Los Angeles Consumer Sues American Express for Allegedly Charging Him Personally with a Huge Business Debt Belonging to his Former Corporate Employer

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A Los Angeles consumer plagued by alleged false and inaccurate credit reporting by American Express is fighting back in a Los Angeles courtroom. Steven Warner is a former manager for his company, TPL Communications. However, Mr. Warner was never an owner, officer or director. At the request of his employer, Mr. Warner called AMEX to inform them that one of the partners, James Briggs, was retiring, and that the AMEX should take Mr. Briggs’ name off of the account. AMEX did not warn Mr. Warner that, without his permission, knowledge or consent, it transferred the account into Mr. Warner’s name. When TPL ran into financial difficulties some years later, AMEX sought to collect the entire TPL corporate debt from Mr. Warner, and ruined his credit in the process. Mr. Warner’s lawsuit is pending in the Los Angeles Superior Court, Warner v. American Express, Case No. BC 430180, and is schedule for trial in 2012. Mr.Warner is represented by Robert F. Brennan of Brennan, Wiener & Associates in La Crescenta, widely regarded as the leading consumer protection, identity theft and wrongful credit damage law firm in Southern California.

Steven E. Warner is pursuing a lawsuit in the Los Angeles Superior Court against American Express. He has alleged that American Express effectively stole his identity to make him personally responsible for the corporate debts of his employer, and, in the process, has ruined his credit. He is represented by Brennan, Wiener & Associates of La Crescenta, Ca., which has issued this press release. Warner v. American Express, BC 430 180.

Mr. Warner has alleged the following sequence of events in his complaint against American Express: eight years ago Steven E. Warner was working as manager for a company named TPL Communications (TPL). One day, he placed a phone call to American Express notifying the credit card company that James Briggs, who was one of the original owners of TPL, had retired from the company and thus Briggs’ name should be removed from all TPL accounts. The AMEX representative asked Warner to identify himself, telling Warner it was only for the purpose of mailing the bills, and then informed him that AMEX would remove Briggs’ name as requested. Warner never signed any contract or agreement with AMEX.

Warner’s complaint alleges that AMEX then took Warner’s personal identity information to transfer the Briggs TPL’s credit card accounts into Warner’s name, thereby making him personally responsible for the company’s debt without his knowledge. In the ensuing half dozen years Warner had no idea that the former Briggs accounts were now in his name, as the bills when they came in went straight to the TPL accounting department for payment.

Warner has testified that in late February of 2009 Warner was laid off by TPL because of the economic downturn. The following month, according to Warner, he received a call from a representative of AMEX’s Collection Department regarding a past due TPL credit card account of $55,750.69. Warner sent certified correspondence to AMEX disputing that he was financially responsible for any TPL credit card accounts or line of credit.

Warner’s complaint alleges that in late May of 2009, an AMEX High Balance Account representative called Warner asking him for payment on a number of TPL’s credit card accounts. In June of 2009 Warner sent a dispute letter to the AMEX Fraud Department regarding the TPL accounts and line of credit, and included with the letter a copy of a police report he had filed, a Federal Trade Commission Affidavit, and a copy of his state of California driver’s license. In his letter Warner requested: 1) copies of the original application for the credit cards and line of credit; 2) all copies of the billing statements and any other correspondence related to these accounts; 3) any other information with regard to these accounts; 4) application records or recordings of telephone applications; 5) investigators summary – electronic or otherwise; 6) copies or transcripts of any communications with TPL’s CFO or other company representatives regarding the credit card or line of credit accounts; and 7) a removal of the AMEX derogatory remarks showing on Warner’s personal credit reports as of January 24, 2008.

On August 6, 2009, TPL itself sent correspondence to AMEX exonerating Warner for any TPL debts, stating that “[Warner] was never a corporate officer nor was he ever on the Board of Directors.” Moreover, Warner “was never authorized, never had the authority or the financial responsibility to open company accounts in his name nor have company accounts transferred to his name. He was however, authorized to charge on the account for business use [what AMEX calls an [‘authorized cardmember’] but not someone who was fully responsible for the corporate debt. TPL was always responsible for the accounts and [Warner] should be released of all financial responsibility.” Further, the letter stated that Warner did not open, request or authorize the accounts in his personal name using his personal Social Security number.

Despite these statements from both Warner and TPL, AMEX has allegedly persisted to this day in claiming that Warner opened the accounts and was personally responsible for TPL’s debts. AMEX also allegedly cancelled Warner’s personal American Express accounts.

Finally, in October of 2009, after much discussion, AMEX by letter agreed to transfer the TPL accounts into the CFO’s name, but with the ominous warning, “should Plaintiff or TPL default, Plaintiff may be contacted in the future for payments.” TPL has since paid the debt in full, but not after AMEX badly damaged Mr. Warner’s personal credit at a time when he needed it most, in transition after being laid off from his long-time job.

Warner’s complaint seeks damages from American Express for both credit damages and for his emotional distress and aggravation, as well as punitive damages.

“This is one of several recent wrongful credit damage cases we’ve seen involving AMEX as the creditor,” comments Robert F. Brennan, Mr. Warner’s attorney. “Based on my observation, AMEX evidently does not believe in consumer protection laws when it decides to collect one of its debts. Here, there is absolutely no record whatsoever that Mr. Warner ever agreed to become personally liable for the corporation’s debt, and moreover, we have alleged in the complaint that AMEX duped him into becoming a “basic cardmember,” personally liable for the corporate debts. We think this is grossly unfair and we plan to present this case to a jury.”

About Robert F. Brennan and his firm: Brennan, Wiener & Associates is widely recognized as the leading Southern California law firm on a wide range of consumer protection issues, including lemon law, car dealer fraud, identity theft, wrongful credit damage, unfair debt collection practices and landlord-tenant class actions, as well as serious personal injury cases. The firm enjoys an "AV" rating from the prestigious Martindale-Hubbell ratings agency, which is the highest possible rating for an attorney or a law firm and is based on pre-eminence in both legal ability and ethics. Mr. Brennan has been selected as a “Southern California Super Lawyer” for seven consecutive years.


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