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Frequently Asked Questions


Basic Information

What is the purpose of this Notice?

Answer:

A class action lawsuit is pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California known as Smith v. National Corrective Group, Inc. (Case No. 3:10-CV-0010 JSW) (the Smith case), and another such suit has been pending in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania known as Shouse v. National Corrective Group, Inc. (NCG) (Case No. 3:10-cv-00175).  These cases have been combined for the purpose of considering this Settlement. Judge Jeffrey S. White is now overseeing the combined cases and has authorized this Notice.

The cases involve Bad Check Restitution Programs operated by National Corrective Group (NCG) or American Corrective Counseling Services (ACCS) in the name of a District Attorney in California between January 4, 2006 and August 31, 2011 or in Pennsylvania  between January 25, 2004 and August 31, 2011.

This Notice is intended to inform you about these class action cases and the proposed Settlement. The Settlement Agreement itself is the document that controls this Settlement.  It is available on this web site (www.smithsettlement.com).

You have various options that you may exercise before the Court decides whether to approve the Settlement. If the Court approves the Settlement, and after any appeals are decided, payments will be made to the Settlement Class Members who submit timely and valid Claims.

What is this class action lawsuit about?

Answer:

The plaintiffs in this case have claimed, on behalf of themselves and other similarly situated persons who received District Attorney Bad Check Restitution Program notices, that defendants violated various laws in making false or misleading statements and seeking and collecting fees unauthorized by law when carrying out bad check diversion programs in the names of district attorneys.

Defendants vigorously deny these claims and maintain that they have fully complied with all applicable laws.  Defendants nevertheless desire to settle these lawsuits solely for the purpose of avoiding the burden, expense, risk and uncertainty of continuing these proceedings.

What is a class action lawsuit and who is involved?

Answer:

In a class action lawsuit, one or more persons called “Class Representatives” sue on behalf of other people who have similar claims.  All of these people together are called a “Class” or “Class Members.”  The Class Representatives - and all Class Members like them - are called the Plaintiffs.  Those they sue (in this case NCG and others) are called the Defendants.  The lawyers who represent the Class are called “Class Counsel.”  In a class action lawsuit, all factual questions and legal issues are resolved for everyone in the Class, except for those people who choose to exclude themselves from the Class.

Why is there a Settlement?

Answer:

The Court did not decide in favor of Plaintiffs or Defendants.  Instead, both sides agreed to a Settlement.  That way, they avoid the cost of a trial, and the people affected will get compensation quickly.  The Class Representatives and Class Counsel think the Settlement is best for everyone who has received the District Attorney Bad Check Diversion Program notices.

Who is in the Settlement?

Am I part of this Class?

Answer:

If you received a notice about this settlement in the mail (“Mailed Notice”) or by e-mail (“E-mail Notice”), then NCG’s and ACCS’s records indicate that you are a member of the Settlement Class because you received a District Attorney Bad Check Restitution Program notice in California between January 4, 2006 and August 31, 2011 or in Pennsylvania between January 25, 2004 and August 31, 2011.

If you did not receive a notice about this settlement in the mail or by e-mail, you still could be a member of the Settlement Class.  You are a member of the Settlement Class if you received a Bad Check Restitution Program notice in the name of one of the following District Attorneys during the following time periods:

 

 

CALIFORNIA DISTRICT ATTORNEYS

County

Time Period

Alameda County

Calaveras County

Colusa County

Contra Costa County

El Dorado County

Fresno County

Glenn County

Imperial County

Los Angeles County

Madera County

Marin County

Mariposa County

Merced County

Modoc County

Monterey County

Napa County

Nevada County

Orange County

Placer County

Riverside County

San Bernardino County

San Joaquin County

San Mateo County

Santa Barbara County

Santa Clara County

Sierra County

Sonoma County

Stanislaus County

Tulare County

Tuolumne County

07/05/2006 – 08/31/2011

07/06/2006 – 08/31/2011

07/26/2006 – 08/31/2011

01/04/2006 – 08/31/2011

01/04/2006 – 08/31/2011

09/28/2010 – 08/31/2011

10/03/2006 – 08/31/2011

01/04/2006 – 08/31/2011

01/04/2006 – 08/31/2011

01/05/2007 – 08/31/2011

01/04/2006 – 08/31/2011

08/08/2006 – 08/31/2011

01/04/2006 – 08/31/2011

07/18/2006 – 08/31/2011

01/04/2006 – 08/31/2011

01/04/2006 – 08/31/2011

08/08/2006 – 08/31/2011

01/04/2006 – 08/31/2011

06/21/2006 – 08/31/2011

01/04/2006 – 08/31/2011

03/16/2009 – 08/31/2011

01/04/2006 – 08/31/2011

09/13/2007 – 08/31/2011

08/15/2006 – 08/31/2011

01/04/2006 – 08/31/2011

08/01/2006 – 08/31/2011

01/04/2006 – 08/31/2011

01/04/2006 – 08/31/2011

03/28/2006 – 08/31/2011

07/11/2006 – 08/31/2011

 

 

PENNSYLVANIA DISTRICT ATTORNEYS

County

Time Period

Adams County

Armstrong County

Beaver County

Bedford County

Berks County

Blair County

Bradford County

Butler County

Dauphin County

Delaware County

Huntingdon County

Indiana County

Lackawanna County

Lancaster County

Lawrence County

Lebanon County

Lehigh County

Luzerne County

McKean County

Miffin County

Montgomery County

Northampton County

Northumberland County

Somerset County

Washington County

Wayne County

York County

09/02/2009 – 08/31/2011

12/07/2004 – 08/31/2011

04/11/2005 – 08/31/2011

02/05/2004 – 08/31/2011

04/01/2008 – 08/31/2011

01/25/2004 – 08/31/2011

12/10/2004 – 08/31/2011

01/25/2004 – 08/31/2011

02/05/2004 – 02/28/2011

01/25/2004 – 08/31/2011

10/03/2008 – 08/31/2011

01/25/2004 – 06/23/2011

01/25/2004 – 08/31/2011

01/25/2004 – 08/31/2011

01/25/2004 – 08/31/2011

01/25/2004 – 08/31/2011

03/30/2005 – 08/31/2011

10/17/2008 – 08/31/2011

04/28/2004 – 08/31/2011

03/22/2011 – 08/31/2011

01/25/2004 – 10/31/2010

03/20/2006 – 08/31/2011

01/13/2011 – 08/31/2011

01/25/2004 – 08/31/2011

08/22/2008 – 08/31/2011

09/08/2004 – 08/31/2011

07/20/2007 – 08/31/2011

 

I’m still not sure if I am included.

Answer:

If you are still not sure whether you are included, you can get free help by contacting Class Counsel. See the frequently asked question:  "Do I have a lawyer in this case?" for contact information.

Settlement Benefits - What You Get

Who gets paid and in what amount?

Answer:

In full settlement of the Released Claims, Defendants’ insurers shall pay the Settlement Amount of $3,250,000, which shall be used to pay for Settlement Costs, court awarded attorneys’ fees and expenses and Settlement Payments. $1,000,000 of the settlement fund will be allocated on an equal basis and paid to all eligible settlement class members. It is estimated that the number of class members may be as high as 450,000. An additional $1,000,000 of the settlement fund will be allocated on an equal basis and paid to all eligible settlement class members who paid a fee to NCG or ACCS. It is estimated that the number of class members who paid fees may be as high as 165,000. All Settlement Payments will be made in full satisfaction of Settlement Class Members’ claims.

The total amount of Settlement Payments to be paid each Settlement Class Member will depend on how Settlement Class Members may be reached through mailed or e-mail notices and how many valid claims are timely submitted by Settlement Class Members who may not be reached through mailed or e-mail notices. Those who are not Settlement Class Members because they act to exclude themselves from this Settlement, as described below, are not eligible to receive a Settlement Payment. You may object to the Settlement, as described below, and still receive a Settlement Payment in the event that the Settlement is approved, if you did not exclude yourself from this Settlement, as described below.

How do I get paid?

Answer:

Upon final Settlement approval, Settlement Class Members who received Mailed Notice or E-mail Notice (Refer to the frequently asked question: "Am I part of this Class?")  will automatically receive a Settlement Payment in the mail.  Settlement Class Members who receive E-Mail Notice should contact the Settlement Administrator to confirm their physical mailing address. 

Settlement Class Members who do not receive Mailed Notice or E-Mail Notice must submit a Claim Form by April 1, 2014, and will receive a Settlement Payment in the mail at the address stated on the Claim Form. 

You can complete and submit the Claim Form online on this website.  If you prefer, you also can print out the Claim Form from this website and send it to the Settlement Administrator by U.S. mail at the address stated on the Claim Form, postmarked no later than April 1, 2014.  Online submission of Claim Forms is strongly encouraged.

As part of the Claim Form, you must state under penalty of perjury that you received a District Attorney Bad Check Diversion Program notice from ACCS or NCG in California between January 4, 2006 and August 31, 2011 or in Pennsylvania between January 25, 2004 and August 31, 2011.

What if I do not timely submit a completed Claim Form?

Answer:

If you did not receive Mailed Notice or E-Mail Notice (refer to frequently asked question: "Am I part of this Class?") and fail to submit a completed Claim Form by mail postmarked by April 1, 2014 or fail to submit a claim online by this date, you will not get paid. 

When do I receive payment?

Answer:

The Court will hold a fairness hearing on January 31, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. to decide whether to approve the Settlement as fair, reasonable and adequate.  If the Court approves the Settlement, there may be appeals that may delay the conclusion of the case or result in Settlement disapproval. Information about the progress of the case will be available on this website (www.smithsettlement.com) or by contacting Class Counsel.

What else do I receive by not excluding myself from the Settlement Class?

Answer:

In short, Defendants (NCG and others who are in some way connected to it), release Settlement Class Members from all claims or legal actions that arise out of the non-payment of all fees for the Diversion Programs as of the date this Settlement is finally approved and becomes effective.

Defendant NCG has also agreed to make changes to the Diversion Program letters at issue in this case, which are intended to help the persons receiving this letter better understand the program being offered, understand that this program is voluntary, understand that these letters are from a company under contract with the district attorney (NCG) and that a response will be to this company, and understand when the district attorney’s office may review the particular circumstances of the person receiving the letters.  These changes are described in Exhibit J to the Second Amended and Restated Settlement Agreement, which may be viewed on this website (www.smithsettlement.com).

What am I giving up to get a payment and stay in the Class?

Answer:

Unless you exclude yourself, you will be part of the Settlement Class.  The final Court order approving the Settlement will apply to you and legally bind you.

In short, you and all other Settlement Class Members fully release each of the Defendants, as well as specified others who are in some way connected to them, from all claims or legal actions that arise out of or are related to the Restitution Programs and that occurred on or before May 10, 2012.

If you want the right to sue any or all of the Defendants, you must exclude yourself from the Settlement Class in this case.  If you exclude yourself, you will not be eligible to recover any benefits as a result of the settlement of the action.

The full releases are as follows.  Please read these releases carefully, as they will be binding if the Settlement is approved and you do not exclude yourself from the Settlement:

Releases Given by Class Members

Upon the Effective Date, the Settlement Class Representatives and each and all Settlement Class Members and their past, present and future respective heirs, executors, administrators, representatives, agents, attorneys, spouses, partners, successors, predecessors in interest and assigns will be deemed to have fully released and forever discharged Defendants and each and all of their present, former and future direct and indirect parent companies, partnerships, entities, affiliates, subsidiaries, agents, principals (including without limitation district attorneys on whose behalf Diversion Programs were operated and their staff and affiliates), insurers, members, managers, successors, predecessors in interest, spouses, heirs, executors, administrators, representatives, attorneys, general partners, limited partners, and/or any persons or entities that may hold or have held any interest in the operation or ownership of any of the Defendants, and all of the aforementioneds’ respective officers, directors, employees, members, managers, attorneys, consultants, shareholders, general partners, limited partners, agents, vendors and assigns, from any and all rights, duties, obligations, claims, actions, causes of action or liabilities, whether arising under local, state or federal law, whether by Constitution, statute (including, but not limited to, the FDCPA, RICO, the UCL, the FCEUA or the UTPCPL), contract, common law or equity, whether known or unknown, suspected or unsuspected, asserted or unasserted, foreseen or unforeseen, actual or contingent, liquidated or unliquidated, as of May 10, 2012 that arise out of or relate to the Diversion Programs or the acts, omissions, facts, matters, transactions or occurrences that were or could have been directly or indirectly alleged in the Actions(the “Released Claims”).  It is understood and agreed that the Released Claims do not include (a) any of the claims against ACCS or the insurer of ACCS that are the subject of the action titled Joan Hrobuchack and Karen Maghran, on their own  behalf and on behalf of all others similarly situated v. Federal Insurance Company, Civil Action No. 3:10-CV-481, pending in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and (b) any claim with respect to conduct by the Defendants after May 10, 2012.

Without limiting the foregoing, the Released Claims specifically extend to claims that Settlement Class Representatives and Settlement Class Members do not know or suspect to exist in their favor at the time that the Agreement, and the releases contained therein, becomes effective.  This paragraph constitutes a waiver by Settlement Class Representatives, and shall be deemed to be a waiver by all Settlement Class Members, of California Civil Code Section 1542 and any other similar statutes, laws or legal principles of any state.  California Civil Code Section 1542 provides:

A GENERAL RELEASE DOES NOT EXTEND TO CLAIMS WHICH THE CREDITOR DOES NOT KNOW OR SUSPECT TO EXIST IN HIS OR HER FAVOR AT THE TIME OF EXECUTING THE RELEASE, WHICH IF KNOWN BY HIM OR HER MUST HAVE MATERIALLY AFFECTED HIS OR HER SETTLEMENT WITH THE DEBTOR.

 

Settlement Class Representatives understand and acknowledge, and all Settlement Class Members shall be deemed to understand and acknowledge, the significance of the waiver of California Civil Code Section 1542 and any other applicable law relating to limitations on releases.  In connection with such waiver and relinquishment, Settlement Class Representatives and Settlement Class Members acknowledge that they are aware that they may hereafter discover facts in addition to, or different from, those facts which they now know or believe to be true with respect to the subject matter of the settlement, but that it is their intention to release fully, finally and forever all Released Claims, and in furtherance of such intention, the release of the Released Claims will be and remain in effect notwithstanding the discovery or existence of any such additional or different facts.

Releases Given by Defendants

Defendants hereby release and discharge, on behalf of themselves and their past, present and future administrators, representatives, agents, attorneys, partners, successors, predecessors in interest and assigns, the Settlement Class Representatives and Settlement Class Members from any and all rights, duties, obligations, claims, actions, causes of action or liabilities, whether arising under local, state or federal law, whether by Constitution, statute contract, common law or equity, whether known or unknown, suspected or unsuspected, asserted or unasserted, foreseen or unforeseen, actual or contingent, liquidated or unliquidated, as of the Effective Date, that arise out of the non-payment by Settlement Class Members of any and all fees for the Diversion Programs.

Excluding Yourself from the Settlement

How do I get out of this Settlement?

Answer:

To exclude yourself from the Settlement, you must send a letter by U.S. mail to Smith Settlement Administrator, P.O. Box 2748, Faribault, MN, 55021-9748, postmarked no later than December 10, 2013, saying that you want to be excluded from Smith v. National Corrective Group, Inc. (Case No. 3:10-CV-0010 JSW).  To be valid, your exclusion request must: include your full name and current mailing address, state “I/we request to be excluded from the settlement in Smith v. National Corrective Group, Inc.” and include your signature.

Requests for exclusion from the Settlement Class that are not postmarked on or before December 10, 2013 will not be honored.  You cannot exclude yourself from the Settlement Class by telephone or e-mail or by mailing a request to any other location.  You cannot exclude yourself by having an actual or purported agent or attorney acting on behalf of you or a group of Settlement Class members sign the letter.  You must personally sign the letter to be excluded from the class.

If I don’t exclude myself, can I sue any or all of the Defendants later?

Answer:

No, not for the same or similar legal claims or conduct that occurs before this Settlement is finally approved and becomes effective.

If I exclude myself, can I get money from this Settlement?

Answer:

No.  If you exclude yourself from the Class, you won’t get any money or benefits from this Settlement.  If you exclude yourself, you should not submit a Claim Form to ask for money from the class action Settlement.  You cannot do both.

The Lawyers Representing You

Do I have a lawyer in this case?

Answer:

The Court has decided that the following attorneys are qualified to represent you and all Class Members.  Together these law firms are called “Class Counsel.”

Michael D. Donovan, Esq.
Noah I. Axler, Esq.
Donovan Searles & Axler
1845 Walnut Street, Suite 1100 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103 www.donovanaxler.com
215-732-6067

Donald Driscoll, Esq.
Community Justice Project
Suite 800,
429 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
www.communityjusticeproject.org
866-482-3076

James C. Sturdevant, Esq.
The Sturdevant Law Firm, APC
354 Pine Street, Fourth Floor
San Francisco, California 94104 www.sturdevantlaw.com
415-477-2410

Jonathan A. Lang, Esq.
Slocum & Lang, P.C.
10 Fox Run Road
Drums, Pennsylvania 18222

Should I get my own lawyer?

Answer:

You do not need to hire your own lawyer because Class Counsel is working on your behalf.  If you want your own lawyer, you may hire one at your own cost.

 

How will the lawyers be paid, and will there be service awards?

Answer:

Class Counsel have not received any fees or reimbursement for any of the expenses associated with this case and will ask the Court for an award of attorneys’ fees and expenses that does not exceed $700,000, which is approximately 21.5% of the Settlement Amount.  In addition, Class Counsel will ask that the Court award each of the Settlement Class Representatives a $1,000 service award in recognition of their efforts on behalf of the Class.  Any fees, expenses or service awards that Class Counsel request must be approved by the Court and will be subtracted from the Settlement Amount before Settlement Payments are distributed to claiming Class members.

Objecting to the Settlement

How do I tell the Court that I do not like the Settlement?

Answer:

If you are a Class Member (you are not excluding yourself from the Class), you can tell the Court that you object to the Settlement if you do not like any part of it.  The Court will consider all comments from Class Members.

To object, you must write a letter saying that you are objecting to the Settlement in Smith v. National Corrective Group, Inc. (Case No. 3:10-CV-0010 JSW), along with any supporting written or documentary materials, and mail it to the two places set forth below such that it is postmarked no later than December 10, 2013.

No. 1 Court

No. 2 Defense Counsel

Clerk of the Court
United States District Court for the Northern District of California
450 Golden Gate Avenue San Francisco, CA 94102

Freedman & Taitelman LLP
c/o Michael A. Taitelman
1901 Avenue of the Stars, Suite 500, Los Angeles, California 90067

If you do not submit a written objection to the proposed Settlement or the application of Class Counsel for Service Awards, attorneys’ fees and expenses in accordance with the deadline and procedure set forth above, you will waive your right to be heard at the fairness hearing and to appeal from any order or judgment of the Court concerning the matter.

What is the difference between objecting and excluding?

Answer:

Objecting is simply telling the Court that you do not like something about the Settlement.  You can object only if you stay in the Class.  Excluding yourself is telling the Court that you do not want to be part of the Class.  If you exclude yourself, you have no basis to object because the case no longer affects you.

 

Fairness Hearing

When and where will the Court decide to approve the Settlement?

Answer:

The Court will hold a fairness hearing at 9:00 a.m. on January 31, 2014 in Courtroom 11, United States District Court for the Northern District of California, 450 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco, CA, 94102.  At this hearing, the Court will consider whether the Settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate. If there are objections, the Court will consider them.  The Court may listen to people who have asked to speak at the hearing.  The Court may also decide how much to pay Class Counsel or whether to approve service awards.  After the hearing, the Court will decide whether to approve the Settlement.  We do not know how long it will take for the Court to make its decision.

Do I have to come to the hearing?

Answer:

No.  Class Counsel will answer questions the Court may have, but you are welcome to come at your own expense.  If you send an objection, you do not have to come to Court to talk about it.  As long as you sent your written objection on time, the Court will consider it.  You may also pay your own lawyer to attend, but it is not necessary.

May I speak at the hearing?

Answer:

If you do not exclude yourself, you may ask the Court’s permission to speak at the hearing concerning the proposed Settlement or the application of Class Counsel for service awards, attorneys’ fees and expenses.  To do so, you must send a letter saying that you intend to appear at the fairness hearing.  The letter must state the position you intend to present at the hearing, state the identities of all attorneys who will represent you (if any) and include your full name, your current address and your telephone number.  You must send your notice to the Clerk of the Court, Class Counsel, and defense counsel at the three addresses listed under the frequently asked question,  "How do I tell the Court that I do not like the Settlement?", postmarked no later than December 10, 2013.  You may combine this notice and your comment (described in the frequently asked question: "How do I tell the Court that I do not like the Settlement?") in a single letter.  You cannot speak at the hearing if you excluded yourself or if you failed to timely submit a written objection (refer to the frequestly asked question: "How do I tell the Court that I do not like the Settlement?").

If You Do Nothing

What happens if I do nothing at all?

Answer:

If you do nothing, you will remain a member of the Settlement Class and will receive a release from certain claims (refer to the frequently asked questions: "What else do I receive by not excluding myself from the Settlement Class?" and "What am I giving up to get a payment and stay in the Class?").  If you received Mailed Notice or E-mail Notice (refer to the frequently asked question: "Am I part of this Class?") and do nothing, you receive a Settlement Payment in the mail.  However, if you do not receive Mailed Notice or E-Mail Notice and do nothing, you will get no money from this Settlement.  Unless you exclude yourself, you won’t be able to start a lawsuit, continue with a lawsuit or be part of any other lawsuit against the Defendants about the claims in this case.

Additional Information

Are there more details available?

Answer:

Yes.  This website (www.smithsettlement.com) has extra Claim Forms, information on the litigation and Settlement and documents such as the Class Action Complaints filed by the Plaintiffs.  Updates regarding the case will be available on this website.

You may also call Class Counsel or write them using the contact information in the frequently asked question: "Do I have a lawyer in this case?". 

Disclaimer

Please do not contact the Court or the Defendants about the settlement. Any and all callers will be directed to this website. If you have questions, please refer to the Commonly Asked Questions and the other information posted here.

This settlement is supervised by the Court and is administered by a claims administration firm that handles all aspects of claims processing. Defendants are not authorized to respond to questions from the Class regarding this settlement.

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