Credit Report

Credit Report in the United States

Plain-English Law

Credit Report as defined by Nolo’s Encyclopedia of Everyday Law (p. 437-455): An account of your credit history, prepared by a credit bureau.

Legal Materials

The situation is different for companies and individuals.

Companies: For companies, get a D&B Business Information Report and/or an Experian report. D&B Reports are often the best information available, but they can be expensive. They are available through the D&B Small Business Credit Solutions site and other vendors (see “Dun & Bradstreet Reports” below). Experian (formerly TRW) Reports are available for cheap through SmartBusinessReports.com and other vendors (see “Experian”). Skyminder sells credit reports from a wide range of vendors covering just about all countries.

Individuals: The public is generally prohibited from getting credit reports on individuals by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 USC 1681 et. seq.; the complete amended act is posted by the Legal Information Institute). There are several exceptions, found at USC Section 1681b (Section 604 of the Act). Law librarians who are asked to get credit reports may want to copy this section and show it to the requesting attorney to see if any of the exceptions apply. For more information, see “Fair Credit Reporting Act.”

If an exception does apply, some firms already have a system for obtaining credit reports (e.g., for pre-employment screening or check the solvency of potential clients). If so, that is probably your easiest and cheapest way to get the reports. Alternatively, you can place an order with a company that retrieves reports. I have been told that the credit bureaus no longer permit vendors to sell reports directly to law firms (other than collection firms). However, CheckMate will draft a summary of the report including the substantive information, once they receive a written explanation of your permissible use. Alternatively some companies that will not work through a law firm, such as Accurate Information Services, will still sell reports directly to businesses with a permissible purpose; you can refer your client to work with them directly. .

In theory, you can get also credit reports directly from the three big credit bureaus: Equifax (800-685-1111), Trans Union (800-916-8800) and Experian (see below). This will work fine if you are requesting your own credit report. If you are asking for a report on someone else, it is almost impossible to work with the credit bureaus directly (unless you are a bank, landlord, etc.), and you are better off paying an intermediary, if you can find one.

Finally, you may be able to get some information about a person’s credit situation by searching public records for indications of assets and liabilities – such as liens, bankruptcies, home ownerships, etc. – from TLO, KnowX.com, Accurint, Lexis or another public records database vendor.

Another alternative: Some Web sites and private investigators will get you credit reports on individuals. I don’t know how they do it, and I don’t know if it’s legal, but the practice is not uncommon.

If you want to get a copy of your own credit report, you should be able to get it free onAnnualCreditReport.com or by calling 877-322-8228. If it isn’t, contact Equifax (800-685-1111), Experian (866-200-6020) and/or Transunion (800-916-8800) directly, or use one of the services discussed above. For more information, check each company’s Web site.

Credit Scores: A credit score is a number that represents the creditworthiness of a company or individual. The numbers are calculated by private companies. Fair Isaac Corporation produces the well known FICO score. They do a special version called FACTA, BEACON for Experian (see below).

D&B Reports

D&B (formerly the Dun & Bradstreet Corporation) produces many kinds of company reports, but the most popular among legal researchers are the Business Information Reports (BIRs) on individual companies and the Family Linkages Reports on corporate affiliations.

Business Information Reports: BIRs provide extensive information on companies — including debt rating, liabilities, payment history, officers, shareholders, and a lot of additional information often not available elsewhere.

You can buy BIRs and other reports from the D&B Web site (www.dnb.com). D&B reports are also available from other vendors including Accurint, KnowX.com, Lexis (D&B;D&BRPT), SkyMinder and Westlaw.

Note: D&B doesn’t do reports for all companies. If necessary, you can ask D&B to do up a report, which takes about two weeks. There are considerable additional charges if you want a report done up in a rush.

Note: If a D&B report says it will not rate the company because of its “unbalanced” assessment of the company’s financial statement, it means the company is either (a) highly leveraged or (b) has a negative net worth.

Family Linkages Reports: D&B uses its extensive company data to produce very good reports on corporate affiliations. While many business relationships are not disclosed anywhere, I believe the Family Linkages Reports are the best reports available.

Family Linkages Reports are available from the same vendors discussed above in the “Business Information Reports” section. These Reports can be costly, so check with the vendor about the price before purchasing.

Experian

Experian is one of the 3 big agencies that publish credit reports for individuals, as well as businesses. Experian changed its name from TRW in 1997, and some people still refer to these reports as “TRWs.”

Experian business reports are sold for cheap through SmartBusinessReports.com. They are also available from SkyMinder, KnowX.com, Westlaw (EXPERIAN-REPORTS) and Lexis (BUSRPT), but they’re generally more expensive and may have less information.

See Also

Credit Reports
Finding Businesses
Finding People
Debt Ratings
Fair Credit Reporting Act
Company Information

Liability for Wrongfully Furnishing or Obtaining a Credit Report Under the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act

This section discusses generally the subject of Liability for Wrongfully Furnishing or Obtaining a Credit Report Under the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, how to determine the facts essential to Liability for Wrongfully Furnishing or Obtaining a Credit Report Under the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, and, to some extent, how to prove it in litigation and defense. Related topics are also addressed.

Credit Report: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Credit Report. This part provides references, in relation to Credit Report, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Credit Report by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Credit Report and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Credit Report or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Credit Report and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Credit Report. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Credit Report should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Credit Report when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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