RENEE GALLOWAY, et al. v. JAMES WILLIAMS, JR, et al. Settlement

Civil Action No. 3:19-cv-00470-REP in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Richmond Division)

  1. WHY IS THERE A NOTICE?

    1. This Notice relates to a proposed nationwide Settlement that will be considered by a United States District Court in Richmond, Virginia (the “Court”).  Before the Settlement becomes effective, it must be finally approved by the Court.  The claims of the Settlement Class Members (as defined below) are being settled in the Court in the following class action matter: Renee Galloway, et al. v. James Williams, Jr., et al., Case No. 3:19-cv-00470-REP (E.D. Va.) (the “Lawsuit”).

      The Settlement also resolves other cases in Virginia, California, Oregon, Georgia and Massachusetts. 

      You have been identified as a Settlement Class Member.  The Court authorized this Notice because you have a right to know about a proposed Settlement of the lawsuit and about all of your options before the Court decides whether to give “final approval” to the Settlement. This Notice explains the lawsuit, the Settlement, and your legal rights.

  2. WHAT ARE THESE LAWSUITS ABOUT?

    1. The claims involved in the Settlement arise out of loans made in the name of two companies that are owned by a Native American Indian Tribe: Big Picture Loans and Red Rock Tribal Lending d/b/a/ Castle Payday Loans (“Tribal Companies”). There were others that are alleged to have invested or assisted in the operations of these businesses.  Several of these companies and individuals are also included in the Settlement (collectively known as the “Settling Defendants”).  Each of the Settling Defendants is listed below in Section 7.

      The plaintiffs in these cases claim that the Settling Defendants violated federal and various state laws by: (a) making and collecting loans with annual interest rates in excess of the amount allowed by state law, (b) lending to consumers when these entities were required to have a license from a state to lend to consumers, and they did not have that license, (c) servicing or collection activities, or (d) their involvement in and support of other parties’ conduct.  

      The plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim that the Tribal Companies’ loans violated state usury laws that govern the amount of interest lenders can charge and federal laws that prevent the collection of illegal debts. 

      The Settling Defendants do not agree that state law is applicable to the loans made by the Tribal Companies. They have vigorously denied all claims and allegations of wrongdoing.  The Tribal Companies have maintained at all times that they are arms of the Tribe and share in the Tribe’s sovereign immunity. Notwithstanding the denials of liability and alleged unlawful conduct, the Settling Defendants have decided it is in their best interest to settle the Lawsuit to avoid the burden, expense, risk, and uncertainty of continuing in litigation.

      Important case documents, including the Settlement Agreement, may be accessed on this website.

  3. WHY IS THIS A CLASS ACTION?

    1. In a class action or proceeding, one or more people, called class representatives, bring an action on behalf of people who have similar claims.  All of the people who have claims similar to the class representatives are a class or class members, except for those who exclude themselves from the class.  Here, the Plaintiffs have filed a claim on behalf of the Settlement Class.

  4. HOW DO I KNOW IF I AM INCLUDED IN THE SETTLEMENT?

    1. You are affected by the Settlement (and thus a “Settlement Class Member”) if you obtained a Big Picture or Castle Payday loan(s) between the following dates:

      June 22, 2013 to December 20, 2019 (the “Settlement Class”).

       

      The Settling Defendants’ business records have identified you as a member of the Settlement Class.

  5. WHAT DOES THE SETTLEMENT PROVIDE AND HOW MUCH WILL MY PAYMENT BE?

    1. The Settling Defendants have agreed to create a fund in the amount of $8.7 million (“Settlement Fund”), and they have also agreed to certain other forms of non-monetary relief for the Settlement Class.  The Settling Defendants have agreed to provide the following benefits and others more fully described in the Settlement Agreement:

      A. Consumer Refund.  A Settlement Fund will provide payments to some Settlement Class Members who submit claims to the administrator of the Settlement (“Settlement Administrator”).  Only borrowers who repaid the loan and also paid more than 2.5 times the original principal amount of the loan in payments over the life of the loan will receive a refund payment.  YOU MUST SUBMIT A VALID CLAIM FORM TO RECEIVE A REFUND PAYMENT.  The amount of your check will depend on the amount of interest that you paid on your loan(s) and how many total valid claims are made by other Settlement Class Members.  The Settlement Administrator will mail the check to the address you provide on the Claim Form, and so it is your obligation to update your address with the Settlement Administrator if you move.

      B. Reduced Interest on Pending Loans.  For those Settlement Class Members whose loan(s) have not been fully paid off or are not more than 210 days delinquent or past due, the Settling Defendants agree to collect no more than 2.5 times the original principal amount of the loan in payments over the life of the loan.  For example, if the original principal amount of the loan was $500.00, then the Settling Defendants have agreed to cap collection at $1,250.00 over the life of the loan, including payments credited to either interest or principal reduction. 

      C. Loan Forgiveness.  For those Settlement Class Members whose loan(s) are currently, or become, more than 210 days in default (“Charged-Off Loans”), the Settling Defendants agree to cease any collection activities and cancel all such loans as a contested liability to the extent not already done.  The Settling Defendants will not assign, sell, or transfer any interest in Charged-Off Loans and/or future loan proceeds from Charged-Off Loans.

  6. WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO TO RECEIVE MY PAYMENT?

    1. To receive a refund payment from the Settlement Fund, you must complete the Claim Form attached to your Notice or at https://www.bplsettlement.com/page/preclaim.  The Claim Form requires your name, current postal address, date of birth, and the last four digits of the Settlement Class Member’s Social Security number. The Claim Form and the Settlement Website provide complete instructions for completion of this claims process.  You may submit only one Claim Form regardless of the number of loans you had.

      You must submit your Claim Form no later than September 10, 2021.

      The Claim Form is also made available for download on the Settlement Website or by request from the Settlement Administrator.   

      If you are entitled to a payment, the Settlement Administrator will mail you a check upon receipt of a Valid Claim approximately 395 days after the Court grants final approval of the Settlement and any appeals are resolved. 

      The Settlement Administrator will mail the check to the address you provide on the Claim Form, so it is your obligation to update your address with the Settlement Administrator if you move. You can contact the Settlement Administrator at the telephone number or address below if your address has changed.

      TO SEE IF YOU QUALIFY FOR A CASH REFUND PAYMENT, click here or call (800) 641-9098.

  7. WHAT AM I GIVING UP IN THE SETTLEMENT?

    1. As a member of the Settlement Class, you are providing a “Release” of certain claims against the “Released Parties” in the Settlement, who are the Settling Defendants.  If the settlement is approved, you will not be able to bring a class action against any of the Settling Defendants or "Released Parties". If you do not submit a Claim (and do nothing), you still have the right to pursue any claims for individual damages you may have against the Settling Defendants.

      If you do submit a claim and do receive a cash refund payment, you will release all your claims against the Settling Parties and Released Parties.  You will not be allowed to bring those claims either as an individual case or as a different class action. 

      The Released Parties and Settling Defendants include: the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians (the “Tribe”) and the current and former members of the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians Tribal Council and/or any employees of the Tribe or any arms of the Tribe; Big Picture Loans, LLC; Ascension Technologies, LLC; James Williams, Jr., Michelle Hazen, Henry Smith, Alice Brunk, Andrea Russell, Tina Caron, Mitchell McGeshick, Gertrude McGeshick, Susan McGeshick, Giiwegiizhigookway Martin, Jeffery McGeshick, Roberta Ivey, and June Saad; Columbia Pipe & Supply Co., Timothy Arenberg, Terrance Arenberg, DTA Trinity Wealth Transfer Trust, and Deborah M. Arenberg Living Trust; Amlaur Resources, LLC and Brian Jedwab; James Dowd; Simon Liang; Brian McFadden; Duck Creek Tribal Financial, LLC; Tribal Economic Development Holdings, LLC; and each of their current and former directors, officers, principals, trustees, shareholders, partners, contractors, agents, attorneys (including, Rosette Holdings, LLC, Rosette, LLP, Robert A. Rosette, and Karrie S. Wichtman).

      Under the Settlement, the Named Plaintiffs and Settlement Class Members who submit Valid Claims will be deemed to have released and waived all past, present, and future claims against the Released Parties relating to and/or arising out of loans made by and/or in the name of Big Picture and/or Red Rock/Castle Payday that are the subject of the Lawsuit.  Specifically, Section 12.1 of the Settlement Agreement states:

      12.1      Release for Valid Claims.  Upon the Effective Date, the Named Plaintiffs, for themselves and as representatives of the Settlement Class, each Settlement Class Member who submits a Valid Claim, and/or their respective spouses, heirs, executors, administrators, representatives, agents, attorneys, partners, successors, predecessors and assigns and all those acting or purporting to act on their behalf acknowledge full satisfaction of, and shall be conclusively deemed to have fully, finally and forever settled, released and discharged the Released Parties of and from the Released Claims.  Nothing in this Settlement Agreement, however, shall be deemed a release of the Parties’ respective rights and obligations under this Settlement Agreement.  Also, nothing in this Settlement Agreement shall be deemed a release of Plaintiffs’ and Settlement Class Members’ respective Claims against the Non-Settling Defendants.

      Settlement Class Members who do not submit a Valid Claim will be deemed to have provided a more limited release of only class, collective, and mass actions against the Released Parties.  Specifically, Section 12.4 of the Settlement Agreement states:

      12.4      Scope of Release for Settlement Class Members Who Do Not Receive a Payment (“Non-Payment Released Claims”).  All Settlement Class Members who do not receive a payment from the Settlement Fund will waive their rights to bring a class action, collective action, and/or mass action (but not an individual action) against any and all of the Released Parties related to not only claims asserted in the Actions, but also claims that could have been asserted in the Actions. 

      The Plaintiffs have brought claims against other Non-Settling Defendants and their companies who they allege were behind the lending operation. Specifically, claims against Matt Martorello, Justin Martorello, Rebecca Martorello, Jeremy Davis, Eventide Credit Acquisitions, LLC, Bluetech Irrevocable Trust, Kairos Holdings, LLC, Liont, LLC, or any other entities owned, directly or indirectly, by Matt Martorello, Justin Martorello, or Rebecca Martorello will continue to be litigated by the Plaintiffs. If a class is certified, you may also be part of that class and will receive separate notice of this and any rights or benefits you may have due to those lawsuits.

  8. CAN I OPT OUT OF THE SETTLEMENT?

    1. No.  Settlement Class Members are not permitted to exclude themselves or otherwise “opt out” of the Settlement because of the nature of the Settlement, which is brought under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(2).  However, unless you request and receive a cash refund payment, you do not give up your rights (if any) to bring an individual claim in your own lawsuit.  That individual lawsuit would not be part of this case, and you would need to obtain your own lawyer(s) to bring it.

  9. HOW DO I TELL THE COURT THAT I OBJECT TO THE SETTLEMENT?

    1. If you are a Settlement Class Member, then you can object to the Settlement if you think the Settlement is not fair, reasonable, or adequate, and that the Court should not approve the Settlement. You have the right to appear personally and be heard by the judge.  The Court will consider your views carefully.

      Your objection must be filed with the Court by November 10, 2020.

      To preserve your objection, you must send a letter stating your views to each of the parties listed below:

      Class Counsel Representative

      Leonard A. Bennett

      Consumer Litigation Associates, PC

      763 J Clyde Morris Blvd., Suite 1A

      Newport News, VA  23601

      Telephone: (757) 930-6330

      Facsimile: (757) 960-3662

      Email: [email protected]

      Big Picture Defendants’ Counsel Representative

      Karrie S. Wichtman

      Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians

      N4698 US 45, P.O. Box 249

      Watersmeet, Michigan 49969

      Telephone: (906) 358-4577, extension 4127

      Email: [email protected]

      Big Picture Defendants’ Counsel Representative

      Craig Thomas Merritt

      Christian & Barton, LLP

      909 East Main Street Suite 1200

      Richmond, VA 23219

      Telephone: (804) 697-4128

      Email: [email protected]

      Settlement Administrator

      Big Picture Class Action

      c/o Settlement Administrator

      PO Box 23369

      Jacksonville, FL  32241-3369

      Telephone: (800) 641-9098

      Email: [email protected]

       

      You should include the following case name and docket number on the front of the envelope and letter you file with the Court: “Renee Galloway, et al. v. James Williams, Jr., et al., Case No. 3:19-cv-00470-REP (E.D. Va.)”.

      All objections must include the following information:

      • Your name, address, telephone number, and the last four digits of your Social Security number;
      • A sentence confirming that you are a Settlement Class Member;
      • Your factual basis and legal grounds for the objection to the Settlement; and
      • The name, firm name, phone number, email address, and mailing address of counsel representing you, if any.

      Any lawyer who intends to appear at the Final Fairness Hearing must also enter a written Notice of Appearance of Counsel with the Clerk of the Court no later than thirty (30) days before the Final Fairness Hearing and shall include the full style and case number of each previous class action case in which that counsel has represented an objector.

  10. WHEN AND WHERE WILL THE COURTS DECIDE WHETHER TO APPROVE THE SETTLEMENT?

    1. The Court will hold a hearing to decide whether to approve the Settlement on December 15, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. in the courtroom of Judge Robert E. Payne of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Spottswood W. Robinson III and Robert R. Merhige, Jr. Federal Courthouse.  At this hearing, the Court will determine whether the Settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate.  The address for the courthouse is:

      701 E. Broad St., Richmond, VA 23219

      If there are objections, the Court will consider them at that time. The hearing may be moved to a different date or time without additional notice. Please check this website periodically or call (800) 641-9098 to be kept up-to-date on the date, time, and location of the hearing.

  11. DO I HAVE TO COME TO THE HEARING?

    1. No.  But you are welcome to come at your own expense. As long as you mailed your written objection on time, the Court will consider it. You may also retain a separate lawyer to appear on your behalf at your own expense. Class Members who wish to attend the hearing remotely may contact the courtroom deputy (804-916-2228), one hour before the hearing at the latest, to receive information about how to access the Zoom conference.

  12. DO I HAVE A LAWYER IN THE CASE?

    1. Yes.  The Court has appointed these law firms in these cases as “Class Counsel” to represent you and all other members of the Settlement Class: Consumer Litigation Associates, P.C., Kelly Guzzo PLC, Terrell Marshall Law Group PLLC, Berger & Montague PC, Caddell & Chapman, Gupta Wessler PLLC and Tycko & Zavareei LLP. 

      These lawyers will not separately charge you for their work on the case.  If you want to be represented by your own lawyer, you may hire one at your own expense.

  13. HOW WILL THE LAWYERS BE PAID?

    1. As part of the proposed Settlement, Class Counsel are seeking an award of up to 33% of the Settlement Fund for their attorneys’ fees and costs.  The amount awarded by the Court will reduce the distributions to Settlement Class Members.

      Class Counsel also will ask the Court to approve a service award of up to $5,000 to each of the 43 individual Plaintiffs in this matter, depending upon each Plaintiff’s degree of contribution and service. The Plaintiffs were subject to extensive discovery and made substantial contributions in the prosecution of these lawsuits for the benefit of the Class. The Court will ultimately decide how much Class Counsel and the individual Plaintiffs will be paid.

      The Settlement contains a number of detailed provisions for the allocation of the Settlement Fund, including the distribution of leftover amounts. The details for Settlement Fund distribution are set forth in the settlement documents available on this website.

  14. HOW DO I GET MORE INFORMATION?

    1. This Notice summarizes the proposed Settlement. You can get a copy of the Settlement Agreement and other relevant case-related documents at the Settlement Website, https://www.bplsettlement.com/page/docs, by calling the Settlement Administrator at (800) 641-9098, or by contacting Class Counsel at [email protected] or by email to [email protected].

       

      PLEASE DO NOT ADDRESS ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SETTLEMENT OR THE LITIGATION TO THE CLERK OF THE COURT, THE JUDGE, THE SETTLING DEFENDANTS OR THE SETTLING DEFENDANTS’ COUNSEL.

      THEY ARE NOT PERMITTED TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS.