Consumer Law

State AG sues companies that bought structured settlements from lead-paint victims

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The Maryland attorney general filed suit against Access Funding and other finance companies this week, contending that they had taken advantage of vulnerable victims of lead poisoning by purchasing their structured settlements at less than fair-market value.

Intended to provide a steady stream of income over a period of years, a structured settlement is generally an annuity purchased by a defendant on behalf of a plaintiff when a case is settled. Among those at issue in the case is a structured settlement for Crystal Linton, reports CBS News.

Her structured settlement was supposed to pay her $630,000 over 40 years and had a present cash value of more than $400,000. But in response to fliers about quick cash, she sold it for $66,000 without understanding the full impact of what she was doing, says AG Brian Frosh.

“This set of circumstances makes my blood boil,” he told the network. “It looks to me like sophisticated and very aggressive folks targeting the most vulnerable people in our society—people who are poor, people who are cognitively impaired and people who are young and unsophisticated.”

Frosh also wonders if similar purchases are being made in other states. “I would be astonished if it were only happening here,” he said.

Access Funding did not respond to the station’s request for comment, but has previously said such claims are incorrect. Its purchases of structured settlements involved voluntary sales, full disclosure and court approval, the company said.

Related coverage:

Washington Post (reg. req.): “How companies make millions off lead-poisoned, poor blacks”

CBS News: “Lead poisoning victims possibly targeted to sign over settlement funds”

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