In January, 2010 I wrote and published Investigative Report: Dave Burke and Real Talk Network (Real Talk Network, Inc.). Is It a Scam? where I had some real reservations about a debt relief operation operating out of Colorado.
My initial concerns came after a reader sent in a question that he went to a get out of debt seminar and wound up in collections. I didn’t think that was possible at first, but it was.
My initial article led to a cease & desist letter from Burke’s attorney and threats that I must remove the factual information I had published about his operation that I felt was taking advantage of consumers. I didn’t back down.
Along the way I played a behind the scenes part in helping some reporters put together some additional investigative reports and a couple of investigative television reports also appeared about his operation.
Just in the past few days I had also reported how Burke was making his move and opening a new operation called the Institute of Consumer Economic Education.
But as of today, the entire operation has been shut down by a temporary restraining order.
Attorney General of Colorado Goes After Burke
Here is the release from the AG in Colorado:
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers announced today that his office has filed a lawsuit against a Westminster-based company, Real Talk Network, and its corporate officers, David Allen Burke (DOB: 9/6/1967) and Erik Sale (DOB: 11/26/1973), on suspicion that they engaged in false and deceptive trade practices and violated Colorado’s consumer credit laws.
“The down economy has left many consumers looking for a way to get out of debt,” Suthers said. “The defendants in this case are suspected of using deceptive sales pitches to bilk consumers out of thousands of dollars for services they ultimately never received. At its core, this scam preyed on consumers’ desires for a silver bullet to get out of debt.”
According to the complaint, Real Talk Network ran infomercials on talk radio stations in Colorado and California, including on Denver stations 630 AM KHOW and 94.7 FM KRKS. The infomercials ran in Adams, Arapahoe, Clear Creek, Elbert, Denver, Jefferson, Larimer, Lincoln, Park, Summit and Weld counties in Colorado. During the infomercials, Real Talk Network and its officers are suspected of telling consumers that they can get out of debt in short period of time, pay off their mortgages in less than 10 years and “explode” their credit scores by following the company’s program. Real Talk Network also is suspected of advertising a 100 percent success rate for participants. According to the complaint, consumers are advised to attend a “free” three-hour seminar to learn more about the company’s program.
Real Talk Network and its officers are suspected of telling consumers at the seminars that they will be able to work with the company to:
- Develop an individualize debt-reduction plan through one-on-one coaching with a trained financial adviser;
- Remove negative information from their credit reports and “explode” their credit scores; and,
- Obtain no-interest credit and low-interest loans though the special relationships Real Talk Network has with banks.
At the end of the “free” seminar, according to the lawsuit, Real Talk Network representatives pressured consumers to sign up for their services and to pay from $1,497 to $3,497. According to the complaint, consumers who pay the fee or sign up for a monthly payment plan report receiving little to no assistance from financial advisers who have no financial training or experience. Real Talk Network’s purported “special relationships” with various banks did not exist.
Burke also is suspected of misrepresenting his credentials and not disclosing information about his financial history that might have changed consumers minds about the seminars. For example, Burke misled consumers to believe he was a graduate of the University of Southern California and did not disclose that he had filed for bankruptcy in 2000 and 2007.
Consumers who quit the program or declined to pay once they became aware of the lack of services Real Talk Network provided had their accounts handed off to a collection agency.
“Although we and our partners warn that Colorado consumers should always beware deals that sound too good to be true, companies should not prey on consumers’ desperation or fears after going into debt or falling behind on their bills,” Suthers said. “This case underlines my office’s commitment to ensuring that businesses operate on a level playing field and do not victimize consumers.”
Consumers who believe they have been defrauded by a business can file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General via www.coloradoattorneygeneral.gov/complaint, 1-800-222-4444 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Colorado Obtains a Temporary Restraining Order and Shuts Down Operations and Freezes All Funds
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff requests that this Court enter a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction that:
A. Enjoins Defendants and their officers, directors, agents, servants, employees, independent contractors and any other persons in active concert or participation with Defendants who receive actual notice of the Court’s order including, but not limited to, Melodie Rose Burke, Freedom Financial Partners, LLC and Reality Financial, LLC, from:
- Soliciting or accepting payment for services of any kind in connection with REAL TALK NETWORK, INC., d/b/a REAL TALK NETWORK and GET REAL WITH DAVE, REAL TALK, LLC, REAL TALK RADIO SHOW NETWORK, LLC, and INSTITUTE OF CONSUMER ECONOMIC EDUCATION, LLC (collectively, “RTN”), or any other company or person relating to debt elimination, debt management, debt settlement, debt counseling, wealth-building or credit repair services or products offered or provided to consumers;
- Advertising, selling, marketing, displaying, offering or performing debt elimination, debt management, debt settlement, debt counseling, wealth-building or credit repair services or products offered or provided to consumers;
- Publishing, broadcasting, distributing or disseminating any information, including written, oral, or video, relating to debt elimination, debt management, debt settlement, debt counseling, wealth-building or credit repair services or products offered or provided to consumers;
- Performing, supervising, or otherwise participating in debt elimination, debt management, debt settlement, debt counseling, wealth-building or credit repair services or products offered or provided to consumers; and
- Referring any consumer who has signed a contract for the RTN program to a collections agency.
B. Requires Defendants and their officers, directors, agents, servants, employees, independent contractors and any other persons in active concert or participation with Defendants who receive actual notice of the Court’s order including, but not limited to, Melodie Rose Burke, Freedom Financial Partners, LLC and Reality Financial, LLC, to:
- Deactivate within forty-eight(48)hoursoftheOrderallInternetsites,domain names, URL addresses, registrations, and any other forms or materials that advertise, market or solicit any business relating to debt elimination, debt management, debt settlement, debt counseling, wealth-building or credit repair services including, but not limited to, www.gortn.com and www.iceellc.com ;
Within five calendar days of the entry of the Order, withdraw from collections any and all consumer accounts that Defendants had previously referred to a collections agency;
Notify all current clients of the Order in writing by e-mail sent no later than July 9, 2010, and United States mail, first-class postage prepaid, postmarked no later than July 9, 2010, attaching and enclosing the Order and a letter from the Colorado Attorney General’s Office to notify each client that RTN has ceased operations; and
- Provide a status report and certification to the Court by July 12, 2010 that Defendants have complied with the foregoing (1) through (4).
C. In view of Defendants’ fraudulent and deceptive practices perpetrated in and outside Colorado, it is necessary and appropriate for the Court to freeze any bank accounts of Defendants into which consumer funds have been deposited or transferred. Thus, it is necessary and appropriate that Defendants and their officers, managers, supervisors, directors, independent contractors and any other persons in active concert or participation with Defendants who receive actual notice of the Court’s order including, but not limited to, Melodie Rose Burke, Freedom Financial Partners, LLC and Reality Financial, LLC, are enjoined from:
- Withdrawing, transferring or otherwise encumbering any funds from any account, including but not limited to those accounts in Defendants’ names, at any financial institution into which Defendants or their officers, managers, supervisors, directors, independent contractors or any other persons in active concert or participation with Defendants including, but not limited to, Melodie Rose Burke, Freedom Financial Partners, LLC and Reality Financial, LLC, deposited or transferred money received from consumers as a result of Defendants’ deceptive business practices;
- Negotiating any checks, money orders, wire transfers, drafts, or other negotiable instruments received by Defendants or their officers, directors, agents, servants, employees, independent contractors or any other persons in active concert or participation with Defendants including, but not limited to, Melodie Rose Burke, Freedom Financial Partners, LLC and Reality Financial, LLC, as a result of Defendants’ business practices;
- Depositing or processing any credit card and debit card receipts obtained by Defendants or their officers, directors, agents, servants, employees, independent contractors or any other persons in active concert or participation with Defendants including, but not limited to, Melodie Rose Burke, Freedom Financial Partners, LLC and Reality Financial, LLC, as a result of Defendants’ business practices, and using any financial transaction device, such as a debit or credit card number, obtained from any consumer; and
- Spending, transferring, giving away, or in any way disposing of any monies received by Defendants or their officers, managers, supervisors, directors, independent contractors or any other persons in active concert or participation with Defendants including, but not limited to, Melodie Rose Burke, Freedom Financial Partners, LLC and Reality Financial, LLC, as a result of Defendants’ business practices.
D. banking institutions associated with Defendants: Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, and BBVA Compass Bank.
E. Any further Order as this Court deems necessary and appropriate to further the purposes of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act, the Uniform Commercial Credit Code, the Colorado Credit Services Organization Act, and the Federal Credit Repair Organizations Act.
You can read the full court approved temporary restraining order here.
Additional Documentation on Real Talk Network Law Suit
The parties sued were:
- REAL TALK NETWORK, INC. d/b/a REAL TALK NETWORK and GET REAL WITH DAVE, a Colorado corporation,
- REAL TALK, LLC, a Colorado limited liability company,
- REAL TALK RADIO SHOW NETWORK, LLC, a Colorado limited liability company,
- INSTITUTE OF CONSUMER ECONOMIC EDUCATION, LLC, a Colorado limited liability company,
- DAVID ALLEN BURKE, individually,
- ERIK SALE, individually.
The suit makes the following allegations.
- RTN has been in operation since approximately March 2008. Through RTN, Defendants sell a program for consumers to improve their credit scores and eliminate their debt. According to RTN’s current website (www.gortn.com):
The Get Real with Dave [RTN] network of professionals are dedicated to changing the social economics of our country. We are a coaching network that provides critical financial education to families across the country.
What we do:
Our primary mission is to help families get out of debt rapidly, using advanced financial techniques. We provide ongoing coaching support to ensure our techniques are understood and provide a lifetime of empowerment.
- Defendants market RTN’s program through its website at www.gortn.com, through radio programs, and through free sales presentations held throughout the Denver metropolitan area and in California.
- In March 2010, RTN’s website contained the following representations regarding its program:
Real Talk Presents: The New Banking and Credit Event
0% INTEREST ON CREDIT CARDS AND MORTGAGES? IS IT POSSIBLE? Join us for a discussion and training on eliminating the interest in your life. Are you tired of losing money? If you are paying any interest on credit cards or your mortgage, you are losing. Come learn how to win in today’s opportunistic market.
EXPLODE YOUR CREDIT SCORE AND GET CASH:
Learn the secrets to your credit score from the creator of the FICO scoring model. Put $1,000-$3,000 in your bank account in 45 days using the strategies you will learn in this webinar. Boost you score instantly and much much more.
PAY OFF YOUR HOUSE NOW:
Learn to accelerate the payoff of your home. No gimmicks, no games, just simple math and accountability that will have you own your home free and clear in under 10 years. If you don’t own one now, how would you like to buy and own a home with no mortgage in six years.
ELIMINATE YOUR CONSUMER DEBT AND RETIRE SAFELY:
Learn and practice advance financial methodologies to wipe out all of your consumer debt and increase your monthly cash flow. Learn how to get up to a 40% raise in your household income.
Wipe out your debt NOW!
Credit Cards Mortgages Auto Loans Medical Loans
- RTN’s current website explains how the RTN program is conducted as follows:
Our Coaching Workshops include one-on-one coaching, lectures about cash flow management techniques, and a personalized action plan that we help you create. We teach you how to maximize every dollar to maintain the lowest possible balances, which reduces your effective interest costs and gets you paying PRINCIPAL down instead of interest, and the secrets to your FICO score. Our program walks you through eliminating debt, so you can begin building wealth.
- RTN’s primary vehicle for attracting consumers is through radio programs. These programs are at least a half-hour long and feature Defendant David Burke.
- On the radio programs, Defendant David Burke is described as a nationally-syndicated talk show host and financial expert.
- In fact, RTN pays for the airtime on the radio, and the “talk show” hosted by Defendant David Burke is nothing more than an infomercial. Defendant Burke is not a nationally-syndicated talk-show host.
- There is a brief disclosure at the beginning of each RTN broadcast stating that the show is a paid announcement, but the disclosure is not made at any other time during or after the program, such that a listener who tunes in after the start of the program does not know that the program is a paid announcement. Moreover, commercials are played during the RTN program, furthering the misrepresentation that the consumer is listening to a radio talk show rather than a paid announcement.
- Defendants David Burke and Erik Sale have made the following representations on the RTN radio infomercials:
a. The RTN program can eliminate consumers’ debt in 7 days to 7 years;
b. The RTN program works for nearly 100% of all program participants;
c. RTN’s special banking relationships allow RTN members to obtain zero percent interest credit cards; and
d. The RTN program works for everyone regardless of income, and that 90-100% of the people who participate in the RTN program will have 25 years of their mortgage cancelled.
- Defendants David Burke and Erik Sale also have falsely implied that RTN is aligned with the government in providing their services. Specifically, Defendants Burke and Sale represented in RTN radio programs that they had an “urgent” message for residents of Adams, Arapahoe, Clear Creek, Elbert, Denver, Jefferson, Larimer, Lincoln, Park, Summit and Weld counties, and that they were “servicing” a special program for residents of these counties. Defendants David Burke and Erik Sale additionally state that the program is for consumers who are $40,000 or more in debt, and is available only for a limited time.
- Defendants also have claimed in these broadcasts that households who participate in this special program will have 78 to 90 percent of the interest on their mortgage cancelled, and will receive up to $24,000 to pay off other consumer debt.
- Most recently, Defendants have stated in these broadcasts that Defendant Institute of Consumer Economic Education, LLC, or “ICE” is facilitating the County Household Economic Program, or “C-HEP” for eligible county residents. In these recent broadcasts, Defendants have represented that they are holding five free seminars in Colorado this month only, that seating is limited, and that participants will be educated on how to obtain up to $48,000 to cancel consumer debt and how to cancel 78 to 90 percent of the interest on their mortgages.
- RTN currently broadcasts on the following Colorado radio stations at least once a week: 1600 AM KEPN; 94.7 FM KRKS; 710 AM KNUS; 630 AM KHOW; 100 FM KIMN; 105 FM KXKL; 92.5 FM KWOF; and 990 AM KRKS. The broadcasts may last from a half hour to an hour.
- RTN currently broadcasts up to 27 radio infomercials a week in Colorado and California.
- During these broadcasts, Defendant David Burke attempts to have consumers call in and register for an RTN “seminar.” The RTN free seminar is a two and a half to three hour sales presentation. These sales presentations are typically made by Defendant David Burke or Defendant Erik Sale.
- Defendants employ high-pressure sales tactics at these presentations to encourage consumers to immediately sign a contract for RTN’s services. There is no break during the entire presentation, and at the end of the seminar, Defendants make it difficult to leave without signing a contract with RTN. At times, Defendants have physically barricaded the room exits to prevent consumers from leaving without first speaking to an RTN representative.
- Moreover, Defendants make false representations about Defendant David Burke’s background in an attempt to bolster the credibility of the RTN program. Defendant David Burke is falsely represented at RTN sales presentations as a top financial expert in the world. Defendant Burke also falsely states at these presentations that he graduated from the University of Southern California, that he has a large ranch in Montana, that he recently came out of ten years of retirement to “help save American families in this time of crisis,” and that he has coached the House of Representatives and “a bunch of media figures.”
- In reality, Defendant David Burke has filed for bankruptcy twice within the past thirteen years, and his last bankruptcy was terminated on October 25, 2007, only six months before incorporating Defendant Real Talk Radio Show Network, LLC. That bankruptcy, which was filed on February 2, 2000, involved a list of creditors to whom Defendant David Burke owed over $360,000.
- Defendants have charged consumers from $1,497 to $3,497 for the RTN program. Defendants currently charge consumers $3,497 to join RTN. Unless a consumer can show that he or she does not have the ability to pay the entire $3,497 up front, payment of $3,497 is due upon the consumer’s execution of the RTN contract, before RTN has performed any services for the consumer.
- Defendants represent to consumers that RTN will work with consumers who cannot afford to pay the entire $3,497 up front. RTN offers to put consumers on a payment plan, but charges them an additional $100 “processing fee” and requires them to pay in monthly installments.
- Defendants have not notified and paid fees to the UCCC Administrator prior to collecting these processing fees.
- Defendants employ numerous misrepresentations to get consumers, most of whom are already deeply in debt, to spend $3,497 and become RTN members. Defendants misrepresent the overall results that can be achieved through the RTN program, RTN’s abilities to improve consumers’ credit scores, RTN’s special relationships with banks, RTN’s abilities to obtain low or no interest lines of credit for its members, and the types of services that RTN offers. Additionally, the RTN contract is misleading and unlawful, and Defendants make misrepresentations to consumers regarding payment plans and refund policies to induce consumers to sign the RTN contract.
Defendants Misrepresent the Overall Results That Consumers Can Achieve Through Joining RTN
- Defendants misrepresent that all consumers can use the RTN program to pay off their debt entirely in a short period of time, and that many consumers can be debt-free in a matter of weeks or months.
- On RTN’s radio infomercials, Defendants David Burke and Erik Sale have represented that consumers can pay off their debt in seven months to seven years using the RTN program.
- Similarly, at an RTN sales presentation on March 29, 2010, Defendant David Burke stated that “68 percent of you, we’re going to pay off all your credit cards, all your loans and everything in the next four to six weeks, and there’s going to be no interest, no payments.”
- At the same sales presentation, Defendant Burke told the audience that they were all 40 to 84 months away from owning their homes free and clear.
- RTN’s website in March 2010 stated that RTN could help consumers own their homes in ten years, or that consumers buying a home could pay off their mortgages in six years.
- Defendants additionally represent that RTN can accomplish these results for every consumer regardless of income or debt level. For example, Defendant David Burke stated at a March 29, 2010 seminar that, “Our methodologies, math, access, tools, all that stuff is not dependent upon income, believe it or not, it doesn’t matter what your income is – it simply works for everybody, regardless of your income – your income means nothing.”
- Similarly, at a March 7, 2010 seminar, Defendant David Burke stated that with the RTN program everyone in the room would get $1,000 to $4,000 “free money” to open a new bank account in 14-30 days.
- Defendants further claim that their program does not require consumers to change their lifestyle, and that the RTN program will allow all consumers to increase their cash flow and pay off debt simply by minimizing or eliminating the interest paid on their debt. According to Defendants, all consumers can then use the money saved in interest to pay off a larger portion of their debt.
- Contrary to Defendants’ claims, the RTN program does not work for everyone.
- Defendants represent that the RTN program uses “advanced financial techniques” to create personalized action plans for all consumers to get them out of debt. However, the RTN program consists of nothing more than common-sense strategies that only work to eliminate debt for a small subset of consumers.
- The RTN program largely depends upon minimizing or eliminating interest payments. Defendants instruct consumers to minimize their interest by paying credit cards on the closing date rather than the due date, by obtaining low or zero interest lines of credit and using that to “park” paychecks and to pay living expenses, and by paying additional principal on their mortgages.
- These strategies do not work for everyone. First, paying credit cards on the closing date rather than the due date ostensibly pays off more principal prior to interest being assessed, causing the consumer to incur less interest. This only works to “eliminate” interest if the entire balance is paid off on the credit card. Most of the consumers that come to RTN have extensive credit card debt that they cannot pay off in full. Accordingly, this strategy does not eliminate interest for most consumers.
- Second, Defendants advise consumers to obtain low interest or zero interest lines of credit. Many of the debt-ridden consumers attracted to RTN have poor credit scores that do not allow them to qualify for low interest lines of credit, and RTN membership does not improve those consumers’ chances of obtaining low interest credit, contrary to Defendants’ assertions. Very few banks will extend low interest lines of credit in today’s economic climate, and bank regulators would not allow a bank to extend a personal line of credit for zero percent interest.
- Finally, Defendants’ representations regarding consumers’ ability to accelerate their mortgages can only apply to consumers that have significant excess income to put toward their principal. Many of the consumers who signed up for RTN’s services are in debt because their income has declined and they cannot make additional mortgage payments. Moreover, the RTN program rarely results in increased cash flow that consumers can put toward their mortgage.
- Despite the clear limitations to the RTN program, Defendants have marketed and sold the RTN program to consumers for whom the RTN model will not work, including consumers that are unemployed, are already in debt settlement programs, owe more money on their homes than their worth, or who are on a fixed income, such as Social Security.
Defendants Misrepresent That RTN Can Improve Consumers’ Credit Scores
- Defendants claim that the RTN program can help consumers acquire low or no interest credit in part through helping consumers improve their credit scores.
- Defendant David Burke specifically represents that RTN retains the creator of the FICO scoring model and works with the nation’s leading credit attorney to analyze clients’ credit reports and remove negative items from their credit reports 69.7 percent of the time. Defendant Burke claims RTN clients receive a software platform that beats the FICO scoring model. Defendant Burke further represents that RTN can get bankruptcies removed from credit reports even if the bankruptcy occurred three months prior.
- Defendant David Burke also claimed at a March 2010 sales presentation that all of the attendees would have a 760 or greater credit score in a matter of weeks if they signed up with RTN.
- Defendants do not deliver the aforementioned results to RTN clients. RTN does not retain the creator of the FICO scoring model to analyze RTN clients’ credit reports. Nor can RTN exponentially raise consumers’ credit scores as they claim.
- In fact, Defendants regularly contribute to the decline of consumers’ credit scores. If a consumer fails to comply with RTN’s payment plan, RTN will send the consumer’s account to a collections agency, which negatively impacts the consumer’s credit. RTN will report nonpayment even when nonpayment occurs as a result of a consumer’s legitimate complaint of misrepresentations made by Defendants, or if the consumer simply is financially unable to make payments (a fact Defendants knew or should have known at the time of contracting with the consumer).
- RTN, despite representations to the contrary, is unable to remove recent bankruptcies from credit reports. Bankruptcy information remains in credit reports for up to ten years.
Defendants Misrepresent That RTN Has Special Relationships With Banks
- In both their advertising and their sales presentations, Defendants frequently represent that RTN has special relationships with banks that allow RTN members unique access to low or no interest lines of credit.
- At a March 29, 2010 seminar, Defendant David Burke made the following specific representations regarding RTN’s special relationships with banks:
a. “[RTN counselors] have special banking relationships. And you may say why, because we had 7,700 people go through our program and over half of them wiped out their mortgage in 48 months. The banks know it.”
b. RTN is in alignment with Compass Bank and is RTN’s “biggest collaborator;”
c. Going to a particular loan officer at Compass Bank would permit any RTN member with a 680 credit score or higher to obtain a line of credit with a checking account that would require no income verification;
d. With RTN’s tools, eventually all members can get a credit line from Compass Bank. “No one ever gets turned down because we know what happens before you go in. We have a 1% mistake ratio;” and
e. US Bank offers RTN members, with credit scores of 640 or higher, a credit card with a limit of up to $20,000. Every RTN member with a 640 score is approved for a credit card with a $5,000 limit, and these offers are only available to RTN members.
- None of the assertions made by Defendant David Burke as set forth in the previous paragraph are true.
- Contrary to Defendants representations, RTN does not maintain special relationships with banks that would allow RTN members preferential treatment over any other bank customer. At best, some RTN coaches have relationships with specific loan officers at particular bank branches such that the coach can contact the loan officer and determine what products are available to any bank customer.
- Consumers who have joined RTN and have attempted to use RTN’s “special relationships” with banks have not been successful in obtaining products that would not otherwise be available to those consumers. In fact, consumers have been routinely rejected by banks with whom RTN claims to have a special relationship.
Defendants Misrepresent That Consumers Can Obtain Zero Percent Interest Credit Cards Through RTN
- A central tenet of RTN’s program is the claim that RTN can obtain zero percent interest credit cards for its members. Defendants repeatedly tell consumers in RTN radio infomercials and in RTN sales presentations that RTN can get all consumers zero percent interest credit cards.
- For example, at an RTN sales presentation on March 7, 2010, a large easel at the front of the room displayed the phrase “Access 0% Credit Cards!” The RTN website at that time also advertised access to zero percent interest credit cards.
- The majority of consumers that have signed up with RTN and have attempted to obtain zero percent lines of credit through RTN have been entirely unsuccessful.
- Moreover, there is no such thing as a true zero percent interest credit card. A former RTN coach said that the only zero percent interest credit card she could find for the RTN clients she coached had an introductory rate that went up exponentially after six months and included transfer fees. This coach concluded that such a card would not be suitable for debt-ridden consumers.
Defendants Misrepresent the Nature of Services Offered by RTN
- Defendants induce consumers to sign a contract with RTN by presenting the RTN program as an opportunity for consumers to receive personalized coaching from highly-trained financial counselors who will help them devise a plan to get out of debt. Defendants further represent that counselors will use “advanced financial techniques” in formulating individualized debt elimination plans for consumers.
- When consumers sign up for RTN, they do not receive the services RTN purports to offer. First, very few of RTN’s counselors have any financial background. One of RTN’s coaches entire previous work experience consisted of fast-food delivery.
- RTN coaches receive little or no training in counseling consumers on ways to eliminate their debt. When consumers sign up for RTN, they are given a detailed spreadsheet to complete regarding their income, expenses and debt. RTN coaches are trained primarily in how to assist the consumer in filling out this spreadsheet.
- The “advanced financial techniques” that RTN coaches use are little more than encouraging consumers to apply for additional credit cards and/or lines of credit that may have lower interest rates than the consumers’ existing credit cards.
- RTN coaches additionally advise consumers to engage in common-sense strategies to reduce their debt, such as taking a second job, renting out a room in their home, or eliminating unnecessary expenses.
- Defendants also misrepresent the consumers’ ability to gain access to RTN coaches.
According to RTN’s contract, consumers must complete twelve coaching sessions within 120 days of executing the contract in order to fully participate in the RTN program. In February of 2010, Defendants employed nine RTN coaches, and signed up approximately thirty to fifty consumers a week. Defendants employed only three people in customer service who were responsible for scheduling coaching sessions. Accordingly, it took consumers an average of five weeks to get their initial coaching session scheduled.
- Additionally, consumers rarely get the same coach for coaching sessions and receive conflicting advice from different coaches.
- Because RTN coaches were not trained financial professionals, and because consumers could not obtain the intensive one-on-one coaching that RTN promised, consumers did not obtain the services that RTN advertised.
The RTN Contract is Misleading and Does Not Comply with State or Federal Law
- Defendants further sold RTN services through false representations in the RTN contract.
- At the end of each RTN sales presentation, Defendant David Burke or Defendant Erik Sale request that consumers form two lines at the back of the room: one line for consumers who could pay the full $3,497 up front, and one line for people who could not afford to pay the full $3,497. A number of RTN salespeople are waiting at the back of the room to speak with consumers, and have clipboards with RTN contracts ready for consumers to sign.
- Defendants do not provide any written disclosure to consumers prior to having consumers sign the RTN contract, as required by Colo. Rev. Stat. § 12-14.5- 106 and 107, and by 15 U.S.C.A. § 1679(c).
- The front of the RTN contract has changed several times since the inception of RTN. A recent version of the contract is attached hereto as Exhibit A. The front of the current contract provides that, “All sales of this Program are final. [RTN] does not provide refunds of any payments after the program is purchased.”
- The RTN contract requires the consumer to sign on the front page. The contract does not state that additional terms and conditions are on the back of the contract.
- The second page of Exhibit A is the back side of the current RTN contract, and is actual size. RTN sales representatives do not give consumers the opportunity to read the back side of the contract prior to signing it.
- Contrary to Defendants’ repeated representations throughout the RTN sales presentation, the back side of the contract contains the following language:
As an inducement to [RTN] to accept Participant’s participation in the “[RTN] Coaching Program” . . . Participant expressly acknowledges and agrees that nothing in this document or any other written or oral communication relating to the Coaching Program, or any materials promulgated or distributed with respect to or commensurate with the Program shall constitute a representation or guarantee that Participant shall become debt free or increase their credit scores as a result of the [RTN] coaching program and/or use of the Coaching Program materials.
- The current contract also states that the consumer “has been duly avised [sic] to seek the advice of their own legal counsel as to the nature and purpose of this document and as to whether or not to sign and/or enter the same.” However, RTN representatives do not advise consumers to consult an attorney prior to signing the contract. In fact, RTN representatives encourage consumers to sign the contract as quickly as possible.
- No RTN contract has ever contained any language regarding the consumer’s right to rescind the contract within a specified period of time. Nor has any RTN contract ever included a cancellation notice as required by Colo. Rev. Stat. § 12-14.5-108(2) and 15 U.S.C.A. § 1679e (b).
- Additionally, RTN contracts made with consumers who pay Defendants in installments do not include any disclosures required by the federal Truth in Lending Act, including, but not limited to, the annual percentage rate.
- Earlier versions of the RTN contract have contained the following fraudulent statements:
a. “Our refund policy and guarantee are simple – We guarantee results.”
b. “Mortgages are guaranteed to be eliminated in 2-7 years, consumer debt in days, weeks, and months.”
c. “If we determine, in your first one on one coaching session, that our program will not work for you we will provide a full refund.”
d. “Real Talk Network Guarantee – We will save you, in interest, the cost of our program – All Sales Final.”
- Moreover, Defendants have stated in the contract that consumers “must follow the steps and actions of your coaching to remain within our guarantee,” but do not elaborate on what those steps and actions entail. And, as explained in Section E of this Complaint, Defendants make it nearly impossible to complete 12 coaching sessions within 120 days as required in the contract.
- Defendants rarely provide consumers with copies of their contract and financing terms with RTN as required by Colo. Rev. Stat. § 12-14.5-108(3) and 15 U.S.C.A. § 1679e(c) and by Colo. Rev. Stat. § 5-3-108.
- Additionally, RTN sales representatives will frequently tell consumers that they are only obtaining “basic information” from the consumer and that the consumer is not yet signing a contract, then will charge the consumer and assert that the consumer has already executed a valid contract.
Defendants Misrepresent RTN’s Payment Policies
- Defendants misrepresent that RTN’s primary goal is to “keep families safe,” and that RTN will help consumers even if consumers cannot afford to join RTN.
- Defendant David Burke made the following statements at a March 7, 2010 sales presentation:
a. “If you can’t afford it, I’m going to make the investment for you, is that okay?”
b. “No one gets left behind. I’m going to ask all of you if you want to wipe out your debt. You’re all going to raise your hand. If you can’t afford it—I don’t care—I won’t say ‘no’ —we’re going to assign you a counselor. I don’t care about fees—I’ll make the investment for you. . . . And your cash is going to go through the roof!”
c. “We took 1,500-2,000 families in 2009 where we said, “You’re behind in your mortgage, you have no business giving money to anybody—your family needs to be safe.” $700,000 payroll—6 months without getting a dime—why do we do that? Because we do what we say.”
- None of the statements made by Defendant David Burke set forth in the paragraph above are true.
- Defendants’ primary objective is to get full payment from consumers as quickly as possible. At a March 29, 2010 RTN sales presentation, Defendant David Burke warned the audience that if anyone attempted to get on a payment plan who could afford to pay the full $3,497 up front, they would be kicked out of the RTN program.
- Defendants have represented to unemployed consumers that they will not be charged anything for joining the RTN program until they are employed, and then have charged the consumer’s credit card within a few days, when the consumer was still unemployed.
- Defendants have continued to charge consumers on payment plans even when those consumers have alerted RTN that they can no longer afford to make payments. If those consumers refuse to make payments, Defendants send the full balance of the consumer’s account to Conrad Credit Corporation, a collections agency, without giving consumers notice of their right to cure the default.
- Defendants are reluctant to give consumers refunds or to cease charging consumers on payment plans even if the consumer has alerted Defendants that the RTN program is not working for them. Consumers who attempt to contact RTN to request a refund are regularly ignored or told that they must schedule more coaching sessions and will not be given a refund.
You can read the entire suit here.
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