At Capital One, Easy Credit and Abundant Lawsuits

A ProPublica analysis of state court filings reveals that Capital One sues its customers far more than any other bank.
Investigative (NATIONAL)

Paul Kiel
December 28, 2015

Tags: Consumer Protection, Debt Collection

Organizations mentioned/involved: New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG), Virginia Poverty Law Center (VPLC), National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)


Over the past year, ProPublica has sought to illuminate the scope of debt collection lawsuits, which, though they are often filed by public companies in public courts, are a largely hidden part of the nation’s financial life. The suits hit workers who earn below $40,000 a year the hardest and federal garnishment laws provide scant protection. Even workers near the minimum wage could have a quarter of their take-home pay taken or their bank accounts cleaned out. State laws typically offer little more protection.

To identify which companies file the most collection suits, ProPublica obtained and analyzed court data from 11 states. In every state, Capital One stood out.

During the years of the recession, particularly 2008 through 2010, when the number of credit card defaults surged, many banks filed more lawsuits. But Capital One dwarfed them all, reaching levels never matched by any company before or since, according to ProPublica’s review of data going back to 1996.

By our estimate, the suits exceeded half a million per year nationally during those peak years.