I received the following statement from a tipster regarding Arete Financial Group that was recently taken over by the court.
“I used to be an employee at Arete Financial. I worked for the debt settlement team… Initially they had the team at their Huntington Beach office then moved all of us to the location on Dyer once it was done being built for them. I left the company because the owners seemed like swindlers.
In their debt settlement operation they made us sell The Veritas Legal plan to the client. The client was forced to pay anywhere between $400-$800 BEFORE any funds were sent to the client’s trust account. They openly told us it cost far less to enroll a client in The Veritas Legal plan and that they were (illegally) collecting up-front fees on their debt settlement clients.
For that alone I decided to quit. You can’t charge up-front fees to clients in debt settlement. Now that all of this information is coming out, I’m not surprised. The owners didn’t care about making a long-lasting company. They only wanted the illusion of money & power but didn’t care how they got there.
Thanks for reporting on this. The internet is rather quiet on this situation and their “thousands” of clients have no idea that the company they entrusted to help them out will no longer be doing that.”
I felt the issue here might not be related to advance fees for debt settlement since Veritas Legal was a non-related product. If the consumer was purchasing Veritas Legal Plan as an option to the debt settlement services being sold then the initial fee might just be just fine.
However, where this could get problematic is if the consumer felt the service was bundled and a mandatory part of the debt relief service sold by Arete Financial Group which has been in the news recently after being sued and shuttered.
I reached out to Angelo Anzalone, the President of Veritas Legal Plan and gave him a chance to respond to the concerns. He is one of the good guys that actually responds when asked for a comment. Here is what he had to say:
We have no contact with creditors, we do not negotiate or alter consumers’ debt in any way.
As a prepaid legal plan, we are considered an add-on product, one that provides legal protection that tremendously benefits consumers so I can see why employees were encouraged to offer Veritas to all their members.
Affiliate companies offering Veritas all understand that Veritas is offered as an optional product and not forced or bundled into the debt settlement companies’ services and the agreement consumers sign also clearly states that Veritas is an optional product.”
So if anyone else had a similar concern I believe Angelo explained what I had suspected, that Veritas Legal Plan is supposed to be an add-on product.
But I think Angelo also raises a concern that any company selling the additional plan by giving the consumer the impression it is mandatory or required, is problematic. If you know of any debt relief company that is selling the Veritas Legal Plan as a required part of a debt relief service, please contact VeritasLegalPlan.com and let them know.