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May 15, 2021

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Lawsuit: Fisher Investments violated federal telemarketing law

By , Columbian business reporter
Published:

Camas-based financial management firm Fisher Investments has been hit with a class-action lawsuit alleging that the company violated federal law by using an automated system to place telemarketing calls to prospective clients’ cellphones. The company disputes the allegations.

North Carolina resident Mark Bryant filed the suit Friday in the United States District Court of Western Washington and sought class-action status on behalf of anyone else who received similar calls from Fisher in the last four years, which the lawsuit claims could include thousands of people. The lawsuit was first reported by the online outlet Advisor Hub.

Fisher’s senior vice president and head of global public relations, John Dillard, issued a statement denying the lawsuit’s allegations. He said the company had not yet been served with the lawsuit, but was confident that if the suit proceeds, it will be dismissed “just like many of the thousands of lawsuits like this that are filed against other companies.”

Bryant’s lawsuit alleges that Fisher violated the U.S. Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 by using an automatic dialing system to make mass calls to individual cellphone numbers without the recipients’ consent. The suit also alleges that the company made calls in violation of the National Do Not Call Registry.

The lawsuit claims that starting in the fall of 2020, Fisher or an affiliated party began repeatedly calling Bryant’s cellphone number using multiple originating numbers, calling about 15 times in total. The complaint alleges that the calls were placed using automated dialing software because Bryant claimed to have heard a long pause before a live person began speaking once he answered the phone.

Bryant claimed his number has been on the Do Not Call list since 2009, and that he had never consented to receive Fisher’s calls. The lawsuit also claims that Bryant repeatedly asked Fisher to stop calling him, but the calls kept coming.

The lawsuit seeks an order declaring that Fisher’s actions violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, an injunction requiring the company to cease unsolicited call activity and stop using an automatic dialing system and at least $500 in statutory damages for Bryant and each of the other class members for each violation.

Dillard called the allegations “completely false” and said Fisher does not use auto dialers and does not make cold calls. The company only calls people who have consented to be contacted and uses regular telephone systems to do so, he wrote.

“We followed that same practice here and, as such, plaintiff’s claims have no factual or legal merit,” he wrote. “We take compliance with the law, including the TCPA, very seriously – and we were here, as we are always, in full compliance with the law.”

The Advisor Hub story noted that in a LinkedIn post on Monday, attorney Brady Hermann with the Boston office of law firm Maurice Wutscher (who is not connected to the case) wrote that the plaintiff could face an “uphill battle” due to a recent Supreme Court decision that found that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act does not apply to devices that don’t use a random or sequential number generator, meaning Bryant would need to prove that Fisher’s dialing system used that method in order to prevail in court.

Fisher Investments was founded in California in 1979 and operates worldwide. The firm has $169 billion in assets under management and 85,000 clients in 15 countries, according to its website.

The company began building out its 120-acre Camas campus in 2009 and eventually made the site its global headquarters. As of October the company was stated to employ a global staff of almost 4,000, about 1,700 of whom work at the Camas site.

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