March 11, 2019

In the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), Congress specified two ways in which an entity can be a “debt collector” and thus liable for violations of the statute. One definition, not at issue here, covers any entity that “regularly collects or attempts to collect” certain debts owed to another. 15 U.S.C. § 1692a(6). The other definition, which focuses on the entity’s purpose rather than its actions, encompasses businesses “the principal purpose of which is the collection of any debts.” Plaintiff-appellant Jillian McAdory has alleged that defendantappellee, DNF Associates, LLC (DNF), has just such a purpose: DNF’s entire business model is to purchase defaulted debts and collect on them. DNF accomplishes this purpose, as it did in this case, by hiring third parties to help it collect on debts and, if that fails, hiring lawyers to commence lawsuits to collect on them. After Ms. McAdory was subjected to abusive debt collection practices by a contractor acting on DNF’s behalf, defendant-below M.N.S. & Associates, LLC (MNS), Ms. McAdory sued both DNF and MNS under the FDCPA, in light of longstanding Ninth Circuit precedent holding that a debt collector can be liable for the FDCPA violations of its agent under general principles of agency and vicarious liability.