DOB: State Law Group - CO

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

IN THE MATTER OF:

STATE LAW GROUP
     ("State Law Group")

HABEN HABTE TESFAI,
ATTORNEY AT LAW
     ("Tesfai")

     (collectively "Respondents")
   
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*

CONSENT ORDER        

WHEREAS, the Banking Commissioner (“Commissioner”) is charged with the administration of Sections 36a-671 to 36a-671e, inclusive, of the Connecticut General Statutes contained in Part II of Chapter 669 of the Connecticut General Statutes, “Debt Adjusters and Debt Negotiation”;

WHEREAS, State Law Group is a purported California professional law corporation with offices, at various times, at 1740 E. Garry Avenue, Suite 221, Santa Ana, California; 4533 MacArthur Boulevard, Suite 1000, Newport Beach, California; 4533 MacArthur Boulevard, Suite 537, Newport Beach, California; and 1720 E. Garry Avenue, Suite 111, Santa Ana, California;
 
WHEREAS, Tesfai is an individual who, at all times relevant hereto, was an attorney associated with State Law Group;
 
WHEREAS, the Commissioner, through the Consumer Credit Division of the Department of Banking (“Department”), conducted an investigation pursuant to Section 36a-17(a) of the 2012 Supplement to the General Statutes into the activities of Respondents to determine if they had violated, were violating or were about to violate the provisions of the Connecticut General Statutes within the jurisdiction of the Commissioner;

WHEREAS, as a result of such investigation, on July 30, 2012, the Commissioner, acting pursuant to Section 36a-52(b) of the Connecticut General Statutes, Section 36a-671a(b) of the 2012 Supplement to the General Statutes and Sections 36a-52(a) and 36a-50(a) of the Connecticut General Statutes, issued a Temporary Order to Cease and Desist, Notice of Intent to Issue Order to Cease and Desist, Notice of Intent to Impose Civil Penalty and Notice of Right to Hearing against Respondents (collectively “Notice”), which Notice is incorporated herein by reference;

WHEREAS, on July 31, 2012, the Notice was mailed by certified mail, return receipt requested, to State Law Group (Certified Mail Nos. 70110470000225730454, 70110470000225730461, 70110470000225730478 and 70110470000225730485) and to Tesfai (Certified Mail No. 70110470000225730492);

WHEREAS, State Law Group received the Notice on August 3, 2012 and Tesfai received the Notice on August 27, 2012;
 
WHEREAS, on September 10, 2012, the Department received an Appearance and Request for Hearing from Respondents’ counsel, which hearing is currently scheduled for January 9, 2013;
 
WHEREAS, the Notice alleged that State Law Group offered to engage in debt negotiation in this state without obtaining the required license, in violation of Section 36a-671(b) of the Connecticut General Statutes, in effect prior to October 1, 2011, and Section 36a-671(b) of the 2012 Supplement to the General Statutes;
 
WHEREAS, the Notice also alleged that State Law Group engaged in debt negotiation in this state without obtaining the required license, in violation of Section 36a-671(b) of the Connecticut General Statutes, in effect prior to October 1, 2011, and Section 36a-671(b) of the 2012 Supplement to the General Statutes;
 
WHEREAS, the Notice further alleged that Tesfai engaged in debt negotiation in this state without obtaining the required license, in violation of Section 36a-671(b) of the Connecticut General Statutes, in effect prior to October 1, 2011;
 
WHEREAS, the Commissioner also found in the Notice that the fees charged by Respondents for debt negotiation services were excessive and ordered, pursuant to Section 36a-671a(c) of the 2012 Supplement to the General Statutes and Section 36a-52(b) of the Connecticut General Statutes, that not later than 10 days from receipt of the Notice, Respondents provide repayment of fees to identified Connecticut residents and, among other things, provide evidence of such repayments to the Director of the Consumer Credit Division;
 
WHEREAS, Section 4-177(c) of the Connecticut General Statutes and Section 36a-1-55(a) of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies provide that a contested case may be resolved by consent order, unless precluded by law;
 
WHEREAS, the Commissioner and Respondents now desire to resolve the matters alleged in the Notice and set forth herein;
 
WHEREAS, Respondents voluntarily agree to consent to the entry of the sanctions described below without admitting or denying any allegation contained in the Notice and set forth herein and solely for the purpose of obviating the need for further formal administrative proceedings concerning the allegations contained in the Notice and set forth herein;
 
WHEREAS, State Law Group herein represent to the Commissioner that it has not offered to engage or engaged in debt negotiation activity in Connecticut since June 10, 2011;

WHEREAS, by letter dated August 30, 2012, Tesfai represented to the Commissioner that he has not engaged in debt negotiation activity in Connecticut since June 10, 2011;
 
WHEREAS, by letters dated September 19 and October 31, 2012, and by emails dated September 4 and November 2, 2012, State Law Group represented to the Commissioner that it has refunded all fees received from Connecticut residents for debt negotiation services;
 
WHEREAS, State Law Group and Tesfai each specifically assure the Commissioner that the respective alleged violations contained in the Notice and set forth herein shall not occur in the future;
 
WHEREAS, Respondents agree that the Notice may be used in construing the terms of this Consent Order and agree to the language of this Consent Order;
 
AND WHEREAS, Respondents, through their execution of this Consent Order, voluntarily agree to waive their procedural rights, including a right to a hearing as it pertains to the allegations contained in the Notice and set forth herein, and voluntarily waive their right to seek judicial review or otherwise challenge or contest the validity of this Consent Order.


CONSENT TO ENTRY OF SANCTIONS

WHEREAS, Respondents, through their execution of this Consent Order, consent to the Commissioner’s entry of a Consent Order imposing the following sanctions:

1. No later than the date this Consent Order is executed by Respondents, Respondents shall remit to the Department of Banking, by cashier’s check, certified check or money order made payable to “Treasurer, State of Connecticut,” the sum of Two Thousand Dollars ($2,000) as a civil penalty;
2. Respondents shall immediately cease and desist from engaging or offering to engage in unlicensed debt negotiation activity in Connecticut in violation of Section 36a-671(b) of the Connecticut General Statutes, in effect prior to October 1, 2011, and Section 36a-671(b) of the 2012 Supplement to the General Statutes;


CONSENT ORDER

NOW THEREFORE, the Commissioner enters the following:

1. The Sanctions set forth above be and are hereby entered;
2. Upon issuance of this Consent Order by the Commissioner, this matter will be resolved and the Commissioner will not take any future enforcement action against Respondents based upon the allegations contained herein; provided that issuance of this Consent Order is without prejudice to the right of the Commissioner to take enforcement action against Respondents based upon a violation of this Consent Order or the matters underlying its entry, if the Commissioner determines that compliance with the terms herein is not being observed or if any representation made by Respondents and reflected herein is subsequently discovered to be untrue;
3. This Consent Order shall become final when issued.



Issued at Hartford, Connecticut
this 15th day of February 2013.          ________/s/_________
                                                     Howard F. Pitkin
                                                     Banking Commissioner



I, Scott Murakami, state on behalf of State Law Group, that I have read the foregoing Consent Order; that I know and fully understand its contents; that I am authorized to execute this Consent Order on behalf of State Law Group; that State Law Group agrees freely and without threat or coercion of any kind to comply with the sanctions entered herein; and that State Law Group voluntarily agrees to enter into this Consent Order, expressly waiving the procedural rights set forth herein as to the matters described herein.

                                               By:  ________/s/_________ 
                                                     Name:  Scott Murakami
                                                     Title:  Office Manager
                                                     State Law Group                              

State of:  CA

County of:  Orange


On this the _______ day of January 2013, before me, _____________________________________, the undersigned officer, personally appeared ________________________, who acknowledged himself/herself to be the ______________________ of State Law Group, a California professional law corporation, and that he/she as such ______________________, being authorized so to do, executed the foregoing instrument for the purposes therein contained, by signing the name of the corporation by himself/herself as ______________________.

In witness whereof I hereunto set my hand.


                                                       __________________
                                                       Notary Public  
                                                       Date Commission Expires:  


I, Haben Tesfai, state that I have read the foregoing Consent Order; that I know and fully understand its contents; that I agree freely and without threat or coercion of any kind to comply with the sanction entered and terms and conditions ordered herein; and that I voluntarily agree to enter into this Consent Order, expressly waiving the procedural rights set forth herein as to the matters described herein.

                                                       _________/s/_________
                                                       Haben Habte Tesfai


State of:  ___________________________________

County of:  _________________________________


On this the _______ day of January 2013, before me, _____________________________________, the undersigned officer, personally appeared __________________________, known to me (or satisfactorily proven) to be the person whose name is subscribed to the within instrument and acknowledged that he executed the same for the purposes therein contained.

In witness whereof I hereunto set my hand.

                                                       _____________________
                                                       Notary Public
                                                       Date Commission Expires:
                                     


Administrative Orders and Settlements