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Norton & Associates, New Debt Settlement Law Firm, Pitched as a Legal Alternative to the Advance Fee Ban

An interesting email went out yesterday introducing yet another entrant into the arena, a law firm, to sell debt relief services for/with. The subject line of the email read “A Legal Alternative to the Advance Fee Ban.”

When I inquired with the law firm representative for clarification and additional information for this story I was advised to “cease and desist” and to “tread lightly”, so instead of publishing the email, I’ll paraphrase it.

A law firm called Norton & Associates was introduced to recipients of the email as a firm they could align themselves with to take advantage of the perceived “attorney exemption” under the new FTC TSR and avoid the advance fee ban.

It was communicated that an advantage of hooking up with Norton & Associates is that payments for fees can be taken from the very beginning of enrollment in the plan and not as the FTC says in the new advance fee ban.

An interesting twist was the suggestion that some representatives or affiliates may be able to be hired to service the clients they enrolled. I suppose for additional compensation. I’d like to provide more information about that but the representative for Norton & Associates, let’s just say, isn’t all that cooperative about answering any more questions. He did not answer my last question if they had representatives in all 50 states.

So in the absence of cooperation I was left with searching on my own to learn more about this new company, Norton & Associates.

First stop, the website. I was surprised the website did not list the physical business address the law firm Norton & Associates was located in. That’s always a red flag for me when a debt relief company, especially a law firm, isn’t forthcoming where they are located.

Norton & Associates, New Debt Settlement Law Firm, Pitched as a Legal Alternative to the Advance Fee Ban

However, through the contact email [email protected] on the site, I was able to locate the owner of that domain as:

Scott Norton
3400 Avenue of the Arts
C 208
Costa Mesa, California 92626

And now I had a clue in which state to search so I then went to the Star Bar of California website and searched for Norton. And there he was. That is the same address that is listed by the State Bar of California for Scott Norton. The address is actually an apartment complex, 3400 Avenue of the Arts Apartments. Nothing wrong with that but the only reason I mention it is because it appears the law firm operates out of Scott’s apartment. On an up note, they do look really nice.

The State Bar of California shows Scott Edward Norton was admitted to practice law eight months ago in California on December 1, 2009. Welcome and congratulations.

Norton & Associates, New Debt Settlement Law Firm, Pitched as a Legal Alternative to the Advance Fee Ban

Next, as a typical routine check I went to make sure the company was registered to do business. You’d be surprised how many debt relief companies I check on are not.

The company says it is Norton & Associates but California had no company registered under the name Norton & Associates, LLC and and the company listed as Norton & Associates, Inc. is a company that was registered in 2002 and did not seem like the right company. – Source

I emailed the person identified in the email as an attorney and company point of contact and he finally did help to clarify the correct name of the company registered to do business in California is “Law Office of Scott Norton, A Professional Corporation” and according to state records it was registered four months ago on April 5, 2010. – Source. I am still curious why the Norton & Associates law firm website does not identify the actual registered company name and their business address on their website. I was also unable to find their legal name in the privacy policy as well. – Source

Since the representative was not very helpful I was left with having to search for more information about Norton & Associates on my own. I did discover that Scott Norton is a professional bowler and according to his Professional Bowlers Associations profile he is 28 years old.

Norton & Associates, New Debt Settlement Law Firm, Pitched as a Legal Alternative to the Advance Fee Ban

While on the Norton & Associates site I took a quick look around and this little section caught my eye.

Bankruptcy laws have recently changed and unfortunately, Chapter 7 bankruptcy (where most, if not all of your debts are completely discharged) is much more difficult to qualify for today. Norton and Associates bankruptcy expertise allows our advisors to provide expert advice to its clients so the client can determine whether bankruptcy is their best alternative. In our experience, Bankruptcy should be a last resort. – Source

What I found odd about the statement was that it looked similar to a description of bankruptcy I had a recollection of having read before.

And sure enough, DebtSettleOne.com has something very similar on their site. Here is what they say:

Bankruptcy laws have recently changed and unfortunately, Chapter 7 bankruptcy is much more difficult to qualify for today. Our Attorneys have bankruptcy expertise which allows our advisors to provide expert advice to its clients so the client can determine whether bankruptcy is their best alternative. Our particular expertise is in bankruptcy laws, judgment and wage garnishments. – Source

And another site for Bay View Law Group, also in Costa Mesa, California used to have this on their site as well.

Bankruptcy laws have recently changed and unfortunately, Chapter 7 bankruptcy is much more difficult to qualify for today. Bay View Law Group’s bankruptcy expertise allows our advisors to provide expert advice to its clients so the client can determine whether bankruptcy is their best alternative. We have particular expertise in bankruptcy laws, judgment and wage garnishments. – Source

Interesting.

But focusing on that statement made on the Norton & Associates site I had some observations.

Bankruptcy laws changed in 2005, not recently. But I guess it depends on what your definition of recently is. The statement that Chapter 7 bankruptcy is much more difficult to qualify for today seems unsupported by the percentage of cases filed. About 70%+ of all bankruptcy cases filed are Chapter 7 bankruptcy and the rest are Chapter 13 bankruptcy, when it comes to consumers. So if it is said that Chapter 7 is much more difficult to qualify for it seems that it is just as relevant to say that the overwhelming majority of bankruptcy cases filed and approved are Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases.

On that same page they did do a good job of describing credit counseling and were more forthcoming than other sites by saying about debt settlement, “In the short term it will lower your credit score. Creditors will continue to try to contact you and will often attempt to intimidate you to pay your bills in full. Our firm will do our best to discourage them but it is likely you will continue receive calls.” In my opinion they could have included the possibility that consumers in debt settlement are sometimes sued by their creditors.

Just out of curiosity I wanted to see if the Norton site had anything else on that page that was on other sites as well. So I looked at this section from the same page on the Norton site.

Norton and Associates has extensive experience and expertise negotiating settlements for clients in distress. Our firm specializes in handling cases where bankruptcy is not an option, the client sees no way out and wants to do their best to satisfy their creditors while lowering their debt burden and restoring their financial stability. Our firm brings to each case its experience in debt settlement always taking into consideration the needs of the client as well as having an great understanding of the credit card/banking industry.

Here is what I found.

From Decca Law Group at deccalaw.com.

Our debt settlement specialists have extensive experience and expertise in debt negotiation for clients in financial distress. Our firm specializes in handling cases where bankruptcy is not an option and the client sees no way out or simply wants debt relief in order to restore financial stability. The firm brings to each case its collective knowledge and experience in debt settlement, always taking into consideration the needs of the client as well as an understanding of the credit industry and how the creditors’ bottom line determines the likelihood of a satisfactory debt negotiation agreement. – Source

From the LinkedIn profile of Rikki Torres’s.

Bay View Law Group is a law firm practicing in California with affiliate attorneys throughout the United States that has extensive experience and expertise negotiating settlements for clients in distress. Our firm specializes in handling cases where bankruptcy is not an option and the client sees no way out or simply wants to lower their debt burden and restore their financial stability. – Source

From Arizona Debt Settlement Solutions and Massachusetts Debt Settlement.

Our debt settlement specialists have extensive experience and expertise in debt negotiation for clients in financial distress. Our firm specializes in handling cases where bankruptcy is not an option and the client sees no way out or simply wants debt relief in order to restore financial stability. The firm brings to each case its collective knowledge and experience in debt settlement, always taking into consideration the needs of the client as well as an understanding of the credit industry and how the creditors’ bottom line determines the likelihood of a satisfactory debt negotiation agreement. – Source

There are a bunch of other sites as well. I wonder which is the chicken and which is the egg?

Norton & Associates, New Debt Settlement Law Firm, Pitched as a Legal Alternative to the Advance Fee Ban
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About Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode
Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
  • Gary

    I’m not sure that a Chapter 7 discharge is really any more difficult to obtain now than in 2005, at least in our district, which already was using a totality of the circumstances review of Chapter 7 cases prior to the 10/17/05 amendments. Most of the Chapter 13 cases I file are not because of means test problems but rather other issues that make Chapter 13 a more attractive option than Chapter 7, such as smaller percentage of unsecured debt, mortgage arrears/foreclosure, tax debt, or vehicles which are eligible for the “cram down.”

  • Gary

    I’m not sure that a Chapter 7 discharge is really any more difficult to obtain now than in 2005, at least in our district, which already was using a totality of the circumstances review of Chapter 7 cases prior to the 10/17/05 amendments. Most of the Chapter 13 cases I file are not because of means test problems but rather other issues that make Chapter 13 a more attractive option than Chapter 7, such as smaller percentage of unsecured debt, mortgage arrears/foreclosure, tax debt, or vehicles which are eligible for the “cram down.”

  • http://active-debt.com Sean Ryan

    apparently they do business in WI, WV and Del…. The three non-compliant states… That poor kid is going to be scratching his head when he loses his lic… I wonder who his partners are.

  • http://active-debt.com Sean Ryan

    Pretty much what’s going on…. You wrote “perceived attorney exemption”. My perception is that not only aren’t the attorneys exempt in a settlement company such as that one but the sales rules apply directly to the telemarketing sales affiliate companies as well.
    OK- So the attorneys risk losing their licenses, possibly paying high fines and being shut down. What penalties, if any do the affiliates risk?

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