Ralph Wutscher focuses his practice primarily on representing consumer and commercial financial services companies, including depository and non-depository mortgage lenders, fintech companies of various kinds, credit card issuers, and loan servicers, as well as financial asset buyers and sellers, and other financial services providers. He also has substantial experience representing depository and non-depository auto finance companies.
He represents the lending and financial services industry as a litigator, and as regulatory compliance counsel.
He has substantial experience in litigating consumer and commercial finance lawsuits, including cases ranging from the defense of large interstate putative class actions to localized single-asset cases, as well as in responding to regulatory investigations and other governmental proceedings. He also regularly prosecutes and defends lawsuits and other actions relating to insurance coverage, alleged unlawful discrimination, fraud or other loss recovery, and commercial disputes on behalf of his financial services clients.
Ralph has successfully maintained a national practice for many years. Over the years, he served as national outside litigation counsel for a special servicer, and as national outside litigation counsel for one of the Top-25 largest former nonprime mortgage lenders, and as regional counsel for several others. He currently serves as national or regional outside complex litigation counsel, and national or regional outside regulatory compliance counsel, for several large lenders, servicers, and financial asset buyers.
His litigation successes include not only victories at the trial court level, but also on appeal, and in various jurisdictions. He has successfully defended numerous putative class actions asserting violations of a wide range of federal and state consumer protection statutes. He is frequently consulted to assist other law firms in developing or improving litigation strategies in cases filed around the country.
Ralph also has substantial experience in counseling clients regarding their compliance with federal laws, and with state and local laws primarily of the Midwestern United States.
For example, he regularly provides assistance in connection with national or regional surveys, portfolio or program audits, process and procedure drafting and implementation, consumer lending disclosure issues, loan officer compensation issues, HUD mortgagee limitations and requirements, the design and implementation of marketing and advertising campaigns, licensing and reporting issues, compliance with usury laws and other limitations on pricing, compliance with state and local “predatory lending” laws, drafting or obtaining opinion letters on a single- or multi-state basis, interstate branching and loan production office licensing, evaluations and modifications of new or existing products and procedures, debt collection and servicing practices, proper methods of responding to consumer inquiries and furnishing consumer information, as well as proposed or existing arrangements with settlement service providers and other vendors, and the implementation of procedural or other operational changes following developments in the law.
Ralph prides himself in being able to translate and interpret legal rules into business functions. He has extensive experience in designing and implementing various functional and operational processes, product features, and workflows to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
For example, he has led or assisted with designing or modifying electronic disclosures methods, customer application and onboarding, customer communication and consent methodologies, payment systems, inbound and outbound call center processes and procedures, and related business functions.
Ralph also serves as outside General Counsel for a software development company. He previously served for several years as outside General Counsel for a leading “software as a service” company for the medical industry.
He has substantial experience in the areas of business licensing and registration, entity formation, licensing agreements, sales and service agreements, service level agreements, nondisclosure and confidentiality agreements, employment agreements, privacy and terms of service documentation, policies and procedures documentation, and similar matters. He also has substantial experience in defending and enforcing trade secrets, copyrights, trademarks, trade dress, and other intellectual property rights.
Ralph is a Financial Services Advisor for the Thompson Reuters “Consumer Financial Services Law Report” publication.
He is a member of the Governing Committee of the Conference on Consumer Finance Law, as well as the Legal and Regulatory Compliance Committee of the national Mortgage Bankers Association. He served as the Chair of the Preemption and Federalism Subcommittee for the ABA’s Consumer Financial Services Committee. He also served on the Law Committee for the former National Home Equity Mortgage Association, and completed two terms as Co-Chair of the Consumer Credit Committee of the Chicago Bar Association.
Ralph is a frequent speaker on consumer lending and litigation developments. His publications include:
» “Communicating with Bankrupt Mortgage Loan Borrowers: Thorny Issues and Attempts at Clarity,” 71 The Business Lawyer 2 (Spring 2016);
» “Calls and Texts Under the TCPA: Ongoing Litigation and Regulatory Developments,” 68 Consumer Finance Law Quarterly Report 302 (Spring, Summer 2015);
» “Regulation of Calls Under the TCPA: A Fog of Uncertainty Remains,” 70 The Business Lawyer 2 (Spring 2015);
» “Preemption Developments: Early Implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act Amendments Affecting National Banks and Federal Savings Banks,” Banking & Financial Services Policy Report, Vol. 21, No. 1 (Aspen Publishers January 2012);
» “Under the Microscope: Inconsistencies show up in court rulings under existing preemption standards,” Consumer Financial Services Law Report, Vol. 15, Issue 3 (June 22, 2011);
» “The Dodd-Frank Act’s New Federalism,” 66 The Business Lawyer 2 (February 2011);
» “Courts Diverge on TILA Deadlines to File Suit,” Consumer Financial Services Law Report, Vol. 14, Issue 13 (Dec. 22, 2010);
» “Federal Preemption Case Law Developments,” 64 Consumer Finance Law Quarterly 446 (Winter 2010);
» “The New Trajectory of Federal Preemption,” 65 The Business Lawyer 2 (February 2010);
» “The Perils of Judicial Activism: ‘Unfairness’ in the Massachusetts Attorney General Litigation,” 16 Business Torts Journal 3 (Spring 2009);
» “Defining the Scope of Federal Preemption: State Farm, Exclusive Agents, and Other Emerging Issues,” 64 The Business Lawyer 2 (February 2009);
» “Preemption and Federalism Developments: Watters Under the Bridge,” 63 The Business Lawyer 2 (February 2008);
» “Mired in the Process?: The Future of State Bank Preemption,” 52 The Business Lawyer 2 (February 2007);
» “Proposed Illinois Motor Vehicle ‘Truth in Financing’ Legislation,” 58 Consumer Finance Law Quarterly 250 (Winter 2004); and
» “The Illinois High Risk Home Loan Act: Yet Another Jurisdiction Tackles Predatory Lending,” 58 Consumer Finance Law Quarterly 117 (Fall 2004).
Ralph received his Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois College of Law and his undergraduate degree from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). He is a member of the Mortgage Bankers Association, the American Bankers Association, the Conference on Consumer Finance Law, RMAI, ACA International, the International Association of Privacy Professionals, and the American and Chicago Bar Associations.
Ralph is admitted to practice in Illinois, as well as in the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, and has been admitted pro hac vice in various jurisdictions around the country.