Debt Reporting

(CN) - A federal judge approved a $13.5 million final settlement in a Fair Credit Reporting Act class action against LexisNexis that promises to increase protections for consumer information.

LexisNexis Risk & Information Analytics Group offers a service called Accurint that sells information about debtors' financial backgrounds to debt collectors.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives consumers the right to review "consumer reports," but LexisNexis asserted that Accurint reports are not consumer reports under the Act.

Last year, LexisNexis agreed to settle class claims against it for violations of the FCRA.

Under the terms of the settlement, LexisNexis will reform its procedures for sharing debtors' information to ensure compliance with the Act, said U.S. District Judge James Spencer in granting final approval to the agreement.

The class consists of approximately 200 million people whose information resides in the Accurint database. An additional 31,000 people comprise a second class of people who requested a copy of an Accurint report, or submitted a dispute regarding their report. Members of this class will each receive approximately $300 from a $13.5 million fund after attorneys' fees.

"In this case, all of plaintiffs' claims are predicated on Accurint® reports being deemed 'consumer reports' within the meaning of the FCRA. However, the FTC [Federal Trade Commission] in 2008 voted unanimously that Accurint® for Collection reports do not fall within the FCRA and do not involve credit reports," Judge Spencer wrote. "Absent some authority to the contrary, the merit of plaintiffs' claims - and, necessarily, the absent class members' theoretical future claims - is speculative at best. For this reason, the benefit of substantial relief without the risk of litigation demonstrates the adequacy of the settlement agreement."

The judge also approved an attorneys' fees award of $5.3 million, and a $5,000 award for each named plaintiff.

The class is represented by Leonard Bennett of Consumer Litigation Associates in Newport News, Va., Dale Pittman in Petersburg, Va., Michael Caddell of Caddell & Chapman in Houston, and James Francis of Francis & Mailman in Philadelphia.

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