After Center’s Request, Court Publishes Decision Upholding Subpoena Power of Public Enforcement Agencies

April 12, 2022

The Center successfully requested publication of the opinion in People v. Alorica, Inc. (2022) 77 Cal.App.5th 60, a decision confirming an important principle: that public agencies, including the state attorney general and district attorneys’ offices, have broad authority to investigate potential violations of the laws subject to their jurisdiction — including consumer protection laws. 

The decision delineates the investigative powers of California’s public enforcement agencies. In this case, several District Attorneys’ offices served Alorica, Inc. with a subpoena to investigate potential violations of the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. 

Alorica attempted to resist the subpoena. First, the company claimed it was not a debt collector under the Rosenthal Act. The Court explained that the district attorneys were not required to accept Alorica’s claim at face value but were permitted to investigate the underlying factual basis for that claim. Alorica had to comply with the subpoena in order for the People to determine whether Alorica was, in fact, a debt collector.

Second, Alorica argued that the DA’s request for its records regarding Credit One, a national bank, was an impermissible “visitation” by a state regulator pursuant to the National Bank Act. The Court of Appeal was not moved. The court explained that the National Bank Act did not shield Alorica (which is not a bank) from complying with the subpoena. Otherwise, a state agency would be prohibited from investigating any business that had any dealings with a national bank — a risible prospect. The Court aptly observed that, if Alorica’s interpretation were correct, “the National Bank Act and associated regulations would arbitrarily curtail state law enforcement authority without creating an equivalent federal law enforcement authority to fill the gap.”

California’s enforcement agencies do essential work in protecting the state’s consumers. The attorney general and district attorneys, among others, can conduct investigations and pursue remedies that are unavailable to individuals. This newly published opinion emphasizes that those agencies must be able to do their jobs effectively.

The Center was joined in its publication request by a group of distinguished legal organizations from around the state and nationally, including Elder Law and Advocacy, Housing and Economic Rights Advocates, the National Consumer Law Center, and the Public Law Center.